College of Pharmacy Receives $425K NIH Grant to Support Research on Fragile X Syndrome

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Dr. Clinton Canal

ATLANTA – Mercer University’s College of Pharmacy recently received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support research to improve outcomes for individuals with fragile X syndrome (FXS).

The grant’s principal investigator is Clinton Canal, Ph.D., whose laboratory seeks to understand how unique serotonin (5-HT) receptors function. There are no medications approved for FXS, and Dr. Canal’s lab is focused on investigating 5-HT receptors as targets for FXS drug discovery. Numerous studies have reported alterations in the serotonin system in FXS and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), yet knowledge regarding the impact of specific 5-HT receptors on FXS phenotypes is lacking.

FXS, caused by inactivation of the FMR1 gene, is the most common inherited form of intellectual disability and of ASD. Up to 31% of children with FXS also have a seizure disorder.

“This new study will look at whether selectively activating serotonin 5-HT1A and selectively inactivating 5-HT7 receptors during an early developmental sensitive period prevents seizures and corrects alterations in brain activity in FXS mice,” said Dr. Canal, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences.

The NIH Research Enhancement Award (R15) for $424,499 over three years is funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Dr. Canal joined Mercer’s faculty in July 2017, having previously served as a research assistant professor in the Center for Drug Discovery at Northeastern University. He earned his B.S. in psychology from the University of Florida and Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

About the College of Pharmacy

Mercer University’s College of Pharmacy is ranked the top private pharmacy school in the Southeast, according to the 2020 U.S. News & World Report. The college offers doctoral degrees in pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and pharmaceutical sciences (Ph.D.). Founded in 1903 as the independent Southern School of Pharmacy, the school merged with Mercer University in 1959 and in 1981 became the first school in the Southeast to offer the doctor of pharmacy degree as its sole professional degree. In 1988, the College launched its graduate program, offering the Ph.D. degree in pharmaceutical sciences. With an enrollment today of more than 500 students and a distinguished faculty of basic scientists and clinicians, the College of Pharmacy houses four centers focusing on research, teaching and learning. The college’s motto, “A Tradition of Excellence – A Legacy of Caring,” frames its philosophy of providing excellent academic programs in an environment where every student matters and every person counts. For more information about the college, visit pharmacy.mercer.edu

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Kyle Sears