Esperanza Carcache-de Blanco, PhD
Dr. Carcache de Blanco’s lab works with collaborative research teams to advance natural products hits into leads for drug development through pre-clinical studies. Pharmacognostic studies performed focus on the discovery of bioactive constituents from natural product sources with potential application in chronic diseases. The studies include areas of chemistry (particularly phytochemistry) and biology (in vitro and in vivo studies). The research includes evaluation and optimization of isolated and characterized promising bioactive secondary metabolites from natural sources. Pre-clinical studies with promising natural product leads involve in vitro and in vivo evaluation in lab models for potential characterization of their mechanism of action. These studies also include confirmation of activity in animal models as part of translational studies that could lead to clinical studies of optimized drug leads. She is also interested in the study of botanical dietary supplements and other herbal products used in traditional medicine.
James Fuchs, PhD
The research in Dr. Fuchs' lab designs and prepares novel molecules for therapeutic applications against cancer and infectious diseases. His lab utilizes fundamental chemical knowledge and synthetic methodology to facilitate the process of drug discovery and development through the generation of biological probe molecules, the synthesis of lead compounds and the optimization of drug properties.
Kou-San Ju, PhD
Dr. Ju is broadly interested in metabolic diversity of microbes and their application to solving modern day challenges in human health and the environment. Working at the interface of chemistry and biology, the Ju laboratory utilizes an interdisciplinary approach to conduct genomics-guided discovery of microbial natural products, decipher the molecular basis of their activity, and to reveal the genetic and biochemical principles governing their biosynthesis. In addition to obtaining insights into the evolution and function of natural product pathways, the results from these studies enable the development of new antibiotics and engineered biocatalysts with biotechnological applications.
A. Douglas Kinghorn, PhD, DSc
The research in Dr. A. Douglas Kinghorn’s lab deals with the extraction, purification, and characterization of the chemical structures of biologically active substances of tropical plants. Examples of the use to society of these lead compounds are as potential cancer chemotherapeutic and chemopreventive agents, therapies for the tropical infectious disease leishmaniasis, and as sweetening and taste-modifying components of foods and beverages.
H. Liva Rakotondraibe, PhD
Dr. H. Liva Rakotondraibe focuses on the unique chemistry of living organisms to identify bioactive (e.g., antiproliferative, cytotoxic, antimalarial, and insecticidal) organic small-molecule natural product compounds. As source materials, his group utilizes underexplored organisms such as endophytic microorganisms from liverworts, mycobionts of lichens, and endemic medicinal plants of Madagascar. For recent work, lichens have been sourced from coastal areas of the United States.
Jack Yalowich, PhD
Dr. Yalowich’s lab focuses on the mechanisms of action and resistance to a class of anticancer agents known as DNA topoisomerase II (topo IIα) inhibitors, such as the anticancer agent etoposide; a natural product analog. Ongoing projects characterize alternative RNA processing of topo IIα pre-mRNA that results in decreased expression of topo IIα in acquired resistance to etoposide. Strategies to circumvent drug resistance involve CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing to restore proper RNA splicing function in resistant cells. In addition, the role of micro-RNAs as determinants of anticancer drug resistance is under investigation. A variety of natural products are also under study as new and effective anticancer agents. Finally, members of the Yalowich lab actively collaborate with Dr. Mark-Mitton-Fry to evaluate the mechanisms of action and efficacy of newly synthesized Novel Bacterial Topoisomerase Inhibitors (NBTIs).