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Faculty Research Interests (old)

Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty Heading link

Maria Barbolina

Barbolina, Maria V.: Associate Professor of Pharmacodynamics, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (2001) Russian Academy of Sciences

Research interests: Microenvironmental regulation of ovarian carcinoma metastasis. Signal transduction pathways. Mechanisms of chemoresistance.

William Beck

Beck, William T.: UIC Distiguished Professor Emeritus, Professor of Pharmacology and Molecular Genetics, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (1971) The George Washington University

Research interests: Molecular and genetic mechanisms of anticancer drug action and tumor cell resistance to anticancer drugs; splicing factors in cancer initiation, tumor progression, and resistance to therapy, and their potential as novel therapeutic targets to treat ovarian and breast cancers; multidrug resistance; topoisomerases in anticancer drug sensitivity/resistance.

Karol Bruzik

Bruzik, Karol S.: Professor and Associate Head for Curriculum, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (1980) Polish Academy of Sciences

Research interests: Bioorganic chemistry. Investigation of mechanisms of inositol-related enzymes and their function in cell signaling events. Synthesis of analogs of biophosphates as inhibitors and probes of enzyme mechanisms. Real-time, live-cell assay of enzymatic activities in response to receptor stimulation. Isolation, structure determination and synthesis of novel phosphoinositide second messengers.

Joanna Burdette

Burdette, Joanna E.: Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences; Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education, College of Pharmacy. PhD (2003) University of Illinois at Chicago

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Research interests: The Burdette lab is interested in biological questions that are important for women’s health. We integrate imaging, drug discovery, and basic biology to try and understand how and where ovarian cancers originate. Our research primarily uses mouse models to understand early events in ovarian cancers. We are also using natural products to uncover new progestins and anti-cancer molecules.

Paul Carlier

Carlier, Paul R.: Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences; Director, UICENTRE, PhD (1988) Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Research interests: Medicinal Chemistry for Global Public Health. Malaria is a scourge in the developing world, affecting 200 million people and killing nearly 450,000 annually. We are taking a two-pronged strategy to reduce malaria transmission and mortality. Firstly, new antimalarial drugs are urgently needed to treat infected individuals, and we are working with Prof. Cassera (Univ. Georgia), and Dr. Totrov (Molsoft LLC) to develop a new classes of antimalarial drugs that engage new biological targets in the parasite. Secondly, we are working with Prof. Mike Klemba (Virginia Tech) to determine the biological target of mefloquine (MQ), a currently used prophylactic drug. By identifying the target of MQ we will be positioned to discover new antimalarials that lack the neuropsychiatric side-effects of MQ. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria also pose a great threat to public health in the developed world.

CT Che

Che, Chun-Tao: Harry H.S. Fong Professor of Pharmacognosy, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. PhD (1982) University of Illinois at Chicago

Research interests: Interested in natural drugs and Chinese medicine, including: 1. Natural products chemistry: isolation, characterization, and structural elucidation of secondary metabolites from medicinal plants and other natural sources. 2. Biologically active natural substances. 3. Chemical/biological standardization and quality assessment of herbal drugs and herb-based preparations. 4. Development of analytical techniques for herbal drug analysis. 5. Development of evidence-based Chinese medicine and other natural products

Alessandra Eustaquio

Eustaquio, Alessandra: Associate Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. PhD (2004) Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany

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Research interests: Specialties: Genetic engineering, microbiology, natural product biosynthesis, drug discovery, chemical biology, synthetic biology.

Michael Federle

Federle, Michael J.: Professor, Molecular Mechanisms and Therapeutics Concentration Coordinator, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences; Director, Center for Biomolecular Sciences, PhD (2002) Emory University, Atlanta

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Research interests:Research focuses on discovering and understanding how bacteria communicate among themselves as a means for organizing group behaviors, especially behaviors facilitating the initiation and progression of disease in humans.  Cell-to-cell communication in bacteria, termed Quorum Sensing, relies on a language of small, secreted signaling molecules called autoinducers.  Bacteria detect and respond to autoinducers through various types of receptor proteins sitting atop gene regulatory networks.  it is my goal to identify and describe the production and structure of new autoinducers and their cognate signal-transduction networks that contribute to the pathogenic state of the microorganism.  Our lab will use classic bacterial genetic and molecular biology techniques combined with conventional genomic, proteomic, and metabolomic analyses to identify components and targets of these signaling systems.  Structural analysis of autoinducers and receptors, as well as screening for inhibitory compounds, will also be a focus of our work.  I am concentrating my efforts on Gram-positive pathogens, as these organisms pose the most current threat in developing resistance to multiple antibiotic treatments.  It is my hope that our research will lead to the development of new therapies that exploit and confuse communication systems bacteria use to organize attacks on the body.

