Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry - Faculty
Faculty in the Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry (MBB) discipline include investigators like Drs. Paul Fitzpatrick, Yogesh Gupta, John Hart , Dmitri Ivanov, Eileen Lafer, David Libich, Phil Serwer, Rui Sousa and Patrick Sung who work primarily with purified macromolecular components, and who apply rigorous biophysical and quantitative biochemical approaches like NMR, X-ray crystallography, Cryo-EM for atomic level structure determination, and approaches like plasmon resonance, calorimetry, and spectroscopy to measure interactions in macromolecular complexes, or of drug candidates with their targets.
The MBB discipline also includes investigators like Drs. Jean Jiang, Feng Liu, Phil LoVerde, Bruce Nicholson, Mark Shapiro, Yuzuru Shiio and Sue Weintraub who utilize approaches at the cellular or organismal level to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying function in the biological context, whether that involves mechanisms of cell signaling, cell-cell communication or drug resistance. A variety of tools are employed, including Genomics, Proteomics, Metabolomics, Transgenic models and Immunology.
While our faculty publishes important studies that emerge primarily from the approaches they deploy in their own labs, the most exciting and impactful studies frequently involve collaborations between labs that study purified systems in vitro, and labs applying cell- or organism based approaches. The collaboration between the laboratories of Drs. John Hart and Phil Loverde led to the first understanding of the mechanisms of drug resistance in schistosomiasis (Valentim et. al., Science 342, 2013), and, with the Center for Innovative Drug Discovery, the development of the next generation of drugs to treat the third most deadly disease on the planet. A collaboration between Drs. Eileen Lafer and Ruth Ruprecht demonstrated the efficacy of polyvalent IgM antibodies for HIV neutralization (Gong et. al., AIDS 32, 2018). Dr. Jean Jiang led a collaboration with Dr. Zhiqiang An at UT Houston that developed antibodies directed to connexin hemichannels (components of gap junctions) as therapeutics to inhibit breast cancer metastasis and repair spinal cord injury, leading to the largest licensing agreement in University history.
Such interdisciplinary approaches are necessary to make progress in the development of therapeutics, which is a major focus the MBB discipline because such progress involves a breadth of techniques (from organic syntheses to clinical trials) that are impossible for a single lab to master. Graduate students benefit from the prevalence of such collaborations within MBB because they gain the broad "big picture" perspective on their work, which is essential training for the 21st century Biomedical researcher. "