Drug Action Core

Research in the Drug Action Core focuses on elucidating how drugs act in the body and developing a better understanding of normal and disease biology, enabling the development of safer and more efficacious treatments. These topics are studied at the cellular, genetic, molecular, and biochemical levels using diverse model systems and techniques. Drug action encompasses many fields, including pharmacology, toxicology, developmental biology, and disease mechanisms. Funding for research in the Drug Action Core comes from various sources including the NIH, foundations, and the pharmaceutical industry.

Pharmaceutical Sciences PhD students in the Drug Action Core have been awarded traineeships in the Chemistry/Biology Interface, Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology, and Biotechnology training programs. They have also been awarded prestigious fellowships, such as NIH and AFPE pre-doctoral fellowships. They often receive travel awards to support presenting their work at conferences. Through research collaborations, coursework, and seminars, our trainees acquire skills and knowledge that cross disciplines. Acquiring a depth and breadth of knowledge allows our trainees to pursue careers in industry, academia, and other areas, such as science communication and patent law.

Drug Action faculty research interests:

  • Intercellular communication: uncovering mechanisms that coordinate the development of multicellular organisms (Bashirullah)
  • Genetic and pharmacologic approaches to study disease development and treatment, focusing on cancer and central nervous system diseases (Collier)
  • Understanding the transcriptional networks that control keratinocyte proliferation/differentiation and epidermal barrier functions during development and under pathological conditions; developing novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of inflammatory skin diseases and skin cancer (Dai)
  • Investigating how nuclear receptors sense environmental clues and regulate Gastrointestinal (GI) homeostasis in healthy and disease states (intestinal development, differentiation, and inflammation) (Fu)
  • Mechanism and function of protein post-translational modifications using a variety of interdisciplinary approaches, such as chemical biology, enzymology, biochemistry, mass spectrometry, X-ray crystallography, cell biology, and genetics (Jiang)
  • Signal transduction, transcriptional control of neuroprotective genes and neurotoxicity in Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Neuromuscular disease (Johnson)
  • Analytical neurochemistry; neuropeptides; proteomics and peptidomics; glycomics and glycoproteomics; biomarker discovery in neurodegenerative diseases; quantitative system biology; metabolomics; microseparations; imaging mass spectrometry and its application to drug delivery and biodistribution; biological mass spectrometry (Li)
  • Molecular basis of prostate development, prostate cancer progression, and benign prostatic hyperplasia: roles of cell-cell signaling pathways and the use of mouse genetics to discover novel pathways that underlie prostatic diseases (Marker)
  • CRISPR-based genetic screens in pathogenic bacteria to understand gene function and antibiotic mode of action (Peters)
  • Understanding the molecular mechanisms involved with hormone therapy in the prevention and treatment of urologic cancers and benign diseases. Focus areas include: translational research, steroids and small molecules, stromal-epithelial interactions, endocrine disrupting chemicals, mouse models of disease progression (Ricke)
  • Preclinical model systems to investigate the role of the growth hormone/IGF-I axis in prostate carcinogenesis (Swanson)
  • Development and function of the blood-brain barrier; regulation of major histocompatibilty complex; modulation of neuroinflammation (Taylor)
  • Pharmacogenomics of xenobiotic toxicity, including both therapeutic drugs and environmental carcinogens. Mechanisms of familial and acquired risk for sulfamethoxazole drug hypersensitivity (“sulfa allergy”). Genetic variability in phase II detoxification pathways (especially GSTs and cytochrome b5 reductase) and cancer risk both in humans and dogs. (Trepanier)
  • Molecular basis of prostate and urinary tract development, physiology, and toxicology (Vezina)
  • Synaptic plasticity in substance use and major depressive disorders; Development of antibodies against cannabinoids, opioids, sedative-hypnotics, and classical psychedelics; Immunologic biomarkers of drug use; Implementation of novel psychiatric treatments, including vaccine-based approaches and medication-assisted psychotherapy (Wenthur)

Pharmsci Research Cores