PreClinical Research Group

PreClinical Research Group

The PreClinical Research Group is focused on translational medicine: the process of evaluating new medical interventions discovered and developed by scientists for the goal of providing new treatments for patients. In the pre-clinical phase of translational research, we work with multidisciplinary groups to evaluate these possible interventions before they become clinical trials. Broadly, we are interested in finding new ways to address diseases such as autoimmunity, inflammatory cytokine storms, and cancers.

In the laboratory, we collaborate with other biologists, marine biologists, chemists, and professionals in the biotech and pharma industries to elucidate how novel natural and synthetic compounds change immune responses. We also bioprospect ocean algae for active compounds that may be used to treat a variety of medical conditions such as chronic inflammation and cancer. We characterize how naturally occurring marine neurotoxins influence human cell responses through several mechanism of action studies.  We develop biosassays to support pre-clinical discovery and development.  This research should help identify potential targets for clinical trials.

In our non-laboratory research program, we work with a multidisciplinary team in the School of Nursing to measure caregiver burden associated with caring for patients with the aggressive and incurable brain cancer, Glioblastoma Multiforme(GBM).  The goal of this work is to better understand the needs associated with GBM caregivers so better support and intervention can be developed.

The PreClinical Research Group consists of both the McCall Lab and the Minns Lab, located at Center for Marine Science at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

PreClinical Research Group logo

Projects

Glioblastoma Support

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common brain cancer with an incidence of 3.19 per 100,000 cases with more males affected than females. The incurable nature of the disease, disease progression, and poor prognosis (median survival is 12-18 months) leads to a very high caregiver burden. The purpose of this study is to measure caregiver burden from female spouses/long-term partners of GBM patients involved in an online support group with the goal of designing appropriate interventions and supports specifically for GBM patient caregivers.

Immunomodulatory Drug Discovery

Chronic inflammation exacerbates a myriad of diseases. Chronic inflammation is intimately tied to immune resolution. Resolution is an active process mediated by pro-resolving chemical compounds derived from polyunsaturated fatty acids (like omega-3s). When inflammatory responses fail to resolve, they can cause harm through chronic inflammation. Our lab is interested in discovering new compounds from algae (which are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids) that can actively resolve inflammation and produce anti-inflammatory drug effects. Our ultimate goal is to produce a new suite of anti-inflammatory drugs that can be used to treat and resolve chronic inflammation.

Immunomodulatory Drug Discovery

Neurotoxins as Therapies

Marine neurotoxins are notorious for contaminating seafood during harmful algal blooms. Many are heat and acid stable, and upon ingestion, humans can have a range of symptoms (depending on the toxins), from gastrointestinal upset to nerve dysfunction to death in extreme cases. While these compounds are historically avoided due to the health hazards, several marine neurotoxins have shown positive pharmacological effects, including pain management and stroke treatment. Our lab is investigating the effects of marine neurotoxins, both positive and potentially negative, to develop these compounds for potential treatments.

Neurotoxins as Therapies

Bioassay Development

A common thread in these projects is that they utilize bioassay-guided drug discovery, and in order to use this process, we need to develop bioassays to optimally detect potential drug activity and mechanisms of action. Part of our lab work is dedicated to developing rigorous tests to determine toxicity and efficacy of potential drugs.

Bioassay Development