Opportunities in Basic and Translational Research

In the 21st century, chemical biology has emerged as a discipline central to therapeutic discovery and development.

May 10, 2023 /

Sarah F. Hill

 Gary Sukilowski Profile photo

The Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology (VICB) was established in 2002 with the stated mission to establish research and education programs in the application of chemical technologies to important biological problems. A large percentage of Nobel Prizes, in fact, are chemical biology-related. 

In his seminar to the UH Drug Discovery Institute, Gary A. Sulikowski of VICB gave an historical introduction to the Institute and provided select examples of chemical probes developed within the VICB. Chemical probes are powerful tools that modulate the activity of specific proteins in cells often with the goal of demonstrating disease relevance. They are potential pathfinder molecules for drug discovery.

Challenging efforts in pre-clinical development were discussed, such as apoptolidin family glycomacrolides which target leukemia through inhibition of ATP synthase. Of much interest to the participants: Vanderbilt’s high-throughput screening facility, which allows faculty and students to conduct small molecule and drug screenings, functional genomics screening and high content screening. The VICB also houses a compound library.

Sulikowski received a BS in chemistry from Wayne State University and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania. He was an American Cancer Society postdoctoral fellow at Yale University. His first faculty appointment was in the Department of Chemistry at Texas A&M University in 1991, and he joined the Vanderbilt Chemistry Department and Institute of Chemical Biology in 2004. Sulikowski’s research interests involve the design and development of chemical syntheses of complex molecules, specifically bioactive natural products and molecular probes. Over time his interests have expanded to the chemical synthesis of molecular tools with application in biological research and therapeutic lead development. He has published over 125 research publications and co-authored 11 patents.

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