Scott Franzblau

Franzblau, Scott, G.: Albert Schatz Professor and Director of the Institute for Tuberculosis Research, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (1982) University of Arizona

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Research interests: New drug discovery from natural and synthetic sources for tuberculosis; high throughput screening assay development; new drug target identification using proteomic and metabolomic analyses of dormant M. tuberculosis, low-tech clinical drug susceptibility assay development.

Nancy Freitag

Freitag, Nancy: Professor and Head, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (1989) University of California, Los Angeles

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Research interests: Understanding the molecular mechanisms by which pathogenic bacteria cause disease as well as the host immune responses that limit infection

Yu Gao

Gao, Yu (Tom): Associate Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (2014) The Scripps Institute

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Research interests: Chemical biology, development of novel chemical and informatics tools to investigate the proteome and complex biological system. By combining chemical screening, mass spectroscopy-based proteomics/metabolomics, and informatics, Dr. Gao’s research aims to interrogate the proteome and to elucidate protein interactions (including protein-protein and protein-small molecule interaction).

Richard Gemeinhart

Gemeinhart, Richard A.: Professor of Pharmaceutics and Bioengineering, Pharmaceutics & Drug Discovery Concentration Coordinator, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences; Research Integrity Officer and Associate Vice Chancellor for Research, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, PhD (1999) Purdue University

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Research interests: Micro/Nanostructures. Therapeutic Drug Conjugates. We are interested in designing polymers that interact with cells to elicit a desired biologic response. We currently have projects in the areas of cellular differentiation and cancer treatment. By utilizing and mimicking biologic interactions into synthetic polymers, the desired properties of the polymer can be exploited. The biologic motifs allow the cells or tissue to respond in a natural manner to the polymer resulting in more natural regeneration, regrowth, or cellular death.

Les Hanakahi

Hanakahi, Les: Associate Professor of Pharmacology, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (1996) Yale University

Research interests: Genome instability is a hallmark of cancer, and malfunctions in DNA double-strand break repair drive the large rearrangements that are seen in many cancers.  My group studies the role of DNA double-strand break repair in oncogenesis, development of DNA repair factors as targets for new cancer therapies, and the potential for use of DNA repair factors as predictors of therapeutic response in personalized medicine.

Matt Henke

Henke, Matt: Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (2016) Northwestern University

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Research interests: Investigating the roles that molecules made by gut bacteria associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease may play in the onset and severity of disease

Michael Johnson

Johnson, Michael E.: Professor Emeritus, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (1973) Northwestern University

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Research interests: Structural biology of proteins and RNA; structure-based design of therapeutic agents using modern techniques of computer-aided drug design, combinatorial expansion, in silico screening of chemical libraries and related technologies. Modern biotechnology provides an enormous range of tools for the development of new therapeutic agents to treat infectious diseases and other human ailments.

Karl Larsen

Larsen, A. Karl:  Clinical Professor of Forensic Science, Forensics Concentration Coordinator, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (1993) University of Illinois at Chicago

Research interests: Forensic Toxicology, Controlled Substances, Intoxicating Compounds .

Steve Seung-Young Lee

Lee, Steve Seung-Young: Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (2014) Purdue University

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Research interests: The Lee laboratory aims to develop novel bioengineering tools and methods for pharmaceutical science research investigating cancer, vascular and inflammatory diseases. To better understand and improve pharmaco-kinetics and dynamics of therapeutic agents, we currently focus on developing: 1) Integrated molecular assay platforms; 2) High-throughput computational data analysis systems; and, 3) Combination drug delivery strategies.

Alexander Mankin

Mankin, Alexander S.: The Alexander Neyfakh Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy and Distinguished University Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (1982) Moscow State University

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Research Interests: Mechanisms of protein synthesis; structure, function and evolution of ribosome and ribosomal RNA; mechanisms of action of ribosome-targeted antibiotics.

Terry Moore

Moore, Terry W.: Associate Professor, Chemistry in Drug Delivery Concentration Coordinator, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (2008) University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Research Interests:Our research group is interested in inhibiting protein-protein interactions implicated in the progression of certain types of cancer, particularly hormone-responsive and -refractory cancers.  Specifically, we are interested in inhibiting the Nrf2/Keap1 interaction, an interaction involved in various disease states because of Nrf2’s central role in regulating the cell’s response to reactive species. The second project is focused on inhibiting the interactions of nuclear receptors with coactivators. We study these interactions using fluorescence-based assays, and the lab uses the tools of synthetic medicinal chemistry to develop both small molecule- and peptide-based inhibitors.

