Van Vleet Endowed Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences

Current Chair: Duane D. Miller, Ph.D.

Duane D. Miller is currently the Van Vleet Endowed Chair of The Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Tennessee, Health Science Center, Memphis TN. Dr. Miller obtained his B.S. degree at Kansas University in 1966, and his interest in research was stimulated as a National Science Foundation Undergraduate Research Fellow. He was an NIH Fellow while at the University of Washington working under the direction of Dr. Wendel L. Nelson and obtained his Ph.D. in 1969. He joined The Ohio State University Faculty in 1969, where he became Chairman of the Division of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy in 1982. He moved to the University of Tennessee, Health Science Center, Memphis, TN in 1992. Dr. Miller has published over 280 publications with graduate students, research associates, and scientific collaborators. He has 14 book chapters and has given 330 presentations at national and international meetings and has 30 US patents. He has trained 30 Ph.D. and Master Degree students and has worked with over 30 postdoctorals and research assistants. He has written chapters on steroids, cholesterol, estrogens and androgens from 1974 to the current Foye’s Medicinal Chemistry (2008).

Dr. Miller’s research interests include the design and synthesis of new drug molecules. He has a strong interest in stereochemical aspects of drug molecules and developing drugs for new areas in which we currently lack therapeutic agents or in areas in which we need to develop new drugs with fewer side effects. Dr. Miller’s laboratory reported on the first nonsteroidal androgen agonists in collaboration with Dr. Jim Dalton, formerly with The Ohio State University and currently employed at GTx, a Biotech Company in Memphis. They discovered the new nonsteroidal selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) and reported on them in 1998. This work came about through the use of NIH and Van Vleet Endowed Chair funds on understanding how androgen antagonists bind to the androgen receptor. They made an observation that some of the new nonsteroidal agents that they had synthesized were not blocking but were actually stimulating androgen receptors. They have 10 issued patents and other technical material that has been licensed to GTx by the University of Tennessee. They are now working with GTx, an exciting new company in Memphis, under the direction of Dr. Mitch Steiner to get therapeutic agents on the market in the SARM area. The SARMs are now in Phase II human clinical testing. Recently, Merck has partnered with GTx in trying to bring these new agents to market. These agents can be used for muscle wasting and osteoporosis. The new SARMS have the advantage that they are orally active with fewer side effects, including less liver toxicity than current muscle building agents. Such agents may be of value in aging males to treat low testosterone in older males, [called ADAM (androgen decline in aging males) or also called andropause].

Dr. Miller is currently working with Dr. Gabor Tigyi, in the Department of Physiology, on NIH funded ligands for lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) and demonstrating how this new class of agents can be used therapeutically. The work with LPA analogs, at the University of Tennessee, has led us to set up a company called RxBio that is focused on licensing and developing new drugs to interfere or prevent the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy on the GI tract. The company was founded by Dr. Gabor Tigyi, Dr. Rusty Johnson, Dr. Shannon McCool and Dr. Miller in 2000.

In 2002 Dr. Miller confounded ED laboratory Inc. along with Dr. Eldon Geisert and Dr. Shannon McCool. This company is focused on anticancer agents discovered by Dr. Miller and Dr. Geisert at the University of Tennessee and licensed to ED laboratory. These new agents are of great interest in treating brain cancer (gliomas). Dr. Ryan Yates, also in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the UT has been very instrumental in aiding in the design of a second generation of brain cancer agents for the company. Dr. Miller has worked with Dr. Dennis Feller, originally at The Ohio State University and currently at the University of Mississippi, for over 30 years in discovering agents for obesity/diabetes and more recently with Dr. Bill Purcell in a company called Thinline, LLC. located in Memphis. In a very recent collaboration with Dr. Ryan Yates (2007), they discovered a new chemical class of anti-inflammatory agents that should have fewer side effects than the classical steroidal anti-inflammatory agents used today. In efforts to find new therapeutic agents for the treatment of melanoma, he is working with Dr. Wei Li in searching chemical libraries to find new anticancer agents and designing new molecules around those leads.

During his academic career Dr. Miller was presented the University of Tennessee National Alumni Outstanding Teacher Award (1994). He was made a Charter Member of the Academy of Distinguished Teaching and Service Professors at The University of Tennessee, Health Science Center (1999), and he has been honored by the Student Government Association Executive Council (SGAEC) Excellence in Teaching Awards In 1995 and 2006. He has written chapters on steroids, cholesterol, estrogens and androgens from 1974 to the current Foye’s Medicinal Chemistry (2008). He teaches the graduate students both about the different classes of drugs and also about the concepts in drug design. He was honored as an American Association Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) Fellow in 1990. He was selected as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow and honored for fundamental studies on the structural and stereo-chemical requirements of adrenergic drugs interacting in the CNS and peripheral nervous systems (2001). He was presented the Otto and Kathleen Wheeley Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer in 2005. In 2008 he was recognized by the University of Washington, College of Pharmacy as the “Alumni of the Year”. He was presented the Division of Medicinal Chemistry Award by the American Chemical Society in June 2008. In August of 2008 he was inducted into the Medicinal Chemistry Hall of Fame.

Contact Us

Wei Li, PhD
Professor and Faculty Director of Instrument Facility
University of Tennessee Health Science Center
881 Madison Avenue, room 561
Memphis, TN 38163
(901) 448-7532 (office)

Dejian Ma, PhD
Senior Research Specialist
University of Tennessee Health Science Center
881 Madison Avenue, room B024A
Memphis TN 38163
Phone: (901) 448-7376