From students to patients

Pharmacy professor leads anticancer drug research

Ferris pharmacy professor Eric Nybo has received funding for anticancer drug research. Photo by: Abbey Good | Multimedia Editor

Cancer continues to be a major health concern for many but the Ferris College of Pharmacy has begun funded research to make a better anticancer drug. 

Ferris received a grant for $61,000 from the state of Michigan to fund the anticancer drug project. The research is led by Ferris Assistant Professor of Medicinal Chemistry Dr. Eric Nybo and is projected to continue for three years. 

Nybo said the program focuses on creating natural products using biosynthesis or “creating drugs from bugs.” He applied for a grant to purchase equipment to do the research. 

“In fall of 2017, I wrote a grant to fund a bioreactor. A bioreactor is this big fancy equipment to grow bacteria but make a lot of them. We were fortunate. The state gave us this ADVANCE grant, which actually gave me some resources to work on this project and hire a student,” Nybo said. 

Nybo hired Ferris biotechnology student Jennifer Tran to assist him with the research. Tran, whom Nybo picked because of her interest in cancer biology, is getting hands-on experience in her field. 

The money Nybo received is being used for many aspects of the project. 

“Half of that pays for my effort, so that pays for me to have some release time to actually work on the project, and it also pays for some salary to hire Jennifer. The rest of it pays for supplies—to build the bioreactor, to have chemistry supplies,” Nybo said. 

Many Ferris pharmacy students are excited about the project, such as Ferris first-year pharmacy student Olga Reiff. 

“It’s an amazing thing that they’re supporting cancer research and that they’re funding it because I know a lot of funding is limited as to where it’s going to go. It’s really amazing that it’s going to go towards cancer, which a lot of cancers don’t have a lot of cures out there, so it’ll probably affect a lot of people,” Reiff said. 

Ferris first-year pharmacy student Alisha Gaur thinks the grant towards cancer research will help future patients. 

“If it’s going towards cancer research, then it’ll help us a lot and also help the patients and that’s mostly what we’re trying to do in pharmacy—just help the patients. So I think it’s a really good initiative,” Gaur said. 

Nybo said he hopes his research will result in a more efficient anticancer drug. 

“Cancer is prevalent. There’s all kinds of it and we don’t have good enough drugs—the drugs aren’t soluble enough, they’re not tolerated well enough, they’re not efficacious enough, they’re not active enough. So we have to invent better drugs and I think I know how to do that. I think this is the approach,” Nybo said.

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