Area of interest
Broad research description: We engineer bacteria to make drugs. In particular, we use genetic methods to identify natural biosynthetic pathways from secondary metabolism and then modify them to construct libraries of new molecules. These libraries can then be selected or ‘evolved’ for desired therapeutic properties. In this way, we are able to use bacteria to build completely new chemical architectures, capable of inhibiting many of the new and challenging targets that are increasingly being required by contemporary medicine. Currently we are working on compounds with new molecular targets, such as oncogenic transcription factors and novel mechanisms of action (MOAs), such as allosteric inhibition and disruption of protein-protein interactions involved in cancer. We are using our genetic methods in conjunction with structural, biophysical, and biochemical studies to understand the MOA of these compounds, to build structure activity relationships (SAR) and to further refine their therapeutic activity. Through close collaborations with physician scientists we hope to translate these novel therapeutics from bench to bedside.
Statement of cancer relevance: We are developing genetic and chemical methods to design and create compounds capable of targeting previously ‘undruggable’ interactions involved in cancer. Specifically, we have deployed our methods to make inhibitors of the oncogenic transcription factor Forkhead Box (Fox) M1. FoxM1 is increasingly being recognized as a highly attractive cancer therapeutic target. Yet, FoxM1 is extremely challenging from a drug development standpoint due to the lack of an obvious pocket or handle for therapeutic design: our compounds represent a unique class of therapeutic leads for intercepting aberrant gene transcription mediated by FoxM1. We anticipate that this method as well as complimentary methods currently being developed in our lab will lead to new therapeutic paradigms in the treatment of cancer.
Awards and Honors
2005 National Science Foundation/Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellowship, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan.
2006-2007 Robert M. Moriarty Graduate Fellowship, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL.
2008-2011 National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Fellowship.
2013 American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy New Investigator Award.
2014 Beckman Young Investigator Award