University of California, San Diego

The top 10 biomedical research institutions
Courtesy of Alex Hansen, Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0

#8 - University of California, San Diego
Fiscal 2013 NIH funding:
$362.00 million
Fiscal 2012 NIH funding: $394.98 million
Change in funding: -$32.98 million
Number of awards in 2013: 847
Number of awards in 2012: 802

In December, scientists at the University of California, San Diego, working with an international team of collaborators at Novartis ($NVS) and Columbia University, revealed a new drug target for treating malaria. Detailed in the journal Nature, they found a protein in the malaria-causing Plasmodium parasite that acts as a target for imidazopyrazines, a class of experimental antimalarial compounds. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the protein, phosphatidylinositol-4 kinase (PfPI4K), is the first potential malaria drug target that appears to be essential to all stages of the Plasmodium life cycle. In mice and nonhuman primates, the imidazopyrazines blocked the parasites' development both in the liver and in the bloodstream stages of infection.

In another collaborative effort with the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, UCSD researchers identified a novel therapeutic approach for the most frequent genetic cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, which affects the regions of the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement and can cause a kind of dementia. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers detailed a process of using segments of genetic material called antisense oligonucleotides to block the buildup and selectively degrade the toxic RNA that contributes to the most common form of ALS, without affecting the normal RNA produced from the same gene.

Also last year, UCSD researchers worked with scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the University of Michigan to investigate the use of a canker sore drug called amlexanox to prevent weight gain in mice. The researchers hypothesized that the drug could potentially work to treat obesity in the same way it treats swelling in mouth ulcers, which are also inflammatory events.

For more:
Novartis team IDs new malaria target
Canker sore drug reverses weight gain in mice