Dr. James Bullard is persistent. The Assistant Professor in the Chemistry Department has carried out research to discover novel antibiotics for many years. After his arrival at UTPA four years ago, he sought funding opportunities to continue his research. He received seed grants for two consecutive years from Dr. Dejun Su of the South Texas Border Health Disparities Center . Dr. Bullard has also applied for and won several small grants from the UTPA Faculty Research Council and UTPA Undergraduate Research Initiative. He has used this funding to produce findings that allowed him to apply for national funding from the National Institutes of Health. In July of 2012, he was awarded a multi-year grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences that will total a half million dollars.
Dr. Bullard is no stranger to research. Prior to UTPA, Dr. Bullard’s research culminated in the creation of a publicly traded company (Replidyne, Inc.) involved in drug discovery research. However, since the days of his doctoral work, he has always aspired to being back in academia – a place where he could do more pure research and work with students.
Dr. Bullard’s work has always been directed at understanding macromolecular systems in pathogenic bacterial. Bacterial infections are a world-wide health hazard, often causing infections and problems in both hospital and community settings, the newest frontier being the threat of terrorists using pathogenic bacteria as agents of bioterrorism. The NIH funded research will focus specifically on screening for an antibacterial agents against the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa, the major cause of hospital acquired infections and the primary cause of death in patients with cystic fibrosis. In this current research, Dr. Bullard will focus on identifying chemical compounds that inhibit certain proteins involved in bacterial protein synthesis and thereby inhibit their growth.
Returning to academe provided Dr. Bullard with the opportunity to work with and train students. His NIH grant has the funding for two graduate students to carry out research on the project. Using other funding sources, he also has from eight to twelve undergraduate students doing part time research which will allow them to gain valuable experiences that will increase their technical knowledge. UTPA students will conduct much of the hands-on work as well as participate in the planning phase for all stages of the project. Of course, these same students are part of the RGV community and after graduation, will be able to lend their own expertise to the Valley’s growing technical centers.
Intellectual Energy will keep you apprised of the work done in this project. The potential exists for scientific advances that save lives as well as provide for economic growth for Valley if the science leads to founding of another company. Hopefully, Dr. Bullard’s persistence will pay off again.