HPU News for July 2011

Horgen Helps Score Grant for Cancer Research

July 22, 2011

Dr. David Horgen
Dr. David Horgen

KANEOHE — Hawai‘i Pacific University professor Dr. David Horgen, known for his cutting edge cancer-related research, was part of a local team of experts recently recognized with the Weinman Innovator Award.

Horgen, an Associate Professor of Chemistry whose research focuses on organic compounds usually used for defense against predators, and his colleagues submitted a proposal that garnered the $50,000 grant. The proposal was based on a lab discovery of a natural compound from a marine-derived source, which interferes with the magnesium status of cancer cells, according to the Queen’s Center for Biomedical Research. Magnesium is essential for cells to spread.

Horgen collaborated with Dr. Andrea Fleig, a faculty member of the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center biology program and director of research and development at The Queen’s Medical Center, and Drs. Reinhold Penner and Toshihiko Kawamori of the UH Cancer Center. Fleig, as principal investigator, was awarded the Weinman award on behalf of the team.

“The best thing a natural products chemist can hope for is that someone picks up their compound and runs with it.” The recognition and grant will help bolster the innovative research continuing at HPU’s Hawai‘i Loa campus, Horgen said.

“This award builds on INBRE (National Institutes for Health IDeA Networks for Biomedical Excellence) funded assay development, screening of over 1,100 marine derived extracts, and follow up isolation, identification and characterization of the active components — representing years of work.”

Students continue to contribute to that body of work at HPU’s windward Oahu campus, in recently upgraded labs and classrooms.
Horgen helped design the new areas, including 3,300 square feet of space that was formerly an office. It was the first expansion of the instructional labs in about three decades, he said.

“We’ve got sophisticated instruments in here. They’re used both for research and for teaching. We’ve got about a million dollars of instrumentation on this floor, maybe more,” Horgen said.

This includes a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer used by organic chemistry students, a mass spectrometer used by organic and biochemistry students, and a newly added Biosafety Level 2 facility suitable for cell culture research.

“Students get hands-on experience,” Horgen said.

Horgen will also continue working with the Weinman award-winning team.“We also have plans to write another proposal later this year,” Horgen said, adding that the partnership with Queens is “strong and could lead to new (intellectual property) and other threads to follow.”