California pharmaceutical company awards Rowan grant

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Combi-Blocks Inc., a San Diego manufacturer and worldwide supplier of a series of combinatorial building blocks, organics and fine chemicals, has awarded Dr. Cathy Yang, chair and professor of Rowan University's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, a $100,000 grant.

Combi-Blocks Inc., a San Diego manufacturer and worldwide supplier of a series of combinatorial building blocks, organics and fine chemicals, has awarded Dr. Cathy Yang, chair and professor of Rowan University's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, a $100,000 grant.

Yang and three students funded by the grant will use the funds to create novel ways to produce pyridine-containing drug chemical compounds for pharmaceutical applications. Their work is part of Rowan's College of Liberal Arts & Sciences' Science Clinic, an offering patterned after the medical education model in which students work six to 20 hours each semester of their undergraduate careers and learn firsthand about research and development under the guidance of experienced scientists.

A building block and flammable liquid, pyridine, according to the professor, forms the nucleus of more than 7,000 drugs, including anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antidepressant and hypertension medications. Pyridine is used in many biological and chemical applications, such as the manufacture of chemicals, pharmaceuticals and paints. Under the Combi-Blocks grant, Yang plans to design and test new pyridine derivatives' effectiveness in inhibiting tumor growth and controlling diabetes.

Yang, of Cherry Hill, earned a B.S. in organic chemistry from Zhejiang University, China, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in biochemistry from Tufts University, Medford, Mass. She completed her postdoctoral work in anticancer drug studies at Harvard Medical School. Yang joined the faculty at Rowan University in 1995. During her tenure at Rowan, she has received many academic awards, including a Cottrell Corporation research award, National Institutes of Health Academic Research Enhancement
Award Grants, an Innovative Research Award from the National Applied Chemical Laboratory, a National Science Foundation (NSF) Major Research Instrumentation Program Grant Award and an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates Grant Award, as well as Sigma Xi National Academy of Sciences Grants-in-Aid of Research. At Rowan, Yang has focused much of her research on prostate cancer, working on regulatory proteins to slow tumor progression and developing a system to evaluate the drug potency of lead compounds for prostate cancer.

Students working with Yang on the Combi-Blocks research are:

  • Joseph Garofalo, 22, of Vineland, a senior biochemistry major
  • Matthew Sabo, 23, of Moorestown, a 2007 biochemistry graduate, working at Rowan as a researcher before he enters the University of Medicine and Dentistry to study medicine in the fall
  • Darshna Jansari, 27, of Sewell, a graduate student in chemistry

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