Morsani College of Medicine
Department of Molecular Medicine
Joint and Affiliate Faculty
Post-Doctorates / Research Associates
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Master's of Science Program
Allergy, Immunology and Infectious Diseases
USF Health Byrd Alzheimer's Institute
Children's Research Institute (CRI)
Center for Drug Discovery and Innovation
H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center
James A Haley Veteran's Hospital
Bay Pines VA Healthcare System
Assoc Professor, COLLEGE OF MEDICINE MOLECULAR MEDICINE
Human cells, including neurons in the brain, contain thousands of proteins that must work in concert to produce or perform our actions. Breathing, running, talking, remembering….all of these things are coordinated by thousands of proteins every second in our cells. This is what we work on in the lab. Hidden among those thousands of proteins is a group of sentinels called chaperones that, by definition, ensure propriety of all of these other proteins in the cell. Without chaperones, nothing would work properly. In fact, our lab and others have begun to show that many if not all of human disease is in some way affected by chaperones. There are approximately 150 chaperones in humans and each of these could be a drug target for human diseases. In particular, our lab has focused on a group of more than 15 neurological degenerative diseases collectively termed “tauopathies", the most common being Alzheimer’s disease. We have also seen our work move into glaucoma and depression.
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Graduate Research Assistant, COLLEGE OF MEDICINE MOLECULAR MEDICINE
Our lab focuses on structure based drug design through the use of X-ray crystallography and molecular docking.
My research is focused on discovering novel inhibitors of the protein monofunctional transglycosylase (MTG). MTG catalyzes the second to last step of bacterial cell wall formation and has only one known inhibitor, but unfortunately it is ineffective in humans. By combining fragment based molecular docking with protein X-ray crystallography I hope to discover novel inhibitors against MTG and other transglycosylases involved in bacterial cell wall formation. These novel inhibitors could lead to a new class of antibiotic that would ultimately be effective against bacteria that are resistant to many currently available drugs.
My current research focuses on understanding the role of the Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP) in pancreatic cancer. It is well known that pancreatic cancer has a poor prognosis and very low 5-year survival rates. Early detection poses a challenge mainly owing to the location of this organ and a non-symptomatic progression. At the molecular level, the oncogene RAS is known to be mutated and overexpressed in this cancer and the signaling pathways are somewhat understood. Using several pancreatic cancer cells lines, our recent findings show that APP is overexpressed in most pancreatic cancer cells lines as well. Preliminary studies have shown that APP can regulate RAS transcription levels and knock down of APP can inhibit RAS protein expression. Using this information, my project aims to understand the mechanism of regulation of RAS by APP and to establish APP, its processed fragments, and associated signaling pathways as possible targets for drug development against pancreatic cancer.