Sara Lustigman, PhD, Head of the Laboratory of Molecular Parasitology at NYBC’s Lindsley F. Kimball Research Institute, was awarded a two year NIH R21 grant entitled “Innovative 3-D in vitro culturing systems for filarial worms.” The goal is to develop a 3-dimensional in vitro human skin tissue model that support the long-term culture of a parasite that causes river blindness. This high-risk but innovative project is in collaboration with Dr. Jan Hansmann from the University of Würzburg, Germany, who is an expert in 3D in vitro model, in particular vascularized skin grafts. The total award is over $400,000 of which NYBC receives $265,000.
Dr. Lustigman is also a Co-investigator on a separate R21/R33 NIH grant entitled “Novel Therapeutics for Treatment of River Blindness and Lymphatic Filariasis” awarded to Dr. Judy Sakanari from the University of California, San Francisco. NYBC will receive close to $150,000 for the first 2 years. The objective of the R21 phase is to demonstrate the proof of concept that a compound, tetrahydropyrvinium (THP), is an excellent early lead drug candidate against filarial worms. If successful, additional funds will be available for further refinement to optimize THP potency, efficacy and mechanistic studies to identify the filarial target(s). This award is an outcome of a continuous collaboration between the two labs funded by the M&B Gates Foundation.