Faculty Database:
[ Phd Program: Pharmaceutical Sciences ]

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NameEmailPhd ProgramResearch InterestsPublications
Ainslie, Kristy M email , , , publications

We have several areas of research interest broadly in the area of immunomodulation using micro/nanoparticles and other carrier systems.  This can include development of traditional vaccines, therapeutic autoimmune vaccines and classic drug delivery platforms targeted to bacterial, viral or parasitic host cells.  To this end, we also seek to develop new materials and platforms optimal for use in modulating immune responses as well as developing scalable production of micro/nanoparticles.

Anselmo, Aaron C. email , , , publications

The human body coexists with communities of microbes and bacteria called microbiota, and the balance of these microbes regulates both health and disease. In some cases, imbalances in microbiota have been linked to diseases, such as cancer and diabetes. My group will develop approaches and formulations to deliver specific compounds and microbes to modulate microbiota composition towards healthy states. Other research interests include the development of cell-mediated delivery systems, synthetic cells and nanoparticle drug-delivery systems for applications in vascular disease and cancer.

Batrakova, Elena email , , publications

What if you can target and deliver a drug directly to the side of disease in the body? It is possible, when you use smart living creatures pro-inflammatory response cells, such as monocytes, T-lymphocytes or dendritic cells. You can load these cells with the drug and inject these carriers into the blood stream. They will migrate to the inflammation site (for example, across the blood brain barrier) and release the drug. Thus, you can reduce the inflammation and protect the cells (for example, neurons) in patients with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer diseases.

Bowers, Albert A email , , , , publications

Research in the Bowers lab focuses on investigation of structure activity relationships and mechanisms of action of natural product-derived small molecule therapeutics.  We employ a variety of methods to build and modify compounds of interest, including manipulation of natural product biosynthesis, chemical synthesis, and semi-synthesis.  One major area of research in the lab is the rationale engineering of biosynthetic pathways to make bacterial drug factories.  Compounds targeting transcriptional regulation of cancer as well as multi-drug resistant venereal infections are currently under investigation in the lab.

Han, Zongchao email , , , , publications

My research focus centers on retinal gene/drug therapy using nanotechnologies. My laboratory is interested in developing gene therapies for inherited blinding diseases and eye tumors. We are particularly interested in understanding the gene expression patterns that are regulated by the cis-regulatory elements. We utilize compacted DNA nanoparticles which have the ability to transfer large genetic messages to overcome various technical challenges and to appreciate the translational potential of this technology. This multidimensional technology also facilitated targeted drug delivery. Currently, we are working on the design and development of several specific nano formulations with targeting, bioimaging and controlled release specificities.

Hathaway, Nathaniel A. email , , , , , publications

The Hathaway lab is focused on understanding the biological events responsible for dynamically regulating the selective expression of the mammalian genome. In multicellular organisms, genes must be regulated with high precision during stem cell differentiation to achieve normal development. Pathologically, the loss of proper gene regulation caused by defects in chromatin regulatory enzymes has been found to be a driving force in cancer initiation and progression. My lab uses a combination of chemical biology and cell biology approaches to unravel the molecular mechanisms that govern gene expression. We utilize new tools wielding an unprecedented level of temporal control to visualize changes in chromatin structure and function in mammalian cells and animal models. In addition, we seek to identify small molecule inhibitors that are selective for chromatin regulatory enzymes with the potential for future human therapeutics.

Huang, Leaf email , , publications

Dr. Huang is a pioneer in nanoparticle vectors for delivery of drugs, genes and vaccines. He has designed a core/membrane type nanoparticle which evades the macrophages in the liver and the spleen and deliver a large fraction of the injected dose to the target cells. The nanomedicine can encapsulate siRNA, peptide or chemotherapy drugs, either alone or in combination, resulting in effective inhibition of tumor growth. The Huang lab is also interested in designing peptide or mRNA vaccines for cancer immunotherapy. He uses nanoparticles as a tool to study the cross talks between cells in the tumor microenvironment.

James, Lindsey Ingerman email , , publications

We are interested in modulating the activity of chromatin reader proteins with small-molecule ligands, specifically potent and selective chemical probes, in order to open new avenues of research in the field of epigenetics. Our work has pioneered the biochemical assays and medicinal chemistry strategies for high quality probe development for methyl-lysine (Kme) reader proteins, as well as the means by which to evaluate probe selectivity, mechanism of action, and cellular activity. Using a variety of approaches, we utilize such chemical tools to improve our understanding of their molecular targets and the broader biological consequences of modulating these targets in cells. We are also interested in developing novel methods and screening platforms to discover hit compounds to accelerate Kme reader probe discovery, such as affinity-based combinatorial strategies, as well as innovative techniques utilizing our developed antagonists to more fully understand the dynamic nature of chromatin regulation.

Jarstfer, Michael email , , , , publications

The Jarstfer lab uses an interdisciplinary approach to solve biological problems that are germane to human health.   Currently we are investigating the structure of the enzyme telomerase, we are developing small-molecules that target the telomere for drug discovery and chemical biology purposes, and we are investigating the signals that communicate the telomere state to the cell in order to control cellular immortality. We are also engaged in a drug/chemical tool discovery project to identify small molecules that control complex social behavior in mammals.  Techniques include standard molecular biology and biochemistry of DNA, RNA, and proteins, occasional organic synthesis, and high throughput screening.

