Research News

Tsuji receives NIH grant to continue superbug research

By KARA SWEET

Published January 14, 2020

headshot of Brian Tsuji.
“Our team of amazing students and scientists worked very hard to generate both mechanistic and clinical data to demonstrate new ways of how to use our existing antibiotics to combat resistance.”
Brian Tsuji, professor
Department of Pharmacy Practice

Brian Tsuji, professor of pharmacy practice and associate dean for clinical and translational sciences, is the principal investigator on a five-year $3.92 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue his groundbreaking research to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The grant, “Novel Strategies for Antibiotic Combinations to combat Gram-negative Superbugs,” is the second largest R01 NIH grant in the history of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the first being Tsuji’s 2014 $4.4 million grant to develop new dosing regimens for polymyxin antibiotics.

Multidrug-resistant bacteria have been classified as an urgent public health threat in the U.S. and around the globe. These bacteria are resistant to all current antibiotics and can cause a variety of diseases, from pneumonia and other respiratory infections to serious blood or wound infections. Tsuji’s superbug research, which has been continuously funded by the NIH since 2008, investigates optimizing drug combinations to maximize antibacterial activity and minimize resistance and toxicity.

“Our team of amazing students and scientists worked very hard to generate both mechanistic and clinical data to demonstrate new ways of how to use our existing antibiotics to combat resistance,” Tsuji says.

Tsuji has put together a team of world-renowned experts in antimicrobial pharmacology, genomics, animal models and pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics (PK/PD). The project is co-led by Jürgen Bernd Bulitta, associate professor in the Department of Pharmacotherapy and Translational Research at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy. Raymond Cha, UB clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice, also plays a critical role, providing new clinical perspectives into antibiotic selection for critically ill patients infected with these difficult to treat infections.

Other prominent researchers involved in the grant are George Drusano, professor and director in the Department of Medicine at the University of Florida Institute for Therapeutic Innovation; Arnold Louie, associate director in the Department of Medicine at the University of Florida Institute for Therapeutic Innovation; Zackery Bulman, assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy; Barry Kreiswirth, a member of the Hackensack Meridian Health Center for Discovery and Innovation; and Liang Chen, assistant member of the Hackensack Meridian Health Center for Discovery and Innovation.

The UB team that worked tirelessly to generate key preliminary data includes PhD candidate Nicholas Smith (PharmD ’18 & MS ’18), lab technician Patricia Holden, PharmD student Hubert Chua, PharmD/MS student Andy Tse and Katie Rose Boissonneault, a staff member in the Department of Pharmacy Practice.

“This would not be possible without the collective efforts of our team at UB and the brilliant group of investigators. All of the credit should go to them,” Tsuji says.