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Drug Discovery and Development

The discovery and development of new medications for unmet medical needs is a major research focus of the College. With the breadth and depth of expertise and research activities of its faculty, the College can comprehensively address the needs for resources, knowledge and services throughout the whole drug development process, from target validation and drug discovery up to clinical development.

This together with its location in the middle of an established academic health science center bring the College into an excellent position to efficiently transform new biomedical knowledge into novel medications or new pharmacotherapeutic treatment modalities.

The College’s drug discovery and development team exists of six groups with complimentary expertise:

Lead Design and Discovery Group

The Lead Design and Discovery Group (Drs. Miller, Buolamwini, Donkor, Li, Moore) is targeted at finding specific and selectively acting drug molecules by design, synthesis, and chemical and biological characterization of new chemical entities. The group’s expertise in medicinal and combinatorial chemistry and computer-aided molecular design combined with traditional bio-synthetic approaches, mass spectrometry and NMR spectroscopic methods ensures a state-of-the-art drug discovery process. Through a consortium agreement with four other institutions, the group has access to a Proctor & Gamble pharmaceutical compound library with 352,000 small molecules that can be screened for new lead structures with pharmacologic activity. 

High Throughput Screening, Target Validation and Biomarker Identification Group

The High Throughput Screening, Target Validation and Biomarker Identification Group (Drs. Beranova-Giorgianni, Rogers) is aimed at the pharmacologic characterization of new molecular entities in enzyme-, receptor- and cell-based systems, including potency, intrinsic activity, selectivity, specificity, and off-target effects. This also includes the identification and validation/qualification of biomarkers for target activation/inhibition, proof-of concept, efficacy and safety. The group has access to high throughput analyzers and mass-spectrometry equipment for “-omics’ approaches. 

Pharmaceutical Optimization Group

The Pharmaceutical Optimization Group (Drs. Meibohm, Yates) is focused on the in vitro and in vivo characterization of the biopharmaceutic and pharmacokinetic properties of drug candidates, including their physicochemical characteristics, bioavailability, metabolic stability and disposition pathways. This information is returned to the Lead Design and Discovery Group in a feedback loop to refine the pharmaceutical properties of drug leads and facilitate their optimization to become clinically viable drug candidates.

Formulation Design and Drug Product Manufacturing Group

The Formulation Design and Drug Product Manufacturing Group consists of two components, the Parental Medications Laboratories (Drs. Thoma, Nolly, Wood, Almoazen, Kim) and the Solid Dosage Form Laboratories (Drs. Shukla, Johnson, Mahato). Both units are engaged in the design, development, and manufacture of parenteral and solid dosage forms, respectively, including stability and in vitro release studies. These laboratories currently have the capability of preparing pre-clinical dosage forms as well as dosage forms for Phase I clinical studies under aseptic conditions, including biologics (proteins and peptides) and radiolabeled compounds. A new facility compliant with Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) requirements will be available for both laboratories within the next 24 months in the new College of Pharmacy building on campus, thereby expanding the group’s capabilities for producing investigational drug products for clinical trials.

Toxicological Screening Group

The Toxicological Screening Group (Dr. Moore, Meibohm) provides cell-based assays for an initial toxicological assessment of drug candidates prior to preclinical in vivo assessments, particularly acute cell toxicity, genotoxicity and mutagenicity.

Bioanalytical Assay Development and Validation Group

The Bioanalytical Assay Development and Validation Group (Drs. Beranova-Giorgianni, Loveless, Yates, Meibohm) is targeted at the development, validation and application of bioanalytical assays to quantify concentrations of drugs and their metabolites in body organs and fluids. Applied techniques include liquid chromatographic assays with spectrophotometric and mass spectrometric detection, immunoassays, as well as radiolabel-based imaging techniques.

Last Published: Apr 20, 2021