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Interface of Evolution and Structure Based Drug Design

Our Lab

Constraining evolution and avoiding drug resistance

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Drug resistance occurs when, through evolution, a disease no longer responds to medications. Resistance impacts the lives of millions, limiting the effectiveness of many of our most potent drugs. This often happens under the selective pressure of therapy in bacterial, viral and fungal infections and cancer due to their rapid evolution.

We combine a variety of experimental and computational techniques to understand the molecular basis of drug resistance. Our new paradigm of drug design minimizes chances of resistance. Realizing that disrupting the drug target’s activity is necessary but not sufficient for developing a robust drug that avoids resistance.

Meet the Lab

  

Research Focus

Strategies and Systems

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We use multidisciplinary approaches, combining crystallography, enzymology, molecular dynamics and organic chemistry, to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of drug resistance. Resistance occurs when a heterogeneous populations of a drug target is challenged by the selective pressure of a drug. In cancer and viruses this heterogeneity is partially caused APOBEC3’s. We discovered resistance mutations occur either where drugs physically contact regions of the drug target that are not essential for substrate recognition or alter the ensemble dynamics of the drug target favoring substrate. We leverage these insights into a new strategies in structure-based drug design to minimize the likelihood for resistance by designing inhibitors to stay within the substrate envelope. This strategy not only describes most of the primary drug resistance for HIV, Hepatitis C viral protease inhibitors and influenza neuraminidase, but is generally applicable in the development of novel drugs that are less susceptible to resistance.

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Publications

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Total: 1 results
  • Genome-scale in vivo CRISPR screen identifies RNLS as a target for beta cell protection in type 1 diabetes.

    Related Articles

    Genome-scale in vivo CRISPR screen identifies RNLS as a target for beta cell protection in type 1 diabetes.

    Nat Metab. 2020 Jul 27;:

    Authors: Cai EP, Ishikawa Y, Zhang W, Leite NC, Li J, Hou S, Kiaf B, Hollister-Lock J, Yilmaz NK, Schiffer CA, Melton DA, Kissler S, Yi P

    Abstract
    Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is caused by the autoimmune destruction of pancreatic beta cells. Pluripotent stem cells can now be differentiated into beta cells, thus raising the prospect of a cell replacement therapy for T1D. However, autoimmunity would rapidly destroy newly transplanted beta cells. Using a genome-scale CRISPR screen in a mouse model for T1D, we show that deleting RNLS, a genome-wide association study candidate gene for T1D, made beta cells resistant to autoimmune killing. Structure-based modelling identified the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved drug pargyline as a potential RNLS inhibitor. Oral pargyline treatment protected transplanted beta cells in diabetic mice, thus leading to disease reversal. Furthermore, pargyline prevented or delayed diabetes onset in several mouse models for T1D. Our results identify RNLS as a modifier of beta cell vulnerability and as a potential therapeutic target to avert beta cell loss in T1D.

    PMID: 32719542 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

All Publications

 

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Contact Us

Office:
Lazare Research Building 828
Campus Map (pdf)

Phone:
508-856-8008 (office)

Email:
Celia.Schiffer@umassmed.edu

Mailing Address:
University of Massachusetts Medical School
Attn: Dr. Celia Schiffer/BMP department
364 Plantation St LRB828
Worcester, MA 01605

Join Us

We are always interested in applications from qualified candidates at postdoctoral and research associate levels.

Read more here

Undergraduates interested in pursuing a PhD at UMass Medical School should apply directly to the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Program.