Rice, BCM partner to investigate nano-based drug therapies

DoD funds $33 million brain-injury research program in Houston
Rice, BCM partner to investigate nano-based drug therapies


The Department of Defense has awarded $33 million to a consortium of Texas Medical Center physicians and scientists for research to improve the diagnosis and treatment of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI). A team from Rice and Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) will conduct a five-year investigation of potential therapies that incorporate carbon nanotubes for drug delivery.

Of the more than 1.5 million people who sustain a traumatic brain injury each year in the United States, as many as 75 percent sustain a concussion, a brain injury that is classified as mild yet can lead to long-term or permanent impairments and disabilities.


The Department of Defense’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury Research Program awarded the grant this month to the Mission Connect Mild TBI Translational Research Consortium, based in the Texas Medical Center. In addition to Rice and BCM, the consortium includes research teams from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and the Transitional Learning Center in Galveston.

Rice and BCM’s research focuses on a new class of antioxidant drugs.

“Oxidative stress is a prominent feature of traumatic brain injury (TBI),” said James Tour, Rice’s Chao Professor of Chemistry. “We have developed a new antioxidant agent based on carbon nanotubes, and in collaboration with Dr. Thomas Kent of the Baylor College of Medicine we will examine the therapeutic potential of the agent to treat mild TBI.”

MTBI research will be conducted within the existing framework of Mission Connect, a consortium established by the TIRR Foundation in 1997 to facilitate research to improve outcomes for patients with brain and spinal-cord injuries and neurological disorders.

“Our goal is to make discoveries that will ultimately allow us to intervene with the most effective early therapy before a mild traumatic brain injury results in a chronic problem,” said Alex Valadka, the consortium’s principal investigator and vice chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. “There is a high prevalence of mild traumatic brain injury in soldiers, and the consortium’s work is driven by that. We believe the conclusions of our research also will benefit civilians, including athletes, who have sustained concussions.”

The consortium’s members will collaborate on basic and clinical research to develop new diagnostic methods, including sophisticated imaging techniques, and evaluate new therapeutic interventions. For clinical trials, the researchers plan to recruit patients with mild TBI who are receiving care at Memorial Hermann

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