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National Institute of Justice Provides Funding to KGI Professors

Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) biopharmaceutical science professors John Krstenansky and Alexander Zambon have received a grant award from the National Institute of Justice (Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice) in the amount of $618,790. Krstenansky and Zambon will serve as co-Principal Investigators (PIs) on the project.

The award focuses on research into the synthesis, spectroscopy, and pharmacology of emerging synthetic opioids. The project addresses the ongoing opiate addiction crisis and the relatively recent appearance of several synthetic opioids. The PIs report that it may be reasonable to expect a similar onslaught of multiple newer synthetic opioids, since the 2008 wave of synthetic drug abuse.

“The funding from NIJ will allow professor Zambon and myself to hire two full-time post-doctorate researchers,” Krstenansky said. “As a School of Pharmacy, contributing to the effort of stemming the tide of drug overdose deaths is an important opportunity that the supportive environment of KGI enables.”

Krstenansky has been working at KGI since 2013. For the first part of his career in the pharmaceutical industry, three of his inventions were selected as clinical candidates. Earlier this year, Krstenansky became a Fellow member of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

In 2010, Zambon received the American Heart Association Scientist Development Award and has been working at KGI since 2014. His PhD training in biomedical sciences focused on the pharmacology of G-protein coupled (GPCR) purinergic receptors. Opioids target receptors in the same protein family. GPCRs are targets of many therapeutics used to treat a variety of disorders including neural and cardiovascular diseases.

Krstenansky and Zambon originally applied for the funding from NIJ in April 2015, then reapplied in February 2016.

“The funding brings in significant resources to develop a larger scale research program,” Zambon said. “It also provides resources and increases opportunities for KGI students to conduct research in our laboratories, and we hope we can develop important preliminary data that will facilitate the development of a pharmaceutical discovery program here at KGI.”