Skip to Content Skip to Footer

Faculty in the PhD-BPS program conduct cutting edge research in a variety of areas. Descriptions of faculty research activities can be found below, and additional information can be found the faculty profiles page.

  • Bradley Andresen, Ph.D. (Molecular Pharmacology)

    The Andresen Laboratory focuses on G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) and signal transduction. Dr. Andresen is fond of saying that we all appreciate GPCRs as they are responsible for our senses of sight, taste, and smell. Moreover, GPCRs are the most targeted class of proteins by drugs, and there is still great potential for targeting GPCRs and GPCR signal transduction in the treatment of multiple diseases. Dr. Andresen’s expertise is split between the cardiovascular system and cancer; however, the principles of GPCR signaling can be applied to any disease state. Projects in the Andresen lab include identifying novel ligands to GPCRs, studying the structure and functional relationships of GPCRs, and GPCR signal transduction. Additionally, the Andresen Laboratory collaborates with the Huang Laboratory on a cancer prevention project. The cancer prevention project examines the mechanism via which carvedilol delays and prevents cancer.

    View faculty profile.

  • Simon Bulley, PhD (Cardiovascular Physiology)

    I am interested in studying how small vessels within the body regulate blood pressure, and how those processes are altered in cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension. Our laboratory is also studying the effects of dehydration on arterial function, as while it is known that reducing water intake can impact how our cardiovascular system functions, it is less clear what mechanisms are altered. In particular, we study the expression and function of receptors, such as G-protein Coupled Receptors (GPCRs), and channels, such as aquaporins within vascular smooth muscle cells and endothelial cells which are important in regulating how our body responds to changes in blood pressure and flow. Experimentally, we use a combination of novel, knockout models and pharmacological tools, to identify promising therapeutic targets. Techniques include RT-qPCR, Western Blot, and Immunofluorescence to monitor changes in expressions, and electrophysiology, myography, and telemetry, to measure alterations in function and blood pressure, respectively.

    View faculty profile.

  • Preshita Desai, PhD (Drug Delivery & Nanotechnology)

    Dr. Desai’s laboratory specializes in the development of pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical formulations, and its scientists proudly refer to themselves as the “chefs” of the pharmaceutical industry. Their primary focus is on nanotechnology-based targeted delivery systems, which aim to enhance the efficacy of drugs and drug products. The lab’s research activities involve strategic design, development, optimization, scale-up, and in vitro-in vivo characterization of novel pharmaceutical formulations using Quality by Design (QbD) methodologies.

    Dr. Desai’s lab has a particular interest in translational research related to the management of neural ailments, cancer chemoprevention and treatment, and cosmeceuticals. The lab has a strong track record of productivity and innovative research, as evidenced by numerous scientific presentations, peer reviewed publications, extramural grant fundings, book chapters, and three granted patents.

    View faculty profile.

  • Ying Huang, PhD (Cancer Therapeutics)

    Dr. Huang’s laboratory is interested in discovering new agents and molecular targets for cancer chemoprevention. Starting from 2011, her laboratory began to study skin cancer chemoprevention, for which her group has established several in vitro and in vivo model systems to evaluate the protective efficacy of the b-blocker drug carvedilol on UV radiation induced skin cancer. For repurposing carvedilol as a skin agent, her group developed a novel topical nano-delivery system for carvedilol and the non-β-blocking isomer R-carvedilol. Her laboratory currently is conducting several NIH funded projects: 1) Chemoprevention of UV-induced immunosuppression and skin cancer; 2) Chemoprevention of tobacco smoking induced lung cancer, and 3) Functional studies of the stress hormone receptors in skin injuries caused by environmental stressors, including UV radiation and chemical threats. Furthermore, her laboratory has been continuously funded by biotech industry for more than 12 years for conducting preclinical pharmacology, toxicology, formulation, and pharmacokinetic studies.

    View faculty profile.

  • Maria Lambros, PhD (Drug Delivery & Pharmaceutics)

    Dr. Lambros research interests include physicochemical evaluation and formulation of pharmaceuticals, drug delivery systems including aerosols and dermatologicals, and studies on the interaction of proteins with lipid membranes.

    View faculty profile.

  • Lyna Luo, PhD (Computational Biology)

    Membrane proteins are the cellular gateways to the environment, performing many functions including sensing temperature, voltage, force, and pressure. Dr. Yun Lyna Luo’s current research focuses on applying computational biophysics/chemistry tools to understand how membrane proteins function by changing their conformations in response to mechanical force or voltage. She then leverages those mechanistic insights for rational drug design. Her laboratory also develops computational methods for predicting reversible-covalent drug binding and protein dynamical allosteric networks.

    View faculty profile.

  • Kabir Lutfy, PhD (Neuropharmacology)

    Our laboratory is interested in the role of neuropeptides, particularly opioid peptides, in the rewarding and addictive effects of psychostimulants, opioids, nicotine, and alcohol. We are also interested in the role of these peptides in food reward, binge eating, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. We use behavioral approaches to measure drug/food reward, reinforcement, anxiety, depression, and locomotor sensitization following acute and chronic administrations of drugs/palatable food. We also use molecular and neurochemical approaches, such as microdialysis, western blot, rt-PCR, etc., to assess changes in the level of dopamine, glutamate, stress hormones, and opioid peptides in different brain areas, as well as in plasma glucose and insulin levels and activity of the enzymes involved in glucose homeostasis in response to repeated administration of addictive drugs and palatable food.

