Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology


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Our lab is interested in biological questions that are important for women's health. We integrate imaging, drug discovery, and basic biology to try and understand how ovarian cancers form and progress. Epithelial ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynecological malignancy among U.S. women. We have recently developed a 3D organ culture that might improve the progress towards characterizing factors critical to ovarian transformation.
Our lab is currently investigating the characteristics of ovarian surface cells grown in a 3D alginate organ culture as a model system for studying oncogenesis and prevention. Our group is also using mouse models to identify if the ovarian surface or cells on the distal portion of the fallopian tube are the progenitor cells for ovarian cancers. We are working to identify new progestins from botanicals, and are also using targeted magnetic resonance imaging agents to monitor progesterone receptor expression in organs and tumors.

3202-MBRB         312-996-6153         Lab website

Joanna E. Burdette, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Our research focuses on discovering and understanding how bacteria communicate among themselves as a means for organizing group behaviors, especially behaviors facilitating the initiation and progression of disease in humans. Cell-to-cell communication in bacteria, termed Quorum Sensing, relies on a language of small, secreted signaling molecules called autoinducers through various types of receptor proteins sitting atop gene regulatory networks. 
it is our goal to identify and describe the production and structure of new autoinducers and their cognate signal-transduction networks that contribute to the pathogenic state of the microorganism. Our lab will use classic bacterial genetic and molecular biology techniques combined with conventional genomic, proteomic, and metabolomic analyses to identify components and targets of these signaling systems. Structural analysis of autoinducers and receptors, as well as screening for inhibitory compounds, will also be a focus of our work. 
We anticipate that our research will lead to the development of new therapies that exploit and confuse communication systems bacteria use to organize attacks on the body.

3152-MBRB            312-413-0213          Lab website

Michael J. Federle, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Our research interests are focused on the discovery of new antimicrobial and antiviral agents through collaborative studies using a variety of molecular and structural biology and computational approaches, including nuclear magnetic resonance, high-throughput screening, computer-aided design and molecular modeling, X-ray crystallography, and various forms of optical spectroscopy. Currently, we are pursuing lead discovery against a variety of pathogenic bacteria and viruses, including the coronavirus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), hepatitis C virus, and influenza.
We are using a combination of strategies, beginning with genetic identification and validation of novel bacterial-viral targets, determination of target 3D molecular structures, utilization of diverse chemical libraries for high-throughput screening, structure-based drug design, synthesis of lead compounds and their optimization, followed by macrophage and animal testing as a strategy for the discovery of new therapeutic agents. Our current targets include various proteases, and enzymes in the purine, pyrimidine, and lipid biosynthesis pathways. We are determining initial enzyme crystal strucrtures, identifying initial lead inhibitors, and using structure-based design and biological testing approaches to improve the biological properties and potency of initial leads.
For our studies of SARS, our strategies include computer-aided design of new and/or improved inhibitors against SARS-CoV PLpro as well as collaborative pK and metabolic stability studies to provide guidance in synthetic design. Bioinformatics comparison of PLpro with other deubiquitinating enzymes is being used to enhance selectivity.

3072-MBRB         312-996-9114         Lab website

Michael E. Johnson, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus

The ribosome can monitor the structure of the polypeptide it makes, and modulates its activity in response to specific nascent peptide sequences. Such a mechanism is used in the regulation of expression of many genes, including the genes of antibiotic resistance. We are trying to understand how the ribosome can "sense" the structure of the polypeptide it makes, and determine the mechanism of the ribosomal response to specific nascent peptide sequences.
We are studying the principles of action of protein synthesis inhibitors and mechanisms of antibiotic resistance. An important part of our effort is dedicated to developing innovative approaches for identifying new antibiotics.
The techniques we are using range from classic biochemical, molecular biological, and microbiological methods to whole cell shot-gun proteomics and next-generation sequencing approaches.

3052-MBRB            312-413-1406           Lab website

Alexander S. Mankin, Ph.D., D.Sci.

Professor and Director of the Center

Brian T. Murphy, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

The surfaces of marine organisms provide a source of nutrients for microbes within our oceans. Consequently a competition for space results between surface-colonizing (epibiotic) microorganisms. We propose that select secondary metabolites from epibiotic bacteria, which serve as chemical defenses or means of inter- and intra-species microbial communication, can be utilized to probe and combat the pathogenic mechanisms of human microbial pathogens. These epibiotic bacteria are collected from unique source organisms, cultivated in liquid culture, crudely separated, and screened against a variety of human pathogens with the ultimate intent of discovering novel antibiotic structural classes. Of particular interest is the target Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a pathogen responsible for 1.5-2.3 million deaths in 2008.

3120-MBRB         312-413-9057         Lab website

Zain Paroo, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Our lab is interested in biochemical mechanisms of small RNA pathways. The discovery of RNA interference (RNAi) is among the most significant biomedical breakthroughs in recent history. Multiple classes of small RNA including small-interfering RNA (siRNA) and micro-RNA (miRNA) play important roles in many fundamental biological and disease processes. Thus, scientists have found novel pathways to unravel, new insights in probing pathology, and nascent technologies to develop. Although the importance of genetics and molecular and cell biology cannot be overstated, advances in elucidating mechanisms of small RNA pathways have been achieved largely through traditional biochemical approaches. Establishing robust cell-free assays enables a gateway for purifying factors that mediate these processes. This biochemical template also provides a framework for overcoming outstanding and emerging challenges in the field and for understanding an expanding small RNA world.
Our research goals are to discover core and regulatory mechanisms of small RNA pathways and their importance in mediating oncogenesis, discover new small RNA pathways, and to develop technologies based on these discoveries for real world application.

3220-MBRB         312-413-9818         Lab website

Monsheel Sodhi, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Suicide occurs every 15 minutes in the United States, and is a heritable and tragic consequence of schizophrenia, depression, and other psychiatric disorders. Our laboratory focuses on investigations of molecules which are important for the regulation of mood, anxiety, learning, and memory in key neural circuits thought to be disrupted in schizophrenia and depressive disorders.
Current investigations are focused on RNA editing, a post-transcriptional process which has a profound impact on brain physiology, by altering the neurotransmission of glutamate, GABA, and serotonin receptors in addition to redirecting the targets of up to 16% of microRNAs. These studies are being conducted on postmorten brain tissue from psychiatric patients in collaboration with the NIMH.
We are also screening candidate genes in a large cohort of African American schizophrenia patients in collaboration with investigators at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. These studies of human subjects are being extended to test model systems so we can elucidate the molecular mechanisms by which altered RNA editing processes can contribute to the pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders. Our research could lead to the identification of new targets for the development of drugs with greater efficacy and fewer side-effects than those which are currently prescribed.

3102-MBRB         312-355-5949         Lab website