Dr. Lee Awarded $2.8 Million in Distinguished NIH Research Grant
18 Aug

Dr. Lee Awarded $2.8 Million in Distinguished NIH Research Grant

Florida A&M College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Institute of Public Health (CoPPS, IPH) professor, Ensook Lee, Ph.D., has received a $2.8 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) research project grant (R01). The NIH R01 grant is the original and historically oldest grant mechanism used by NIH. The R01 supplies support for health-related research and development based on the mission of the NIH. 

The five-year R01 grant which title and focus is the “Mechanisms Associated with Neuroprotection from Manganese (Mn) Induced Neurotoxicity.” The goal of this grant is to investigate the potential neuroprotective role of a gene called REST [Repressor Element1 (RE1)-Silencing Transcription factor] in Mn neurotoxicity. 

Dr. Lee says, “Although Mn is an essential trace element in our body, its overexposure from the environment in areas such as air pollution and contaminated water as well as occupational settings such as welding is known to cause a neurological disorder, like Parkinson’s disease (PD), this is referred to as manganism.”

Since Mn is considered a significant contributing factor to PD development, and given the similarities between manganism and PD, investigating REST’s protective mechanism against Mn’s neurotoxicity will also aid in PD therapeutic research. 

In this grant, Dr. Lee is collaborating with Michael Aschner, Ph.D.,  of the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in New York, as a Co-Investigator. Other collaborators include Bruce Yankner, M.D., Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School, and Jenny Hsieh, Ph.D. from the University of Texas in San Antonio, who will serve as consultants on the project. FAMU faculty and students round off the team of collaborators. This list of local collaborators includes CoPPS, IPH research assistant professor, Edward Pajarillo, Ph.D. and three Pharmacology/Toxicology graduate learners (Asha Rizor, Ivan Nyarko-Danquah, and Getinet Adinew). Finally, Ashvini Chauhan, Ph.D., from the FAMU School of Environment and Matthew Dutton, Ph.D., from FAMU CoPPs, IPH. will aid in bioinformatics and statistics.

Dr. Lee says, “I am honored to receive this R01 award from the NIH-NIEHS and truly grateful to FAMU and CoPPS, IPH, for supporting my research at FAMU. I am grateful that this funding will allow me to adequately support and sustain my postdoctoral research fellows so they can operate at their fullest potential in these difficult times.”

Dr. Lee, who is a FAMU CoPPS Ph.D. graduate, was recruited back to the University as a faculty member in 2018.

“I appreciate the support of Dr. Carl Goodmann on transitioning to FAMU and providing a great research environment and Dr. Karam Soliman, Associate Dean for Research for his endless support on my research activity at FAMU”, says Dr. Lee. “I also would like to thank my lab members for their hard work and dedication to the sciences.”

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