College of Pharmacy Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences David Sanchez, PhD, received a $223,499 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate treatments and therapies for Kaposi’s Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus (KSHV).

KSHV is the cause of several cancerous-like diseases, especially in immune-compromised individuals such as AIDS patients. Transmission of this virus occurs mainly via the oral mucosa, and work to limit the spread of the disease will focus on how a person’s innate immune system can remove the virus in that part of the body.

“Our bodies should see a virus is there and get rid of it through our innate immune system,” Sanchez said. “But our immune system doesn’t get rid of certain viruses. This project will attempt to understand how KSHV is recognized and why the immune system does not get rid of it.”

Sanchez is trying to determine which viral proteins interact with our cellular proteins, and find ways to stop that interaction.

“Virus proteins stop production of our immune proteins,” he said. “A virus blocks that path somewhere, so our ultimate goal is to relieve that block and let the cell do its job. Let our body get rid of a virus normally as it should.”

The College of Pharmacy provided Sanchez startup funds to establish his research. The NIH funding, through the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, is a special grant series for new investigators to get their projects going, with the intent of these researchers then applying for larger grants.

This two-year funding will allow Sanchez to hire a postdoctoral fellow to assist with his research, with additional support from the College.