U-M Therapeutic Innovation Fund

The U-M Therapeutic Innovation Fund, offered by the Michigan Center for Therapeutic Innovation (MCTI) and Fast Forward Medical Innovation (FFMI), is a five-year, $2.5 million fund created in 2016 to accelerate the discovery and translation of therapeutic candidates at the University of Michigan.

The fund supports the discovery and optimization of small molecule lead compounds for projects with a specific, novel, and testable drug discovery hypothesis. Selected projects receive funding and resources to support medicinal chemistry efforts through MCTI and funding for drug design, assay development, cell biology, structural biology, and pharmacology (up to $150,000 in value for each award for a period of 18 months, with the funds being dispersed in two stages).

The fund is jointly administered by MCTI and FFMI. MCTI, under the direction of Founding Director Shaomeng Wang, was launched to accelerate the discovery and translation of new small molecule therapeutics for the treatment of human disorders through innovation and scientific collaboration at the University of Michigan.

2019 Winners:

Andrew Alt and John Traynor, Center for Chemical Genomics and Pharmacology
Chemical Optimization of Enkephalin Amplifiers as Novel, Safe and Non-Addictive Analgesics

Cagri Besirli and Thomas Wubben, Ophthalmology and Visual Services
Photoreceptor metabolic reprogramming to prevent apoptosis and vision loss in several ocular diseases


2018 Winners:

Liangyou Rui, Molecular & Integrative Physiology
Developing novel kinase inhibitors for NASH treatment

Matthew Soellner, Sofia Merajver, and Sameer Phadke, Internal Medicine – Hematology/Oncology
Development of dual inhibitors for the treatment of triple negative breast cancer

James Varani, Pathology
SAR studies on novel, non-irritating retinoids


2017 Winners:

Cagri Besirli, Ophthalmology and Visual Services
Photoreceptor metabolic reprogramming to prevent apoptosis and vision loss in several ocular diseases

Mukesh Nyati and Theodore Lawrence, Radiation Oncology
Optimization and characterization of a novel agent for tyrosine kinase inhibitor resistant lung cancers

Alan Smrcka, Pharmacology
Development of a small molecule modulator as a co-therapy to improve the therapeutic profile of opioid analgesics

Duxin Sun, Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy
Drug discovery to modulate epigenetics and boost targeted immunotherapy in triple negative breast cancer and other cancers


2016 Winners:

Joseph Holoshitz, Internal Medicine – Rheumatology
Orally available small molecule lead for rheumatoid arthritis and other bone-damaging conditions

Peter Higgins, Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology
Optimization of novel Bcl-2/Bcl-xL inhibitors for anti-fibrotic activity and gut selectivity in the mouse Salmonella model of intestinal fibrosis

Zaneta Nikolovska-Coleska, Pathology
Small molecule Mcl-1 inhibitors for the treatment of cancer

Peter Arvan & Ming Liu, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology, & Diabetes (MEND)
Pro-insulin Dimerization Surface Protectors (PDSPs)

Yali Dou, Pathology
Targeting SET domain of MLL family histone methyltransferases

Nouri Neamati, Pharmacy/Med Chem
Development of First-in-Class SHMT2 and MTHFD2 inhibitors


Have questions about the U-M Therapeutic Innovation Fund? Contact Jason Rech, Managing Director, Michigan Center for Therapeutic Innovation, at jcrech@umich.edu or 734-764-2980.