James Bashkin, UMSL chemist, continues his work on a drug to treat HPV, the main cause of cervical cancer.

A $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health brings a University of Missouri–St. Louis researcher and his company one step closer to developing an antiviral drug that could eliminate many types of the human papillomavirus from infected patients. HPV is the most prevalent sexually-transmitted virus in the world and is the cause of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is second only to breast cancer among lethal cancers that affect women worldwide. Each year, nearly 11,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the U.S. alone.

The candidate drugs that James Bashkin, research associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UMSL and co-founder of NanoVir, is helping develop are “broad spectrum,” designed to fight multiple strains of high-risk HPV. The grant is entitled “Preclinical Development of Broad Spectrum Antiviral Compounds to Treat Human Papillomavirus.” The lead chemist on the project, Bashkin, also is the director of chemistry at NanoVir. With this $3 million award, NanoVir has raised more than $9.5 million in grants since it was established in 2004.

“I am very excited about this grant because it allows us to further develop the pre-clinical broad-spectrum anti-HPV agents our teams discovered under the preceding grant,” Bashkin said.

Chris Fisher, director of biology and co-founder of NanoVir, is principal investigator on the grant; he said that during lean and difficult years for the company, they kept their focus on advancing lead compounds through pre-clinical studies and into the clinic.

“In the current climate of diminishing venture capital, our ability to raise money through grants from the NIH has been critical to our ability to survive and flourish.  These grants are highly competitive, with the major criteria for funding being the significance of the science, its potential impact on human health and the quality of the research team – all areas in which we excel,” he said.

The University of Missouri–St. Louis is a public metropolitan research university located in Missouri’s most populous and economically important region. It offers 54 bachelor’s degree programs, 37 master’s degree programs, 15 doctoral degree programs and the only professional degree in optometry in Missouri.

About NanoVir, LLC
NanoVir, LLC is a drug discovery company dedicated to finding treatments for HPV, a primary cause of both abnormal pap smears and cervical cancer.  NanoVir focuses on studying DNA-targeted therapies aimed to treat high-risk HPV infection before it can progress to cancer.  The company is funded by the National Institutes of Health, under the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.  NanoVir’s Kalamazoo site at the Southwest Michigan Innovation Center of Western Michigan University conducts cell-biology and virology studies, while its colleagues at the University of Missouri-St. Louis site carry out the related chemistry. The firm is currently concentrating on a topical treatment that could eliminate HPV infections.  Visit http://www.nanovirpharm.com/ for more information.

Kylie Shafferkoetter

Kylie Shafferkoetter

Eye on UMSL: Tending the gardens

Biology student James Ott and Sustainable Energy & Environmental Coordinator Katy Mike Smaistrla pull weeds last week in the native gardens north of the Recreation Wellness Center.