Pharmacy Professor Receives $40,000 Grant to Research "Neglected" Diseases

Sigrid Roberts, Ph.D., has received funding to study the metabolism of a parasite that causes a debilitating disease in the hopes of developing better treatment.

Pacific University assistant pharmacy professor Sigrid Roberts has received a $40,000 "New Investigator Grant" from Oregon Health & Science University's Medical Research Foundation to study the metabolism of the parasite that causes a group of diseases collectively known as Leishmaniasis. 

More than 12 million people worldwide are currently afflicted by the diseases, which are most prevalent in tropical climates and poverty-stricken areas. 

Transmitted by the female sandfly through a bite, Leishmaniasis causes a number of debilitating symptoms, ranging from cutaneous lesions to visceral infections, often with fatal outcomes. The World Health Organization has classified Leishmaniasis diseases as "neglected" by the scientific community.

Of the few drugs available to treat the illness, most cause severe side effects, Roberts said. 

"The need for new therapeutic targets and a better understanding of host-parasite interactions is urgent," she added. "My research aims to better understand the role of the enzyme arginase for parasite infections. The premise behind my research is to explore the feasibility of targeting this enzyme in both the host and parasite." 

Roberts noted that drug discovery for infectious diseases traditionally focuses on just the attacking microorganism. Strategies that target host-encoded infections, the premise of her proposed research, could enable the host to both fight infections and prevent the development of microbial drug resistance. 

"If successful, my research may lay the foundation for further development of a new anti-Leishmanial treatment strategy and have potential for the treatment of other diseases." 

OSHU's Medical Research Foundation supports promising biomedical exploration and the development of research careers in clinical investigation in Oregon through a program of competitively awarded research grants.

The New Investigator Grants support promising new investigators in biomedical research. Principal investigators must be at the beginning of an independent career with a faculty position at one of Oregon's colleges or universities.

Posted by Joe Lang ( on Nov 21, 2012 at 1:04 PM

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