Source Newsroom: Wake Forest University
Wake Forest University Chemistry Professor Uli Bierbach’s interdisciplinary drug discovery research spans the fields of organic and inorganic synthesis, medicinal chemistry, biophysical chemistry, and molecular and cellular biology. His professional expertise in the sciences and personal passion for improving cancer survival rates have resulted in platinum-based treatments that kill non-small cell lung cancer cells at 500 times the rate of most available treatments.
Because current platinum-based drugs such as cisplatin do not work on the most aggressive types of cancer – including lung and breast – Bierbach’s research group designs unique hybrid molecules including “Trojan horse” pharmacophores that target and more effectively tackle otherwise chemo-resistant diseases. While the thrust of his current research efforts is to promote hybrid agents into clinical trials, he is also developing technologies for probing and manipulating DNA-linked processes in live cells.
In addition to having his research supported by the National Institutes for Health (NIH), Bierbach also has served as a grant reviewer for this agency as well as the California Breast Cancer Research Program.
Uli Bierbach on chemo-resistant cancers …
“Some cancers are smart enough to not allow platinum drugs to enter its cells or cut out the DNA damage they produce and repair it, and that’s the starting point for our structural design. How do we get a compound that does a good job therapeutically but is not easily recognized by the ‘damage repair police’ of the cell nor is developing resistance over time? This is how we came up with the ideas of hybrid agents and targeted approaches to attacking cancer cells.”
On the promise of the “Trojan horse” approach …
“Within the next two years, we hope to turn our platinum-based drugs into targeted warheads by attaching them to vehicles that will take them to a specific type of cancer and act as guided missiles.”
On using personal motivators to fuel research …
“Everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer, many of us quite personally. In fact, my first graduate student joined my research group after losing his dad to a severe form of leukemia. He wanted to do something meaningful with a Ph.D. in chemistry and was motivated by the events surrounding his dad’s death and his family’s suffering.”