Campus News

University will be home to new drug discovery center

Vasu Nair

The College of Pharmacy plans to create a Center for Drug Discovery that will combine the expertise of faculty in various disciplines at UGA, the Medical College of Georgia, Georgia State University, the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, pending approval by University Council. Affiliation with scientists in drug discovery at other universities and with pharmaceutical companies is planned.

Vasu Nair, head of the college’s department of pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences, has been named the William Henry Terry Sr./Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Drug Discovery. Nair is a world-renowned researcher in the antiviral field who joined the college faculty in 2002 after a long career as a University of Iowa Distinguished Professor. The Center for Drug Discovery, the first of its kind at UGA, is being established under his ­leadership.

“With the College of Pharmacy’s strong background in the discovery and development of new drugs, the creation of a center for drug discovery has been a long-time ambition of the college,” says Svein Øie, dean of pharmacy. “This center will help the college expand its role in the drug discovery field and hopefully serve as an economic engine for the state of Georgia in the area of pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.”

The new center will promote scientific research and discovery of new chemical and biological entities targeted against infectious diseases and cancer. It is expected to develop a central database for scientific expertise that can administer and coordinate interdisciplinary efforts in drug discovery and enhanced core facilities.

In addition, the center will develop a program of seed-grant support, a training grant in drug discovery funded through the National Institutes of Health, and joint seminars and conferences on drug discovery.

“There is a critical national and international need for the ­discovery of conceptually new therapeutic agents for combating a variety of existing and emerging life-threatening diseases,” says Nair. “The CDD is poised to make significant contributions in this field of drug discovery because of the outstanding talent in this area at UGA and in the state of Georgia.”

Support for the Eminent Scholar chair and the CDD comes from an endowment of more than $1 million from Mary Virginia Terry of Jacksonville, Fla., in honor of her late husband’s father, William Henry Terry Sr., and from the Georgia Research Alliance. William Henry Terry Sr. practiced pharmacy and owned a drug store for 29 years before retiring in 1965. After five years of retirement he acquired and operated a health food retail business until his second retirement in 1979.