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Microbiology professor receives NHARP research grant

Ashwini Kucknoor, assistant professor of microbiology, has received a Norman Hackerman Advanced Research Program (NHARP) Grant for the 2014-2015 academic year. Her proposal, “Characterization of Rhomboid Proteins in Tritichomonas foetus Pathogenesis,” was awarded $85,000.

“I feel awesome,” Kucknoor said. “Given the swift competition and tight funding situation, receiving this grant is very rewarding. I am also happy for Lamar and the biology department in particular.”

Kucknoor’s proposal deals with Tritichomonas foetus, a sexually transmitted disease which causes trichomoniasis in cattle. The disease causes abortion, as well as numerous reproductive diseases in females.

“Regardless of control methods, T. foetus infections still run rampant where natural breeding, as opposed to artificial insemination, is allowed,” Kucknoor said. “However, reports suggest that artificial insemination is not completely foolproof in prevention. This project will look into a new group of proteins called rhomboid proteins and their role in T. foetus pathogenesis, with the long term goal to explore the possibility of using these proteins as a therapeutic target.”

The grant will also provide funding for Kucknoor to hire a graduate student and four undergraduate students and finance the students’ presentations of the research at conferences.

The grant was one of 11 offered by NHARP for the upcoming academic year with a combined total of more than $989,000 in funding. Kucknoor’s project was among 256 submissions from researchers at numerous Texas universities. Of the 11 successful proposals, universities represented include Baylor College of Medicine, Rice University, Texas Tech University, the University of Texas at Arlington, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Texas at Dallas, the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and the University of Houston.

“The outcome from this research will help the field of T. foetus pathogenesis, and the cattle farming industry,” Kucknoor said. “Any new information gained will also help the field of Trichomonas vaginalis, the human STD causing pathogen as well.”

Administered by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, NHARP focuses on providing funding for basic research in biomedicine, as well as basic research in energy and the environment.

For more information regarding the Norman Hackerman Advanced Research Program or the successful grant proposals, visit http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/index.cfm?objectid=E55F9EE7-E488-6873-7D535561D9B426B8.