Jay, Michael email , publications

My research projects are at the interface between the pharmaceutical and nuclear sciences.  They involve the application of pharmaceutical approaches to solve problems related to nuclear imaging and therapy, and the use of radioanalytical approaches to solve problems encountered in the development of novel formulations and drug delivery systems.  I am currently developing orally bioavailable prodrugs of DTPA as radionuclide decorporation agents that can be added to the National Stockpile for use following a nuclear terrorism event or accident.   In addition, I am neutron activated to produce radiotherapeutic microneedles and nanoparticles using novel matrices. As with most of my colleagues in the Pharmaceutical Sciences Graduate Program, my Ph.D. students find rewarding employment upon graduation.  My academic offspring currently hold senior positions in the pharmaceutical industry and lead research centers in prestigious academic institutions.

Jin, Jian email , publications

Research in the Jian Jin lab focuses on the following two main areas: (1) discovering chemical probes for histone methyltransferases (HMTs), a class of more than 50 epigenetic writers that play a critical role in diverse biological processes including chromatin compaction, gene expression, transcriptional regulation, and cell differentiation; and (2) creating functionally selective ligands of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) for treating various central nervous system (CNS) disorders.

Kabanov, Alexander (Sasha) email , , publications

In our lab we develop novel polymer based drug delivery systems and nanomedicines incorporating small molecules, DNA and polyptides to treat cancer, neurodegenerative and other CNS-related disorders.

Lai, Samuel email , , , , , , , , publications

Our dynamic group are broadly involve in three topics: (i) prevention of infectious diseases by harnessing interactions between secreted antibodies and mucus, (ii) immune response to biomaterials, and (iii) targeted delivery of nanomedicine.  Our group was the first to discover that secreted antibodies can interact with mucins to trap pathogens in mucus.  We are now harnessing this approach to engineer improved passive and active immuniation (i.e. vaccines) at mucosal surfaces, as well as understand their interplay with the mucosal microbiome.  We are also studying the adaptive immune response to polymers, including anti-PEG antibodies, and how it might impact the efficacy of PEGylated therapeutics.  Lastly, we are engineering fusion proteins that can guide targeted delivery of nanomedicine to heterogenous tumors and enable personalized medicine.

Lawrence, David S email , , , , , , publications

Living cells have been referred to as the test tubes of the 21st century. New bioactive reagents developed in our lab are designed to function in cells and living organisms. We have prepared enzyme inhibitors, sensors of biochemical pathways, chemically-altered proteins, and activators of gene expression. In addition, many of these agents possess the unique attribute of remaining under our control even after they enter the biological system. In particular, our compounds are designed to be inert until activated by light, thereby allowing us to control their activity at any point in time.

Lee, Andrew email , , , , publications

We study protein structure and dynamics as they relate to protein function and energetics. We are currently using NMR spectroscopy (e.g. spin relaxation), computation, and a variety of other biophysical techniques to gain a deeper understanding of proteins at atomic level resolution.  Of specific interest is the general phenomenon of long-range communication within protein structures, such as observed in allostery and conformational change.  A. Lee is a member of the Molecular & Cellular Biophysics Training Program.

Liu, Jian email , , , publications

The overall goal of our research is to develop an enzyme-based approach to synthesize heparin- and heparan sulfate-like therapeutics.  The lab is currently focusing on improving the anticoagulant efficacy of heparin drug as well as synthesizing heparin-like compounds that inhibit herpes simplex virus infections.  We are also interested in using protein and metabolic engineering approaches for preparing polysaccharides with unique biological functions.

Liu, Rihe email , , , , publications

The research interests of the Liu Lab are in functional proteomics and biopharmaceuticals. Currently we are working on the following projects:  (1). Using systems biology approaches to decipher the signaling pathways mediated by disease-related proteases such as caspases and granzymes and by post-translationally modified histones. We address these problems by performing functional protein selections using mRNA-displayed proteome libraries from human, mouse, Drosophila, and C. elegans. (2). Developing novel protein therapeutics and nucleic acid therapeutics that can be used in tumor diagnosis, treatment, and nanomedicine. We use various amplification-based molecular evolution approaches such as mRNA-display and in vivo SELEX to develop novel single domain antibody mimics on the basis of very stable protein domains or to generate aptamers on the basis of nuclease-resistant nucleic acids, that bind to important biomarkers on the surface of cancer cells. We further conjugate these biomarker-binding affinity reagents to small molecule drugs or nanoparticles for targeted delivery of therapeutic agents. (3). Identifying the protein targets of drugs or drug candidates whose action mechanisms are unknown. We combine molecular proteomic and chemical biology approaches to identify the protein targets of drugs whose target-binding affinities are modest.

