The Center of Research Excellence in Natural Products Neuroscience (CORE-NPN) promotes the ability of investigators at the University of Mississippi to conduct state-of-the-art research to identify components and properties of natural products that affect the nervous system. This research will lead to a better understanding of the health promoting aspects of dietary supplements, and the development of new medications to treat neurological and psychiatric diseases. The CORE-NPN supports a number of resources and programs which enhance the research infrastructure at the university.
Junior Investigator Project: Provides mentoring and funding for individual research projects of faculty who are in the early stages of developing their careers.
Small Grants Program: Provides short-term funding for research projects of faculty, particularly those who are in the early stages of developing their careers.
Community Outreach Program: Comprised of an informal panel discussion that is organized to foster interactions and facilitate the exchange of information between the lay public and basic and clinical scientists.
Distinguished Lectureship Program: Hosts distinguished scientists for seminars at the university.
Grants Review Program: Arranges external reviews of grant proposals prior to submission to national funding agencies.
Research Cores: Expands the research capabilities of center investigators through core research facilities.
- The Sourcing, Acquisition and Isolation Core (Core A) provides three services to CORE-NPN investigators: (1) provide CORE-NPN investigators rapid access to the material extracts that reside in the NCNPR repositories as well as access to collections that reside with collaborators; (2) provide for the bioassay directed isolation of active natural metabolites; and (3) scale-up the isolation of minor secondary metabolites that possess biological activity on cannabinoid and opioid receptors.
- The Chemistry and DMPK Core (Core B) is designed to provide lead optimization, analytical expertise, drug metabolism and pharmacokinetic data on natural products and related compounds that are determined by CORE-NPN investigators to have significant biological activity in the In Vitro (Core C) and In Vivo (Core D) Cores. In addition, the Chemistry and DMPK Core will make available the bulk-synthesis of compounds that have potential clinical usefulness. The Chemistry and DMPK Core will also have an advisory role for individual projects and other CORE-NPN investigators that require expertise in the area of exploration of structure-activity relationships, analytical method development and validation, chemical modifications to influence pharmacokinetic and metabolism properties, and pharmaceutical and chemical influences on solubility and formulation.
- The In Vitro Pharmacology Core (Core C) enables investigators to use in vitro assays to serve as a guide in the isolation and identification of biological-active natural products and to evaluate compounds predicted to have activities in these systems through rational drug design. The In Vitro Pharmacology Core provides several functions related to understanding the mechanisms of actions of natural products on the endocannabinoid system that can lead to the development of new therapies. Core C also supports UM projects optimizing small molecule activity at the cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) and the opioid receptor subtypes (m,d, and k), which are currently available for use. Specifically, Core C provides the ability to screen compounds in-house for biological activity and determine the site(s) as well as mechanism(s) of action. These core functions are dependent on the use of state-of-the-art technologies as well as time-tested laboratory methodologies. Using multi-label plate reader technologies and robotics, the core is able to rapidly assess compounds and extracts held in the Repository of the NCNPR at the University of Mississippi for specific receptor activities. These receptors represent drug targets in areas as diverse as drug addiction, pain and obesity.
- The In Vivo Pharmacology Core (Core D) provides the resources associated with in vivo evaluations. This core provides assessments that include: conditioned place preference, locomotor activity, catalepsy and rotarod testing, core body temperature measurement, tail flick and hot plate assays, weight control, and forced swim. The In Vivo Core focuses on screening natural products with overall effects on the endocannabinoid system and possible membership in four drug categories: opiate-like, stimulant-like, cannabinoid-like, and depressant-like compounds. While these categories have potential therapeutic uses, the categories are also associated with abuse potential and other negative side effects including, motor side effects, temperature dysregulation, changes in food intake, and cognitive impairments (memory and reaction time).
- The Biopharmaceutics-Clinical and Translational Core (Core E) provides two services to CORE-NPN investigators. The first mission of Core E is to provide the technical support and necessary expertise to perform preliminary translational studies such as preformulation studies, formulation developments studies, accelerated stability testing of the API and the dosage form, and preclinical studies and data interpretation. The second mission of Core E is to provide technical expertise and guide and facilitate preliminary clinical evaluation of agents that demonstrate potential usefulness in the preclinical studies. These clinical studies, however, will be performed and funded outside the auspices of Core E. The Core E will develop and test the stability of the formulations and identify the most suitable formulation for clinical studies as well as assist the sourcing of clinical batches for testing/evaluation from approved cGMP compliant manufacturing sites. Core E also has in place a clinical team that will help undertake clinical trials when needed (funded by other mechanisms such as industry and other federal sources).