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Source: Kyeong-Ok Chang, 785-532-3849, kchang@vet.k-state.edu
Pronouncer: Kyeong-Ok is Key-ong Oak; norovirus is nora-virus;
and Duy Hua is Dewey Hwah
Photo available. Contact media@k-state.edu or 785-532-6415.
News release prepared by: Joe Montgomery, 785-532-4193, jmontgom@vet.k-state.edu

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

K-STATE'S KYEONG-OK CHANG RECEIVES $5.1 MILLION GRANT FROM NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH FOR NOROVIRUS RESEARCH

MANHATTAN -- Noroviruses make most people sick to the stomach, but not Kansas State University's Kyeong-Ok Chang. Instead, the study of noroviruses has become his career focus and has now resulted in a $5.1 million cooperative research grant from the National Institutes of Health for his project.

Chang is the principal investigator of the norovirus research project at K-State. His co-principal investigators include Duy Hua, a university distinguished professor of chemistry at K-State; William Groutas, Foundation distinguished professor of chemistry at Wichita State University; and Linda Saif, a distinguished professor in the department of veterinary preventive medicine's food animal health research program at Ohio State University.

Originally from Korea, Chang earned his doctor of veterinary medicine in 1989 and a master's degree in 1991, both from Seoul National University. He then earned a doctorate from Ohio State in 1999. While working on his Ph.D., Chang became interested in noroviruses. He has continued to pursue this line of research while working as a research fellow at National Institutes of Health and as an assistant professor in veterinary virology in the department of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology at K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine.

"Human noroviruses are the leading cause of food- or water-borne gastroenteritis illnesses responsible for more than 60 percent of outbreaks," Chang said. "These outbreaks can occur in humans and animals, including pigs, cattle and minks. There are no commercially available vaccines or antivirals against noroviruses, despite an estimated 23 million cases of illness, 50,000 hospitalizations and 300 deaths each year in the United States alone."

"Noroviruses are a major problem in humans, particularly on cruise ships or with military units – anywhere people are contained in a small area – and it's highly contagious," said M.M. Chengappa, university distinguished professor and head of K-State's department of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology. "Dr. Chang is a very hard-working, energetic and productive young scientist who is well-equipped and trained to handle the challenges in this field of research. He has an excellent research and graduate training program, fits well with our other faculty and is an excellent team player. We are fortunate to have a person of his caliber in the department."

The $5.1 million grant will provide support for the project for the next five years.

"This is my first major grant as a principle investigator and it allows me to continue to study norovirus replication and antiviral drug development, which I have studied for the last 10 years," Chang said.

"We established a comprehensive plan aimed at developing anti-noroviral therapeutics in cooperation with medicinal chemists and virologists from various institutions," he said. "We have identified two classes of hit compounds that have significantly reduced virus replication with distinct mechanisms. This project aims to develop novel small molecule therapeutics against human noroviruses by advancing the hit compounds through the stage prior to filing an investigational new drug application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration."