The College of Pharmacy is home to a new campus-wide collaborative facility designed to hasten the development of therapeutic drugs for a number of major diseases, the Drug Discovery Core laboratory:
A survey distributed to UGA researchers in 2016 identified chemical screening and toxicity profiling as the most critical needs for enhancing drug discovery research at UGA, and the DDC will address many of those needs for faculty working in infectious disease, regenerative medicine, cancer biology and other human health-focused disciplines.
Phase one of the new lab will allow for the curation, management and distribution of chemical libraries containing more than 50,000 compounds. The lab also will enable researchers to rapidly screen these chemical libraries in miniaturized models of various diseases using robotics and high-throughput signal detection. Finally, the lab will provide opportunities to identify potential toxicity of the compounds and determine if their chemical properties will allow them to be successfully delivered to patients. Additional capabilities, including pharmacokinetic characterization, genotoxicity and assay design, are under development.
"The most immediate outcome of the DDC lab will be to generate preliminary data from pilot chemical screens, which is necessary to secure large drug discovery grants from the National Institutes of Health to fund more advanced drug discovery research," said Shelley Hooks, interim director of the Center for Drug Discovery and associate professor of pharmaceutical and biomedical science. "The longer-term goals of the lab are to discover and develop new drug candidates and chemical probes, as well as enhance training of graduate students in biotechnology."
Sponsoring campus organizations include the College of Pharmacy, the College of Veterinary Medicine, the Office of Research, the Center for Tropical and Emerging Diseases and the Department of Cellular Biology. UGA faculty continue to be the source of leadership and expertise driving campus excellence in every sphere. Establishing new ways and new places to work together leverages their strengths and expands intellectual capacity. The collaborations are d4signed for maximum public benefit but they are also great for our students to see, learn from, participate in and transpose onto their own careers at a later point. Great people building an even greater institution.
Image: Members of the Drug Discovery Core steering committee in the new DDC laboratory (from left to right): Shelley Hooks, interim director of the Center for Drug Discovery and associate professor of pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences; Scott Pegan, chair of the steering committee and associate professor of pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences; Belen Cassera, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology; Kojo Mensa-Wilmot, professor and head of UGA's cellular biology department and director of the Chemical Biology Group; and Brian Cummings, director of the Interdisciplinary Toxicology Program and professor of pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences.