Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology

College of Pharmacy


Center Faculty
Affiliate Faculty
Research Faculty
Adjunct Faculty

Michael E. Johnson, Ph.D.
Professor and Director of the Center
Michael E. Johnson Computer-aided therapeutic drug design and structural bioinformatics, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) studies of protein and peptide 3D structure, macromolecule-ligand interactions.  Current projects include characterization of new antimicrobial targets, QSAR analysis of bacterial antibiotic potentiators and design of new antibiotic and antiviral agents.
Sylvie Y. Blond, Ph.D.
Associate Professor

 Sylvie Y. Blond Our goals are to characterize the functions of molecular chaperones in assisted protein folding, secretion and quality control, to understand the mechanisms that target damaged proteins to the cellular degradation machinery and to contribute to multidisciplinary programs aimed at the characterization of new neuroprotective therapeutics.
Michael J. Federle, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

Michael J. Federle  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.  Bacteria detect and respond to autoinducers through various types of receptor proteins sitting atop gene regulatory networks.  it is my 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.  I am concentrating my efforts on Gram-positive pathogens, as these organisms pose the most current threat in developing resistance to multiple antibiotic treatments.  It is my hope 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.
Qingbo K. Li, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Qingbo K. Li  We are interested in identifying the genes responsible for anaerobic metabolism, bacteriostatic resistance, and host immune modulation of mycobacteria.  This knowledge is applied towards the understanding of M. tuberculosis latency and the discovery of new drugs.  We use proteomics as the primary analytical tool to decipher the mycobacterial proteome at different metabolism or infection stages.  We are also involved in developing ultra-sensitive immunoassay formats that can be integrated with modern high-throughput proteomics technology.
Alexander S. Mankin, Ph.D., D.Sci.
Professor and Associate Director of the Center

Alexander S. Mankin  Our main interests are functions of ribosomal RNA in protein synthesis and mechanisms of action of ribosome-targeted antibiotics.  We use genetic and biochemical techniques to understand how the ribosome synthesizes proteins and how it evolved.  We investigate how antibiotics inhibit protein synthesis, and explore mechanisms of drug resistance.
Andrew D. Mesecar, Ph.D.

 Andrew D. Mesecar We are studying the structure and function of enzymes and receptors involved in cancer chemoprevention, cancer cell proliferation, cell longevity, bacterial and viral pathogenesis, and bioremediation.  We are actively involved in the discovery of both natural and synthetic compounds that can be used as anti-cancer, anti-viral and anti-bacterial therapeutics as well as compounds that can prevent cancer and aging.  We are also actively involved in prospecting and biosphere for novel enzyme activities that can be utilized for enzymatic decontamination of hazardous chemicals.  My lab members utilizes a number of state-of-the-art approaches and technologies such as static and time-resolved x-ray crystallography, enzyme chemistry and kinetics, molecular biology, bioinformatics, proteomics, and molecular modeling in the research projects.
   Center Faculty

   Affiliate Faculty
Scott G. Franzblau, Ph.D.
Professor and Director, Institute of Tuberculosis Research
Scott G. Franzblau
Discovery and development of new therapeutic for tuberculosis and other mycobacterioses.  Structure-activity relationships of a variety of novel synthetic and natural products.  Evaluation of role of efflux transporters in resistance of M. tuberculosis to established classes of anti-TB agents.  Drug-delivery systems for use in TB protein expression profiles of M. tuberculosis in response to established and new agents.  Clinical evaluation of new agents.
Hyun-Young Jeong, Ph.D., PharmD
Assistant Professor
Hyun-Young Jeong
Altered pharmacokinetics in pregnancy, molecular pharmacology, drug metabolism, regulation of drug metabolizing enzymes, clinical pharmacokinetics, populations pharmacokinetics, nuclear receptors.
Steven M. Swanson, Ph.D.
Steven M. Swanson
We are interested in mechanisms by which hormones modulate susceptibility of target cells to cancer causing agents.  We study the response to carcinogens of mutant and transgenic animals with disruptions in genes for specific hormones or growth factors.  We also use molecular and cellular techniques to evaluate the impact of hormone or growth factor treatments on specific cell signaling pathways in whole animals and cells in culture.
Debra A. Tonetti, Ph.D.
Associate Professor

Debra A. Tonetti
Molecular mechanism of tamoxifen-resistant breast cancer; protein kinase C-mediated signal transduction in breast and endometrial cancer; interaction of soy isoflavones and tamoxifen on signal transduction in the breast; estrogen receptor beta action in the breast.