McGinty, Robert email , , , , , publications

The McGinty lab uses structural biology, protein chemistry, biochemistry, and proteomics to study epigenetic signaling through chromatin in health and disease.  Chromatin displays an extraordinary diversity of chemical modifications that choreograph gene expression, DNA replication, and DNA repair – misregeulation of which leads to human diseases, especially cancer. We prepare designer chromatin containing specific combinations of histone post-translational modifications. When paired with X-ray crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy, this allows us to interrogate mechanisms underlying epigenetic signaling at atomic resolution.

Pearce, Ken email , , , , , publications

We are a comprehensive, collaborative group with a primary focus on lead and early drug discovery for oncology and epigenetic targets and pathways.  Our research applies reagent production, primary assay development, high-throughput screening, biophysics, and exploratory cell biology to enable small molecule drug discovery programs in solid partnership with collaborators, both within the Center for Integrative Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery and across the UNC campus.  We apply small molecule hit discovery to highly validated biochemical targets as well as phenotypic cell-based assays.  Our methods include various fluorescence-based readouts and high content microscopy.  Examples of some of our collaborative small molecule discovery programs include, inhibition of chromatin methyl-lysine reader proteins, hit discovery for small GTPases such as K-Ras and Gaq, inhibitors of inositol phosphate kinases, inhibitors of protein-protein interactions involving CIB1 and MAGE proteins, and several cell-based efforts including a screen for compounds that enhance c-Myc degradation in pancreatic cancer cells.  In addition, we are developing a DNA-encoded library approach for hit discovery to complement traditional high-throughput screening.  Our ultimate goal is discovery of new chemical probes and medicines for exploratory biology and unmet medical needs, respectively.

Tarantino, Lisa M. email , , , , , , , , publications

The Tarantino lab studies addiction and anxiety-related behaviors in mouse models using forward genetic approaches. We are currently studying a chemically-induced mutation in a splice donor site that results in increased novelty- and cocaine-induced locomotor activity and prolonged stress response. We are using RNA-seq to identify splice variants in the brain that differ between mutant and wildtype animals. We are also using measures of initial sensitivity to cocaine in dozens of inbred mouse strains to understand the genetics, biology and pharmacokinetics of acute cocaine response and how initial sensitivity might be related to addiction. Finally, we have just started a project aimed at studying the effects of perinatal exposure to dietary deficiencies on anxiety, depression and stress behaviors in adult offspring. This study utilizes RNA-seq and a unique breeding design to identify parent of origin effects on behavior and gene expression in response to perinatal diet.

Tropsha, Alexander email , , , , , , , publications

The major area of our research is Biomolecular Informatics, which implies understanding relationships between molecular structures (organic or macromolecular) and their properties (activity or function). We are interested in building validated and predictive quantitative models that relate molecular structure and its biological function using statistical and machine learning approaches. We exploit these models to make verifiable predictions about putative function of untested molecules.

Xiao, Xiao email , , , , publications

Xiao lab is interested in molecular medicine, specifically, gene delivery and therapy for various genetic and acquired diseases. The lab genetically engineers a non-pathogenic and defective DNA virus, named adeno-associate virus (AAV). The engineered AAV has all of its own genes gutted and replaced by our own genes of interests. As a result, the 22-nanometer AAV particles now serve as tiny FedEx/UPS trucks to deliver therapeutic genes to a variety of cells, tissues and even the whole body. Besides its superb efficiency, AAV also offers an excellent safety profile. For example, Xiao lab has developed AAV vectors to treat diseases like muscular dystrophies, heart failure, diabetes, arthritis, hepatitis and cancer, etc. A first of its kind gene therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a lethal childhood genetic disease, is in a phase I clinical trial.  In addition to gene delivery for therapeutic purposes, AAV can also be used as a powerful tool to study basic biology such as molecular genetics, signal transduction, apoptosis, mechanisms of pathogenesis and even the engineering of animal models. For example, AAV vectors can be used to deliver protein-encoding genes, antisense RNA, small interference RNA (siRNA) or microRNA to tissues like the muscle, heart, liver, pancreas, kidney, lung, brain and spinal cord, etc., to over-express, up-regulate or knockdown a gene or multiple genes for the purposes of dissecting particular molecular pathways, biological functions and immunology consequences and even creating disease models.

Zhang, Qisheng email , , , , publications

Our lab studies lipid signaling pathways that are involved in development and diseases by developing novel chemical probes and technologies. As key components of cellular membranes, lipids also serve as signaling molecules and modify functions of proteins through either covalent or non-covalent interactions. Dys-regulation of lipid signaling has been correlated with various diseases including cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases. Consequently, many lipid-related proteins or processes have been used as therapeutic targets. However, lipids are dynamically metabolized and transported, making it difficult to illustrate the roles of lipids in development and diseases with limited availability of probes and technologies for lipid studies. The active projects in the lab include: 1) develop novel technologies to synthesize complex lipids, particularly phosphatidylinositides, and identify their interacting proteins in live cells; 2) develop new small molecule sensors and inhibitors for lipid metabolic enzymes such as PI3K and PLC; and 3) investigate cellular functions of lipids on different processes, particularly those regulated by small GTPases.