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August 17, 2006
University Receives Matching Funding for $400,000 Biotechnology Research Project


The University of Dubuque recently received notification that a grant proposal titled, "Biotechnology Research for Vaccine Production and the Control of Bacterial Infections," has been funded by the Grow Iowa Values Fund. The total project cost is $400,000 and is a joint venture between the State of Iowa Economic Development Fund, administered by the State Board of Regents, and the University of Dubuque- each of whom will invest $200,000. The Principal Investigator is Dr. Richard E. Cowart, professor of biological sciences and head of the department of natural and applied sciences. Working with Dr. Cowart is Dr. Joseph DeParasis, research scientist and a molecular microbiologist at the University of Dubuque.

"We are very pleased that the State of Iowa has approved this research proposal and has partnered with the University of Dubuque in what we feel is an exciting and worthwhile project," stated Cowart. "We believe that our work offers a possibility for the creation of a unique vaccine that will prevent serious bacterial infections from occurring, and offering hope for treatment of antibiotic resistant infections."

The research project seeks to block the pathway that microorganisms utilize to mobilize iron from host tissues during infections. The project will focus on the purification of recently described microbial enzymes and the development of these enzymes for use in a vaccine. The second phase of this research will be to crystallize the enzyme and to identify a small molecule inhibitor that would inhibit the enzyme's activity. Such a drug would theoretically block the iron uptake process in a person with an antibiotic-resistant infection, with the practical result of eliminating these antibiotic-resistant microorganisms from a patient's tissues.

"The University strongly supports individual faculty research like that which is being done by Drs. Cowart and DeParasis," commented Dr. John Stewart, vice president for academic affairs. "The end result of this research has the possibility of increasing the options available to medical staff who are treating virulent infections. This research also strengthens both classroom teaching and opportunities for student/faculty collaboration across the disciplines."