The Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases

Texas Therapeutics Institute

Faculty

Zhiqiang An, Ph.D., Professor and Director, Robert A. Welch Distinguished University Chair in Chemistry

Qingyun (Jim) Liu, Ph.D., Professor and co-Director, Janice D. Gordon Distinguished Professor in Bowel Cancer Research

Ningyang Zhang, Ph.D., Associate Professor

Nathan Bryan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Kaplana Mujoo, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Wenliang Li, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Clifford Stephan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Kendra Carmon, PhD. Instructor

Texas Therapeutics Institute TTI

Texas Therapeutics Institute (TTI) at The Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine (IMM), established in 2010, is the headquarters of a consortium of the University of Texas Health Science Center Houston (UTHealth), MD Anderson and UT Austin.  TTI was created to develop and commercialize medical discoveries, particularly pharmaceuticals.  It is funded in part by the Texas Emerging Technology Fund.  

Dr. Zhiqiang  An, Professor and Director
Dr. An has an outstanding track record in the pharmaceutical industry, including the delivery of several clinical candidates of monoclonal antibodies.  His current major research interest is on the mechanism of resistance to antibody treatment in breast cancer.   Drug resistance is often a limiting factor for clinical efficacy of existing cancer therapies. Dr. An’s research team is studying cancer drug resistance mechanisms in the HER/ErbB signaling pathways using monoclonal antibodies as platform technology.  Dr. An’s team is exploring mechanisms of cancer drug resistance and discover/develop antibodies for potential diagnostic and therapeutic applications.  Dr. An is also a professor at The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

Dr. Qingyun Liu, Professor and co-Director
Dr. Liu’s group will be focused on understanding the functions of a group of receptors (LGR4, LGR5, and LGR6) that play critical roles in normal growth and development, as well as to the initiation, growth and metastasis of cancer, especially of colon cancer.   We are in the process of identifying the endogenous ligands of these receptors.  Our goal is to delineate the signaling mechanisms of these receptors and identify small molecule/biologicals that can modulate the activity of this system for the development of novel therapeutics in regenerative medicine and cancer treatment. 

Dr. Ningyan Zhang, Associate Professor
The proteolytic process mediated by proteinases including matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) in the tumor microenvironment plays a critical role in tumor growth, invasion, metastasis, and cancer drug resistance. Dr. Zhang and her team will study the interactions between proteinases and anti-tumor antibodies in the tumor microenvironment and will delineate the roles of proteinses (MMPs) play in tumor resistance to cancer antibody therapies.

Dr. Wenliang Li, Assistant Professor
Dr. Li’s lab is interested in studying cancer metastasis that is responsible for over 90% of cancer death. Much of their work involves in functionally exploring human kinome (kinases) in vitro and in vivo, to identify new players in cancer metastasis, as an avenue to gain novel insights into the still elusive mechanisms of metastasis. The goal of their studies is to discover new prognostic markers, drug targets and better therapeutics for human metastatic diseases.

Dr. Nathan Bryan, Assistant Professor
Dr. Bryan's research is dedicated to providing a better understanding of the interactions of nitric oxide and related metabolites with their different biological targets at the molecular and cellular level and the significance of these reactions for physiology and patho-physiology. Attempts are made to identify what particular changes in NO-related signaling pathways and reaction products occur in disease states such as endothelial dysfunction, ischemia/reperfusion, tissue/cardiac protection, diabetes, atherosclerosis and inflammation with the aim of testing their amenability as biomarkers for diagnosis and/or treatment of specific disease.  Current research is directed to understand the interactions of exogenous dietary nitrite/nitrate (NOx) on the endogenous NO/cGMP pathway and how perturbations in each system affect cardiovascular health.  Dr. Bryan and colleagues recently discovered that nitrite is a biologically active molecule which was previously thought to be an inert breakdown product of NO production. These findings have unveiled many beneficial effects of nitrite in the treatment and prevention of human disease.  These discoveries may provide the basis for new preventive or therapeutic strategies in diseases associated with NO insufficiency and new guidelines for optimal health.  Dr. Bryan has published a number of highly cited papers and authored or edited 4 books.

Dr. Kaplana Mujoo, Assistant Professor
Dr. Mujoo‘s laboratory is interested in evaluating the role of nitric oxide and cyclic GMP signaling in proliferation and differentiation of  stem cells and cancer. Nitric oxide-cyclic GMP pathway exhibits an important physiological role in cardiovascular and other cell systems.  Our studies have provided evidence of the differential expression and function of various NO signaling components in stem cells and in various cancer models. Current research is focused on elucidating the molecular mechanisms of cGMP dependent protein kinase G (PKG) and cGMP dependent phosphodiesterases (PDE) in cell fate determination of stem cells and eventually in measuring the potential benefits of the pathway to repair cardiac injury. Furthermore, we are interested in evaluating the role of NO receptor sGC and its downstream effecter PKG as  molecular biomarker (s) for progression of prostate cancer.  

Dr. Clifford Stephan, Assistant Professor
Dr. Stephan received his Ph.D. from the Department of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee. He is a vascular biologist with extensive experience in pharmacology and drug discovery. Dr. Stephan began his biotechnology/pharmaceutical career at Encysive Pharmaceuticals, Houston, Texas in 1993. He started and ran the High Throughput Screening New Drug Discovery Program at Encysive, becoming its Director in 2005. Since 2007 he has served as the Director of the John S Dunn high-throughput and high-content screening core laboratory of the Gulf Coast Consortium (GCC) for Chemical Genomics and is responsible for all screening campaigns, data acquisition, analysis and database management. Beginning in 2011, Dr. Stephan will serve as the Principle Investigator for the Cancer Prevention Research in Texas (CPRIT) GCC High-Throughput Screening Program concentrating on development of drug combinations for use in cancer prevention, overcoming resistance or decreasing overall toxicity. Dr. Stephan lectures regularly on drug discovery in graduate programs and has organized GCC workshops on high–throughput screening and its application to drug discovery research.


 

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