UMES researchers lauded for work on new
COLLEGE PARK, MD
– (May 1, 2014) – Two UMES researchers are among “Invention of the Year Award”
winners honored this week by the University of Maryland College Park’s Division
Jackson-Ayotunde, an assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, and Dr.
Tawes Harper, a pharmacy program graduate, were recognized for their pioneering
work in 2013 on developing medication to treat epilepsy.
Epilepsy is a chronic
neurological disorder characterized by recurring seizures, which can be
debilitating. Some patients experience multiple episodes daily.
Jackson-Ayotunde and Harper focused on designing and producing novel
anticonvulsant analogs as potential agents for treatment of therapy-resistant,
partial epilepsy. They identified at least a dozen compounds that show
anti-epileptic properties in multiple animal models with limited-to-no-observed
recognition means a lot,” Jackson-Ayotunde said. “I’m passionate about the
research I do as a medicinal chemist, and working with students.”
Her research already
has qualified for a provisional patent, but she noted that safely moving a
preliminary medicinal finding from the lab to the patient can take 15-to-20
“With the many hours spent in the lab –
working on potential agents – it’s all about the patients suffering epilepsy.
The goal is to discover new effective and safe therapeutics that will give
epileptic patients a better quality of life,” she said.
The College Park
campus’ Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) sponsors the annual
Invention of the Year Awards program, now in its 27th year. In 2013, it
received 154 nominations and from that group, 11 were chosen as finalists based
on their impact on science, society and market potential.
An independent panel of
judges singled out epilepsy research at UMES for special recognition along with
scientists whose projects included developing a better material for the 3D
printing of vascular implants, a technology that makes cloud (computing)
storage more secure and efficient, and a low-cost, high-energy solid state
Bobbi Donley, the OTC’s
assistant director of administration, said, “Patrice’s research was just so
impressive … we all agreed we had to do something to recognize her work.”
been doing epilepsy research for nearly 14 years dating back to her days as a
college student. She was inspired, in part, by a nephew who had a related
neurological disorder but has since grown out of it.
Earlier this year, the
American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy named her a “New Investigator
Award” winner, which included a $10,000 grant to help underwrite her ongoing
epilepsy research work.
“With the grant
funding,” she said in January, “I hope to further my research in the area of
drug design and discovery – and continue to provide research opportunities for
undergraduate science majors and pharmacy students.”
Harper, who graduated
in 2013, currently is a resident pharmacist at Lebanon (Pa.) Veterans Affairs
Medical Center. He is among 10 pharmacy students and two undergraduates who
have assisted Jackson-Ayotunde with her research since she joined UMES’ faculty
A wide range of
treatments for epilepsy exist, but 25-to-30 percent of the nation’s two million
epilepsy patients do not have complete control of their seizures, or they may
suffer severe side effects from anti-epileptic drugs.
That leaves a
significant portion of the population without adequate treatment and a great
need for the development of new treatments to help these patients. That’s what motivates
Jackson-Ayotunde to be an educator-researcher.
The University of
Maryland created OTC in 1986 to provide expert guidance, support, and
assistance in safeguarding intellectual property, encouraging research,
facilitating technological transfer, and promoting collaborative research and
development agreements with industrial sponsors.
Bill Robinson, director,
office of public relations, (410)