The Wistar Institute and University of the Sciences Announce McNeil Professorship to Lead Collaborative Center

Article ID: 564422

Released: 10-May-2010 12:55 PM EDT

Source Newsroom: Wistar Institute

Newswise — The Wistar Institute and University of the Sciences in Philadelphia today named Wistar Institute principal investigator Paul M. Lieberman, Ph.D., an expert in gene expression and regulation, as the McNeil Professor of Molecular Medicine and Translational Research. In this role, Lieberman will provide leadership of the Center for Chemical Biology and Translational Medicine (CCBTM) at The Wistar Institute and University of the Sciences.

The CCBTM combines Wistar’s strengths in basic biomedical research with University of the Sciences’ expertise in medicinal chemistry and pharmacology. The partnership will enable more rapid translation of basic science discoveries into compounds with potential for refinement into new medicines and therapies for patients.

“In generously assigning the McNeil Professorship to our partnership, University of the Sciences ensures the resources needed to undertake innovative, early pilot projects and to bridge the stages of drug discovery and development,” said Wistar President and CEO Russel E. Kaufman, M.D. “Dr. Lieberman is an outstanding scientist and strong leader who will forge collaborations that will advance our understanding of human biology for the benefit of humankind.”

The primary goals of the Center are to develop and use small molecules to study and probe the biology of living systems. This approach is expected to identify new chemical agents that can be developed to work against biological targets – such as genes and proteins -- known to be involved in human disease. Using advanced screening technologies in the Molecular Screening Facility at The Wistar Institute, molecular biologists will be able to identify and characterize new molecules and compounds that hold the most promise for developing into therapeutic drugs for cancer and other diseases. Such compounds will then be “handed off” to computational and medicinal chemists at University of the Sciences for further refinement into potential new drugs.

The development of a useful new drug from a chemical agent identified in an academic setting, such as Wistar, is a challenging process. The pharmaceutical industry may have an interest in such lead compounds, but the “early phase” nature of the academic observation and translation to a commercial drug product presents risks that many companies are reluctant to assume. Lack of funding limits the development of new drugs against cancer and other diseases. The CCBTM will help bridge that gap.

“This is a great opportunity to continue the momentum that began with the creation of the CCBTM’s Molecular Screening Facility,” said Russell J. DiGate, Ph.D., University of the Sciences provost. “Our commitment of the McNeil Professorship to this endeavor is the perfect link to the important research being conducted to ultimately combat cancer and other diseases. With his background and expertise, we are confident that Dr. Lieberman will provide the necessary leadership to make advances in the search for new agents.” Lieberman’s research focuses on understanding how cancer-associated viruses such as Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpes virus (KSHV) persist in the body in a latent state, and the biochemical pathways that spark the viruses to awaken, leading to cancer. The Lieberman team has defined several of the pathways that control the stability, replication and gene expression patterns of the latent viruses. Lieberman has identified small molecule candidates that inhibit EBV pathways, and is currently characterizing them through chemical biology.

Lieberman is a professor within the Gene Expression and Regulation Program at The Wistar Institute. He joined the Institute in 1995 as an assistant professor, was promoted to associate professor in 2000 and to professor in 2005. Lieberman earned a B.A. in chemistry from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in pharmacology/virology from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He completed post-doctoral training at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The McNeil Professor of Molecular Medicine and Translational Research is named after Robert L. McNeil, Jr. In 2006, University of the Sciences also dedicated the McNeil Science and Technology Center in his honor.

University of the Sciences in PhiladelphiaAt University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, students embark on a challenging learning experience in a proving ground for successful professionals in the healthcare-related fields. A private, coeducational institution dedicated to education, research, and service, and distinguished as the nation’s first college of pharmacy, the University has produced leaders in the healthcare marketplace since its founding in 1821, including founders of six of the top pharmaceutical companies in the world. With undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree programs in such disciplines as pharmacy, bioinformatics, physical therapy, healthcare business, and health policy, the 3,000 students in the University of the Sciences’ five colleges learn to excel in scientific analysis and to apply their skills to improving healthcare in their communities and in the lives of people worldwide. Learn more online at

The Wistar InstituteThe Wistar Institute is an international leader in biomedical research with special expertise in cancer research and vaccine development. Founded in 1892 as the first independent nonprofit biomedical research institute in the country, Wistar has long held the prestigious Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute. The Wistar Institute works actively to ensure that research advances move from the laboratory to the clinic as quickly as possible. The Wistar Institute: Today’s Discoveries – Tomorrow’s Cures. On the Web at

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