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Each week, the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy will highlight the bold work of researchers who have received funding from the Eshelman Institute for Innovation (EII). The Eshelman Institute for Innovation is made possible by a $100 million gift from Fred Eshelman to accelerate the creation and development of ideas leading to discoveries and transformative changes in education, research and health care.

To learn more about the EII’s impact, visit

EII Project PIs: Emily A. Hull-Ryde (former UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy staff member), Carla M. P. Ribeiro and Matthew R. Redinbo

Project: Controlling the Mucus That Kills Pulmonary Patients

Funded Amount: $200,000

Emily Hull-Ryde

About project:

Over 50 million Americans suffer from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cystic fibrosis. A hallmark of these diseases is excessive mucus that can lead to airway plugging. Current therapies often do not reduce airway mucus sufficiently, and most have systemic liabilities. The goal of this proposal was to identify novel inhibitors of a protein whose role in airway mucus overproduction had been discovered by Dr. Ribeiro at UNC. This work led to the discovery that a compound already available could be used as an early inhibitor prototype. The researchers showed that this inhibitor blocked the function of the protein and that this blockade resulted in decreased mucus production. This research laid the foundation for discovering novel inhibitors in a new class of respiratory therapeutics with the goal of developing approved drugs in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies.

Carla Ribeiro

Introducing Irex Pharma founded by Emily Hull-Ryde and Carla Ribeiro:

“The EII award allowed us to generate strong preliminary data that led to the formation of a UNC Startup, Irex Pharma LLC, with funding from KickStart Venture Services and a 2 year STTR from NIH/NIAID,” Emily says.  “This initial success stems directly from EII’s support along with strong UNC collaborations — particularly with the Center for Integrative Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery, the Marsico Lung Institute, the Department of Chemistry, and KickStart Venture Services. The EII award truly transformed Irex Pharma and has ‘jump-started the discovery of much-needed new medicines for respiratory patients.”



Matthew Redinbo

Our thanks for scientific contributions to the EII project go to: Stephen Frye, Dmitri Kireev, Jacqueline Norris-Drouin, Melissa Porter, Mary Martino, Stephanie Cholensky, Lee Graves, Laura Herring, Kirsten Biernat, and Ken Pearce.




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