April 13, 2024
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Local Students Take Top Prizes at Touro College of Pharmacy Research Week

Adina Kagan

(Courtesy of Touro University) Adina Kagan of Passaic and Miriam Sprei of Monsey won first and second place prizes, respectively, at Touro College of Pharmacy (TCOP)’s recent annual Research Week.

The students’ research focused on understanding the use of cannabinoids in treating exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – the world’s third largest cause of death according to the World Health Organization – and genetic regulation in the onset of colon cancer.

“Pharmacy research drives the future of drug development and delivery, creating new medications, discovering different uses for existing drugs and applying the latest technologies to create better patient outcomes,” said TCOP Dean Dr. Henry Cohen. “Research Week also underscores the college’s full-time commitment to research, with a unique research track and exceptional practice experience electives alongside a dedicated research faculty who involve students in their ongoing projects.”

 

First-Place Winner

Adina Kagan took the top prize for her work studying the effects of cannabis-derived molecules on biofilms, which are communities of bacteria that are especially resistant to antibiotics. The bacteria she investigated, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, enters the lungs and is then encased in biofilms. It is responsible for many hospital-acquired infections and can also lead to COPD exacerbations.

In Kagan’s research, cannabinoids were shown to both inhibit the development of biofilm as well as eradicate it. “It appears that cannabinoids are a reasonably promising treatment for those with this type of infection, who have few other treatment options,” said Kagan, who received a $500.00 prize.

Miriam Sprei

 

Second-Place Winner

In her research, Miriam Sprei focused on identifying how a gene, TPM4, is regulated and controlled in colon cancer.

“In colon cancer the gene becomes misregulated but not much is known about how it’s controlled. This is why we’re trying to find the parts of the DNA that control the gene. Once we know that, we can develop new treatments for colon cancer,” she said.

 

Mentored by Research Faculty

Both students did their undergraduate work at Touro’s Lander College for Women – The Anna Ruth and Mark Hasten School. Adina Kagan began her research in Associate Dean of Research Dr. Zvi Loewy’s laboratory the summer prior to starting pharmacy school. Once a student at the school, Kagan became part of TCOP’s two-year research track.

Sprei joined the lab of Research Assistant Professor Dr. Michael Papetti during her first year at the school. Sprei majored in biology at Lander College for Women and took a year off before starting TCOP, during which time she worked for a health center and as a dental assistant but returned to her first-choice career of pharmacy. She said she was motivated by her love of chemistry and moved by misinformation circulating regarding vaccines and supplements when COVID-19 was at its height.

“I always loved science,” she said. “There are so many meds out there and people don’t know much. I wanted to be that person who knows about medication and be able to help them.”

Kagan grew up in Woodmere, Long Island. At LCW she took prerequisites for pharmacy school, concentrating on biology. “I knew I wanted to do something in health sciences and after doing a lot of research, I decided on pharmacy,” she said.

Kagan, along with two other students at TCOP and Dr. Zvi Loewy, published their research on current treatment options for biofilms and COPD in the peer reviewed European Medical Journal in February.

Kagan says her research has become even more meaningful now that she’s begun hospital rotations. “A lot of patients in the hospital have COPD. Everything has come to light, which I learned both in class as well as in the research lab,” she said.

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