Michael Pollastri

pollastri hallway


PhD, Brown University, Providence, RI
MS, Duke University, Durham, NC
AB, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA

Area(s) of Expertise

Medicinal Chemistry

Research Interests

Prof. Pollastri’s research focus is discovery of new therapeutics for neglected tropical diseases, using an approach which repurposes approved or investigational drugs as starting points for optimizing new antiparasitic agents. In one approach, called “Target Repurposing,” he identifies parasitic targets of importance that have been previously biochemically validated, with a further focus on those targets with human homologs that have been pursued in human drug discovery. Prof. Pollastri’s lab then prepares known ligands previously reported against the human homolog for assessment against the parasite target, and then pursues an optimization program from that starting point. Using this approach, his laboratory has pursued the repurposing of inhibitors human PDE4 as starting points for African sleeping sickness drugs. In a second approach, “Lead Repurposing,” the Pollastri laboratory identifies cellular processes in parasites that share similar processes in human cells, and then identifies inhibitors of those processes in humans that show activity against parasitic cells. This approach is contrasted with Target Repurposing, in that instead of focusing on target protein sequence similarity, Lead Repurposing focuses on inhibitor sensitivity similarity. Using Lead Repurposing, the team has repurposed tyrosine kinase inhibitors, phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitors, Mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitors, and cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitors for sleeping sickness, Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis, and filarial worms.

To accomplish its ambitious drug discovery goals, the Pollastri laboratory collaborates closely with the pharmaceutical industry as well as with worldwide leaders in parasite biology.

Lab Website



417 Egan Research Center

Professor Michael Pollastri talks about his research

Professor and Department Chair Michael Pollastri of Chemical and Chemical Biology sits down with the College of Science Graduate Program staff to talk about his research at Northeastern University.

The science behind fireworks

What makes a firework…work? We asked Michael Pollastri, professor and chair of the chemistry department, what’s happening inside those Fourth of July favorites—and which color fireworks are particularly challenging to create.

Northeastern’s research partnerships in Cuba open the doors to scientific exchange

Northeastern faculty and administrators visited Cuba last week, with members of Congress, to expand upon the university’s academic and research partnerships there, which are paving the way for myriad research opportunities in areas such as coastal sustainability, tropical diseases, and the social sciences. This story is the fourth in our five-part series covering the visit.

Northeastern chemistry professor awarded $2.6M NIH grant for neglected disease research

Associate Professor Michael Pollastri spent a decade in the pharmaceutical industry before coming to Northeastern University to focus on finding cures for neglected tropical diseases. The NIH grant will help him continue his work in drug discovery for what’s commonly known as sleeping sickness.

3Qs: Four new elements added to periodic table

The seventh row of the periodic table is now complete after Monday’s announcement of four new elements. Chemistry professor Michael Pollastri explains why this is an important milestone for science.

Graduate researcher wins fellowship to design drugs to combat deadly disease

Chemistry doctoral student Dana Klug makes possible drug options the way a chef makes a gourmet dish—adding an atom of hydrogen here, removing an atom of nitrogen there—to stop a deadly parasite in its tracks.

New research offers hope in treating sleeping sickness

The neglected tropical disease affects thousands of people and is mostly fatal. Now, new research co-authored by Northeastern chemistry professor Michael Pollastri has identified hundreds of compounds that could lead to a cure.

Health professionals talk experiences on front lines of Ebola outbreak

During a keynote address at Northeastern on Tuesday, an epidemiologist at Boston Medical Center who has administered care to Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, noted that more help is needed in Africa to provide healthcare services, adding that “We need help with everything.”