SPOKANE, Wash. – A pharmaceutical sciences Ph.D. student at Washington State University Spokane has received a national award to help fund his research to slow or stop osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Solomon A. Agere is the second student from the lab of WSU College of Pharmacy researcher Salah-uddin Ahmed to earn the Health Professional Research Preceptorship from the Rheumatology Research Foundation (http://www.rheumatology.org/Foundation/). The award comes with a $3,500 stipend, $2,000 for lab supplies and a $1,000 travel grant to attend the American College of Rheumatology annual meeting.

Agere’s research seeks new insights into the role of chemokines – molecular-weight proteins that help draw inflammatory cells from the blood to the site of an infection or inflammation. He hopes to discover how a specific chemokine (RANTES/CCL5) activates enzymes that contribute to the tissue destruction observed in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

The research team hopes to eventually target the RANTES/CCL5 protein in order to slow, or even stop, cartilage and bone destruction.

“The research that Solomon is pursuing in the lab is novel,” said Ahmed. There have not been prior studies that look specifically at the relationship between the RANTES/CCL5 protein and the enzymes that wreak havoc on collagen, cartilage and bone, he said.

Agere grew up in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. His parents, both health professionals, emphasized the importance of education and encouraged his interests in human medicine. He received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and master’s degree in biochemistry from Pune University in India.

He spent eight years at the University of Gondar (Ethiopia) teaching biochemistry and nutrition before joining the administrative faculty at Hayat Medical College where he was assistant dean for four years. He came to the College of Pharmacy in Spokane in 2014.

In addition to identifying novel therapeutic targets in autoimmune diseases, Agere has done clinical research on diseases that affect sub-Saharan countries: parasitology, immunology, nutrition and toxicology.

[April 6, 2015] Lori J. Maricle