Major Research Areas

The Endocannabinoid Biochemical System in Drug Discovery: Cannabinergic drugs modulate the central nervous and immune systems by acting through two receptors (CB1; CB2) and two classes of endogenous ligands represented by anandamide and 2-arachidonyl glycerol (endocannabinoids). The endocannabinoid system is further regulated by the inactivating enzyme, fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), and a newly discovered transport system. We are studying the interactions of cannabinergic ligands with the above receptors, enzymes and transporters using a combination of chemical, biochemical, biophysical and computational methods. Our results are further used to design and synthesize novel therapeutically useful drugs for pain, appetite and central nervous system diseases.

Ligand Assisted Protein Structure (LAPS): This novel approach for studying the structural features involved in the interaction of a ligand (drug) with its target protein was developed within the CDD. It involves the design and development of highly selective ligands capable of interacting covalently with a functional protein (GPCR, enzyme, transporter). The ligand-protein binding motif is obtained through the combined use of protein mutants in combination with proteomic methods for characterizing the amino acid residues involved in ligand attachment at the protein binding site. The information offered is used to model the drug-protein complex by computer modeling. The results are used as a basis for the design and development of new medications.

Our research is well supported by NIH grants and offers opportunities for training in model medicinal chemistry.

Choices of projects within the Center for Drug Discovery include:

  • Drug design and synthesis
  • Chemical/biochemical approaches including LC/MS for studying drug-receptor interactions
  • NMR and other biophysical methods for drug design and discovery