   Research Faculty
Aimee Eggler, Ph.D. (Mesecar)
Research Assistant Professor

Aimee Eggler
We are interested in the mechanisms of action of promising new cancer prevention agents from natural sources.  my work focuses on the molecular mechanisms of the Keap1-Nrf2 protein complex.  This complex responds to the agents by upregulating the expression of numerous cytoprotective enzymes, a main first-line of defense from the body against cancer and degenerative diseases.
Hyunwoo Lee, Ph.D. (Mankin)
Research Assistant Professor

Hyunwoo Lee
The ultimate goal of my research is to identify bacterial targets for the development of novel antibiotics and anti-infective strategies.  My current research is focused on identification of the molecular (virulence) mechanisms, by which Bacillus anthracis survives and proliferates in host environments such as the bloodstream.  As part of my search for antibacterial targets, I am also interested in developing and applying new genetic tools that will facilitate the identification and validation of drug targets in vitro and in vivo.
Shahila Mehboob, Ph.D. (Johnson)
Research Assistant Professor

Shahila Mehboob
The enzyme glutamate racemase catalyzes the racemization of glutamate.  D-glutamate is required in the formation of the peptidoglycan layer.  It is clear that the disruption of the peptidoglycan biosynthesis is lethal to bacteria and therefore designing compounds that can inhibit this enzyme could lead to the development of new antibiotics.  My work focuses on understanding the structure-function relationship of glutamate racemase, more soecifically on what the conformational changes are that take place during catalysis, and how this enzyme is capable of abstracting the alpha-proton.  These studies would contribute towards the structure-based drug development process.
Kiira Ratia, Ph.D. (Mesecar)
Research Assistant Professor

Kiira Ratia
Bernard D. Santarsiero, Ph.D.
Research Professor

Bernard D. Santarsiero
My interests focus on the development and use of x-ray diffraction for structure elucidation, the detailed characterization of molecules at the atomic level, and as a tool to investigate the mechanistic landscape of chemical reactivity.  We have extensively used small molecule x-ray diffraction to assign novel connectivity and bonding properties, variable-temperature and low-temperature experiments to characterize potential energy surfaces, neutron diffraction to investigate hydrogen bonding, polychromatic and time-resolved methodologies to trap transient states in proteins, and crystal engineering to develop new materials.  We routinely use the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Lab to determine the structures of enzyme complexes for structure-based drug design.
Nora Vazquez-Laslop, Ph.D. (Mankin)
Research Assistant Professor

Nora Vazquez-Laslop
All of the newly made proteins leave the ribosome through a nascent peptide tunnel.  The nascent polypeptide interacts with the RNA and protein components of the ribosomal tunnel in a functionality meaningful way.  Such interactions affect the synthesis of the protein, the ribosome function and its response to antibiotics.  Molecular mechanisms of these interactions are the primary focus of our research.

   Adjunct Faculty
Cele Abad-Zapatero, Ph.D.
Adjunct Professor

Cele Abad-Zapatero
After more than twenty years of experience in Structure-Based Drug Design (SBDD) at Abbott Laboratories, my interests are focused on developing algorithms and computational tools to make SBDD more efficient in developing compounds with high probability of becoming drug candidates.  In particular, I am interested in exploring the role of ligand efficiency indices (LEI) as numerical descriptors to guide the drug discovery process.  The initial concepts have been published and it is my objective to implement those ideas and establish their validity in the long term.  The goal is to develop the computational tools needed to test these ideas using specific SBDD projects and collaborations with my colleagues in the Center.
Leslie Wo-Mei Fung, Ph.D.
Adjunct Professor

We study a family of proteins - the spectrin isoforms.  Spectrin, a major protein in the membrane skeleton or cytoskeleton, is believed to have evolved early in the development of metazoans, following divergence of fungi, plants and vertebrates, with each isoform representing a candidate for roles in specialized activities activities of multicellular animals.  We believe that disease markers and drug targets can be identified through functional proteomic studies of spectrin isoforms and their protein-protein interactions.
Hui Lu, Ph.D.
Adjunct Assistant Professor

Hui Lu
We focus on five main areas of research: structural bioinformatics, bio-molecular interactions, protein-protein interactions, genome sequence analysis, and gene function prediction through sequence, structure and dynamics.  Currently, we are collaborating with Julio Fernandez's group at Columbia University and Klaus Schultzen's group at UIUC on force-induced protein reconfiguration, with Michael Johnson on drug design and with Yang Dai on kernal-based protein structure prediction.