Duke Center for Health Informatics: Ancestry and the Biology of Health Disparities: Ancestral-Driven Drug Discovery
Seminar Abstract: Among ethnic groups in the United States, African Americans continue to display the lowest life expectancy and highest overall rates of cancer deaths (including colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers), infant mortality, asthma, and cardiometabolic diseases (including heart disease, hypertension, and obesity). Complex diseases and environmental insults all invoke and/or subvert host inflammation, with individual immune and variable responses to therapeutic agents being dictated in part by genetic variants. Precision diagnoses and prognoses of individual patient responses rely on assessing known disease and immune markers before, during, and/or after treatment. This research interrogates the functional effects and drug-ability of under-studied gene variants related to immune and drug response within the genome of individuals of African Ancestry (AAs). Immune gene variants most common among AAs and predicted to be druggable are being engineered into cell lines of different geographical ancestry and evaluated for functional effects in vitro and/or in vivo and modeled in silico to predict structural changes to the wild type proteins and possible variant-drug interactions. Novel assays to screen for compounds with therapeutic potential are being developed and used for screening. Lead compound candidates are validated, optimized, and tested in vitro and/or in vivo.
Biosketch: Dr. K. Sean Kimbro, PhD is the Director of the Integrated Bioscience Program and a Professor in the Dept. of Biomedical and Biological Sciences at North Carolina Central University (NCCU). He recently was awarded a Transformative RO1 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for Addressing the Biology of Health Disparities by Targeting Geographical Ancestry-driven Variants of Immunity. It is the first RO1 awarded to a Historically Black College or University (HBCU). His passion for research was sparked at an early age, stemming from an internship at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio at the age of 16, where he received his first grant. Dr. Kimbro has been a mentor in cancer disparities and most notably as the 2nd Director of the Julius L. Chambers Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute (BBRI). Prior to joining NCCU, he led the Emory Center for Health Equity at the Emory University School of Medicine's Winship Cancer Institute, an NIH Center of Excellence (COE) and was a faculty member at Clark Atlanta University.