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Xu and Kelly receive SOP Faculty Innovation Award

Libin Xu and Ed Kelly take a novel approach to investigate toxicity of common household cleaners

Libin Xu
Libin Xu

Libin Xu and Ed Kelly were selected as this year’s recipients of the UW School of Pharmacy Faculty Innovation Award for their proposal “Assessing the Toxicogenetics of Benzalkonium Chlorides Using “Liver-Kidney-on-Chips.” Libin and Ed, from UWSOP Departments of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmaceutics, respectively, are Co-Principal Investigators.

The UWSOP Faculty Innovation Award provides financial support of up to $20,000 each for high-risk, innovative research projects. The reviewers look for projects with high scientific merit and great potential to generate extramural funding, with preference for projects that bring together faculty from two or more SOP departments.

Associate Professor of Pharmaceutics Ed Kelly
Ed Kelly

Libin and Ed’s project will continue Libin’s research into the effects of benzalkonium chlorides (BACs) on human health. Benzalkonium chlorides are widely used as disinfectants in cleaning products, medical products, and food processing industries, but there is mounting evidence that points to them being toxic to developmental, reproductive, and neurological systems. Libin and Ed hypothesize that toxicities of BACs in liver and kidney are dependent on the activity of their metabolizing proteins.

In this innovative study, the team will use an integrated liver-kidney-on-chips microphysiological system developed by the laboratory of Ed Kelly, who co-led (with Dr. Jonathan Himmelfarb, Director, Kidney Research Institute) the kidney-on-a-chip project that launched to the International Space Station in 2019. By bringing together liver and kidney cells into connected three-dimensional microphysiological systems, they expect to gain deeper insight into the metabolism, disposition, and toxicity of BACs from the liver to the kidney.

Libin was part of the first UWSOP Faculty Innovation Fund Award team, with Brian Werth from the Department of Pharmacy. The UWSOP Faculty Innovation Award has led to several other ground-breaking projects that hold great promise for breakthroughs on some of the toughest challenges in population health:

  • Pharmacy’s Brian Werth and grant co-investigator UWSOP Medicinal Chemistry’s Libin Xu who continue their novel research into antibiotic resistance mechanisms in the superbug, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) with the support of a recent 4-year, $1.86 million NIH R01 grant.
  • An interdisciplinary team led by CHOICE Associate Professor Beth Devine, with Pharmaceutics’ Isabelle Ragueneau-Majlessi, ’10, and Pharmacy’s Jennifer Wilson-Norton, ’93, earned the award for their proposal, “Evaluating the Impact of Pharmacogenetic Testing on Clinical Outcomes in Retirement Communities: A Proof-of-Concept Feasibility Study.” UWSOP’s Jennifer Bacci, and Basia Belza, from the UW School of Nursing, will serve as advisors.
  • Professor Allan Rettie is leading a team that includes Co-Investigators Pharmaceutics Assistant Professor Bhagwat Prasad and Shreeram Akilesh of Pathology to find new personalized ways to slow the progression of the development of breast cancer by focusing in on an enzyme that can go rogue. The team hopes to identify inhibitors of a gene, CYP4Z1, which codes for a cytochrome P450 enzyme that is strongly associated with progression of the disease, a breakthrough that could lead to improved therapies that are personalized for a patient’s particular type of breast cancer.
  • Abhi Nath proposed to look at new ways to predict how the body metabolizes biologics, also known as “large-molecule” drugs or protein-based therapeutics. These drugs display immense potential in the treatment of many challenging forms of cancer, autoimmune disorders, and infectious and degenerative diseases. However, a major hurdle to their development is a lack of understanding of the factors that govern their pharmacokinetics and disposition.

Read more about Libin’s research published in Chemical Research in Toxicology, “Metabolism of Benzalkonium Chlorides by Human Hepatic Cytochromes P450.”

Learn more about Libin Xu and the work of his lab team here.

To study with researchers like Drs. Xu and Kelly, click on the links for more information about our Graduate Programs in Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmaceutics, Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research and Policy, and Biomedical Regulatory Affairs.