La Jolla News Nuggets: Research grants, UCSD Target, Black Studies Project, charity shopping event

Dannielle Engle, assistant professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla.
(Salk Institute)

Salk researcher to get $1 million to study tobacco and pancreatic cancer

Dannielle Engle, an assistant professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, has been given a New Investigator Award from the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program to examine how tobacco use promotes cellular changes that can lead to pancreatic cancer.

Engle will receive more than $1 million over three years to develop new models for examining how tobacco carcinogens lead to tumor development and metastasis.

“I am incredibly thankful for the support of the TRDRP,” Engle, a member of the Salk Cancer Center, said in a statement. “This funding will enable my lab to investigate the underlying reasons why carcinogens present in tobacco products increase the risk for developing pancreas cancer.”

UC San Diego professor gets $15 million grant for work in nanosponge therapy

UC San Diego researcher Liangfang Zhang, a professor of nanoengineering and bioengineering, has been awarded a $15 million grant for his work in nanosponge therapy.

Nanosponges are tiny particles covered in white blood cell membranes that can trick a disease or virus into binding with them instead of with human cells.

“They can be used to bind to the virus and neutralize the virus,” Zhang told ABC 10. “So now the virus would lose the ability to infect the host cells.”

Zhang’s initial aim is to treat sepsis, but he said it can be applied to other diseases, including COVID-19.

UC San Diego says technology known as “nanosponges” developed by its engineers could work as a decoy to attract the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and divert it from infecting human cells.

The grant comes from Boston-based CARB-X, which funds research into antibacterial treatments.

Zhang said the money will be used for his company, Cellics Therapeutics, to advance its research toward clinical trials, federal approval and production of the nanosponge therapy.

UCSD welcomes small Target store

UC San Diego has a new small Target store on the bottom floor of the Price Center at 9500 Gilman Drive.

The store, which opened last weekend, is 19,000 square feet, much smaller than a typical Target, which is around 135,000 square feet.

The store has about 50 employees, many of them students at the university. It carries UCSD merchandise, clothing, home goods, health and beauty items, a limited supply of groceries and a CVS pharmacy.

Store hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

UC San Diego commits $2.5 million to Black Studies Project

UC San Diego is committing $500,000 a year for five years to the Black Studies Project to expand efforts to support, produce and disseminate scholarship and mentoring focused on racial and social justice across the university and beyond.

“One of UC San Diego’s strategic goals is to cultivate a diverse and inclusive university community that encourages respectful open dialogue and challenges itself to take bold actions,” UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla said in a statement. “This is one such bold action. This additional financial commitment will amplify the innovative, cross-disciplinary research that the Black Studies Project produces and invite more scholars to advance racial and social justice.”

Associate professors Dayo Gore and Sara Clarke Kaplan founded the Black Studies Project in 2012. Today, the project fosters and supports research, community outreach and campus programming on African American and Diaspora studies at UCSD and throughout the University of California system. Its focus areas include Intersectional Analysis of Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality; Transnational and Diasporic Studies; and Social Justice Movements.

Westfield UTC hosts ‘Shop Your Heart Out’ charity event

Shoppers at Westfield UTC and other Westfield shopping centers around San Diego County can participate in a charity shopping event called “Shop Your Heart Out” through Sunday, Nov. 1, with proceeds benefiting several area nonprofit organizations.

To participate, shoppers must buy a ticket online and select a participating charity to support and show their digital ticket to access shopping offers and discounts at various retailers in the shopping centers.

Offers vary by retailer and include 20 percent or more off a purchase; buy one, get one free; and a gift with purchase.

Community organizations partnering with Westfield UTC include Feeding San Diego, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Neighborhood House Association, San Diego Fire Rescue Foundation, San Diego Humane Society and United Cerebral Palsy of San Diego.

For more information, visit

— Compiled by La Jolla Light staff