    View faculty profile.

  • Arbi Nazarian, PhD (Neuropharmacology)

    Research in Dr. Nazarian’s laboratory examines the intersection of pain and psychiatric conditions. The primary focus is to examine how pain and substance abuse can influence one another. It is now understood that a major commonality among those suffering from substance use disorders is the present or prior experience with acute or chronic pain. The primary approach in examining pain and substance use involves behavioral pharmacology studies investigating the role of various receptor and neurotransmitter systems (e.g. opioid and dopamine) using rodent models. The work is typically supplemented by cellular, molecular, and histological examinations to better understand the brain mechanisms involved in pain and substance abuse. The inclusion of female rodents and examination of sex differences is deeply engrained and a standard procedure in the laboratory. Students who graduate from Dr. Nazarian’s laboratory develop a strong background in neuroscience, present their research at scientific meetings and publish their findings.

    View faculty profile.

  • Stephen O’Barr, PhD (Immunology)

    My group studies the role of inflammation in acute and chronic conditions. We have developed a zebrafish model of heart failure to study the “smoker’s paradox”. With this model, we screen alpha 7 nicotinic receptor agonists and electronic cigarette vapor (E-vapor) extract to determine their anti-inflammatory effects in heart failure, and their potential as therapeutic candidates. We are currently translating ourzebrafish findings into an established mouse model of heart failure and are testing novel anti-inflammatory formulations and E-vapor from JUUL devices on inflammatory changes in cardiovascular disease.

    View faculty profile.

  • Peter Oelschlaeger, PhD (Infectious Diseases)

    Antibiotic resistance is a major public health concern. Bacteria become resistant to beta-lactam antibiotics such as penicillins through the expression of beta-lactamases, enzymes that inactivate the antibiotic. Beta-lactamase genes differ in nucleotide sequence, and they encode thousands of these enzymes that differ in amino acid sequence. Amino acid changes can often explain their properties like stability, substrate spectrum, and sensitivity to beta-lactamase inhibitors, which are often co-administered with beta-lactams to restore their effectiveness. In addition, beta-lactamase genes have synonymous mutations, meaning they do not result in an altered amino acid sequence. What exactly the role of these synonymous mutations is in the evolution of beta-lactamase genes is not well understood and is currently to focus of research in the Oelschlaeger laboratory. We address this question with microbiological, biochemical, biophysical, and bioinformatic approaches. Techniques used include bacterial growth competition assays, Western blots, circular dichroism spectrometry, building databases, and sequence analysis.

    View faculty profile.

  • David Sanchez, PhD (Infectious Diseases)

    The focus of my laboratory is to better understand how viruses cause disease in the face of our immune system. Viruses have evolved to hijack key proteins in immune cells to allow the viruses to better replicate inside the host.

    Our laboratory is currently focused on determining how HIV, herpesviruses and SARS-CoV-2 are able to manipulate an antiviral protein called interferon. Interferons, just as their names imply, interfere with virus replication. If viruses block interferon, they are able to grow to higher levels. By determining which viral proteins are being used to target interferon function we can develop drug targets to stop this process and let the immune system fight the virus as it normally does.

    Overall, our laboratory is focused on better defining how viruses manipulate the immune system so that we can better understand how to control the virus and limit disease.

    View faculty profile.

  • Jeffrey Wang, PhD (Pharmacokinetics)

    Dr. Wang’s research interest is to apply the principles of pharmacokinetics, drug metabolism and pharmacodynamics to drug discovery and delivery. He has co-edited one book entitled Antibody-Drug Conjugates, the 21st Century Magic Bullets for Cancer and published over 80 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. He is a co-inventor of several U.S. and international patents. Current active projects in Dr. Wang’s research lab include chemical modification of a natural product celastrol in search of an anti-cancer drug with better drug-like properties and encapsulation of celastrol in silk fibroin nanoparticles to improve its in vivo fate and efficacy/toxicity profiles. He is also collaborating with other researchers for studies such as the impact of bariatric surgery on drug pharmacokinetics, and development of nanoformulations for skin and lung cancer chemoprevention.

    View faculty profile.

  • Jianming Xie, PhD (Immunotherapeutics)

    The Xie Lab is focused on engineering immune cells to target cancer and HIV. Specifically, we are interested in developing novel chimeric antigen receptors (CAR) to redirect T cells and NK cells against cancer or HIV. CARs are hybrid receptors consisting of an antibody-based antigen-recognition domain and an immune cell-derived intracellular signaling domain. CAR-T cell therapies have recently revolutionized cancer treatment but are still associated with many limitations. We are devoted to developing novel CAR immune cells with enhanced specificity, sensitivity, and safety. Recently, we developed a CAR-NK cell that can “recognize” HLA loss in cancer cells, providing a novel approach to enhance cancer targeting. In another area, we developed a universal CAR-T/NK cell able to recognize various epitopes, which may help to overcome the diversity and mutability of HIV-1. In the long term, we hope our research can lead to novel immunotherapies that help patients with these life-threatening diseases.

    View faculty profile.