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NIH awards grant to Professors Kyle and Baker to discover new drugs for leishmaniasis

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USF researchers Dennis E. Kyle, PhD, and Bill J. Baker, PhD, are the recipients of a $399,913 grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The two-year award allows the investigators to apply their skills in natural products drug discovery to identify new compounds with potential to treat leishmaniasis.

(l,r) Dr. Dennis Kyle, professor of global health, and Dr. Bill Baker directs USF’s Center for Drug Discovery and Innovation and is a professor of chemistry, marine natural products.

(l,r) Dr. Dennis Kyle, professor of global health, and Dr. Bill Baker director of USF’s Center for Drug Discovery and Innovation

Leishmaniasis is a devastating protozoan parasitic disease transmitted by sand flies. The disease can cause disfiguring skin lesions or the potentially fatal chronic disease known as Kala Azar, a form of visceral leishmaniasis. New drugs for treating leishmaniasis are urgently required since the current therapies are toxic and losing efficacy due to parasite resistance.

This project combines the expertise of the Baker and Kyle laboratories. First, Baker’s Lab identifies secondary metabolites in unexplored sources of biodiversity, such as microbes from Antarctica, endophtic fungi from mangrove plants, and terrestrial slow growing fungi. Second, extracts from these sources are assessed in validated screens for leishmania drug discovery in the Kyle Laboratory. The process identifies new chemical entities to spur drug discovery for this neglected disease that affects more than 350 million people in 88 countries.

Dr. Bill J. Baker directs USF’s Center for Drug Discovery and Innovation and is a professor of chemistry, marine natural products.

Dr. Dennis Kyle is a professor in the USF College of Public Health.  In 2011, he was named USF Health Distinguished Professor, the highest honor bestowed on a member of the USF Health faculty.  Dr. Kyle currently serves as president-elect of the Southeastern Society of Parasitologists, an active regional affiliate of the American Society of Parasitologists.

The Department of Global Health is Dr. Kyle’s academic home. The department offers more than 10 concentrations that lead to MPH, MSPH, DrPH, and PhD degrees, as well several dual degrees, graduate certificates, and special programs. Most recently, Global Health added an online master of public health degree in infection control to its academic offerings.

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