Neglected Tropical Disease Drug Discovery

With an industrial background in medicinal chemistry and chemical technology, our research program focuses on those areas of research that will impact on treatment of human disease, and on areas that will expedite the drug discovery process. As an industrialized outpost of medicinal chemistry in academia, we use state-of-the-art computational and database tools for compound design and data analyses, cutting edge synthesis and purification approaches, all combined with creative organic and medicinal chemistry. We focus primarily on discovering new lead compounds for neglected tropical diseases.

Neglected tropical diseases are those which do not attract sizable research investment in the private sector, since these diseases affect the poorest parts of the world. Since there is little potential to recoup the research and development costs (let alone make a profit), pharmaceutical companies do not typically marshal research programs of great significance against these diseases. Therefore, this represents a major opportunity for public sector, not-for-profit entities (such as academic institutions) to play a major role in developing new therapies for neglected diseases. 

The main thrust of our program is to identify biological targets in pathogenic parasites that are homologous to biological targets in humans that have been pursued for drug discovery efforts in the past. We then repurpose these historical drug discovery efforts (compounds, structural information, general knowledge) for discovering new leads that can be optimized for activity against the parasite. Due to the presence and importance of kinases, phosphodiesterases, and histone deacetylases in protozoan parasites such as Trypanosoma brucei, Trypanosoma cruzi, Leishmania sp., and Plasmodium falciparum, we are focused primarily on developing inhibitors that target these druggable enzyme families.