Brian Murphy

Murphy, Brian T.: Professor, Pharmacognosy Concentration Coordinator, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (2007) Virginia Tech

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Research interests: The Murphy lab studies the discovery of new natural product antibiotic leads from bacteria they collect from aquatic environments. In the past few years, we have created innovative methods to improve early stages of this antibiotic discovery process. These include 1) a mass spectrometry-based bioinformatics tool (IDBac) that is used to rapidly create 'smart' libraries of environmental bacteria; and 2) a dual sided agar plate assay (DAPA) that allows bacteria to compete on opposing sides of a solid support in individual wells. We integrated these into a new 'Environment to Bioassay' antibiotic discovery pipeline that combines high-throughput robotics with DAPA and IDBac to rapidly select, screen, and prioritize antibiotic-producing bacteria.

John Nitiss

Nitiss, John L.: Professor of Pharmacology, Assistant Dean for Research, Rockford Campus, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (1986) Illinois Institute of Technology

Research interests: The Nitiss laboratory uses a combination of genetic and biochemical tools to understand the action of anti-cancer agents.  Our hallmark approach uses yeast as a model system to define the pathways responsible for cell killing and drug resistance by anti-cancer drugs, and to apply insights obtained with yeast to in vitro biochemical systems and to mammalian cells.  We have been particularly interested in anti-cancer drugs that target DNA topoisomerases, and how topoisomerases influence genome stability.

Hayat Onyuksel

Onyuksel, Hayat: Professor Emerita, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (1978) University of London, London, UK

Research interests: Developing novel targeted nanomedicines for cancer, Alzheimer's, inflammatory diseases and mRNA therapeutics. Drug delivery using nanotechnology and nanomedicine. Early detection and targeted chemotherapy of breast cancer.  Formulation and delivery of peptide and protein drugs using lipid-based carrier systems. Targeted therapy of rheumatoid arthritis and hepatic/renal fibrosis. Liposomes (StealthR, targeted and conventional) as drug delivery systems, ultrasound contrast agent and model membranes.

Jimmy Orjala

Orjala, Jimmy: Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (1993) Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, Switzerland.

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Research interests: Our research is focused on three areas: 1. Discovery of pharmacological active natural products from cultured cyanobacteria. 2. Chemical communication between microorganisms and its role in the phenomenon of ‘uncultivable’ microorganisms. 3. Novel antineoplastic agents from higher plants. Our research tools are modern chromatographic methods coupled with sensitive analytical techniques, such as microcoil NMR techniques, and molecular target assays.

Guido Pauli

Pauli, Guido F.: Norman R. Farnsworth Professor of Pharmacognosy Professor and University Scholar, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Director, Pharmacognosy Institute, PhD (1993) Heinrich Heine–University Düsseldorf; Pharm.D., 1988, Philipps University Marburg

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Research interests: Within the realm of modern pharmacognosy, investigation of traditional as well as novel natural products by means of chemical, biological, pharmacological and metabolome analysis. Research tools are computer-aided structure elucidation, multidimensional andquantitative NMR, modern chromatographic methods includingcountercurrent chromatography, in tandem with in vitro and in vivo biology and pharmacology as well as microbiological methods. Relying on this tool chest, research focuses are in phytopharmacy and phytochemistry, herbal dietary supplements, reference materials, anti-TB drugs and mycobacterial secondary metabolites.

Pavel Petukhov

Petukhov, Pavel A.: Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (1998) Novosibirsk Institute of Organic Chemistry, Russia

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Research Interests: Development of new methods and biologically orthogonal chemical tools for chemical biology and translation of this knowledge to discovery of novel therapeutically relevant compounds; structure-, ligand-, and fragment-based drug design using a mix of medicinal chemistry, computer-aided drug design, and bioinformatics. The current focus of the laboratory is on the development of methods for characterization of multiple binding modes of the ligands in the binding sites of histone deacetylases (HDAC) using photoactivatable chemical probes and discovery of novel inhibitors of HDACs, calpain, beta-secretases 1 and 2, pantothenate synthetase, and malate synthase with potential application in cancer, neurological and bacterial diseases.

Andrew Riley

Riley, Andrew P.: Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (2015) University of Kansas

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Research interests: Research in the Riley Lab is focused on the investigation of small molecules inspired by natural products. Employing the tools of modern synthetic and medicinal chemistry we aim to access natural products and their derivatives to investigate how they interact with their macromolecular targets. In doing so, we look to answer important biological questions and provide novel treatment options in the areas of pain and cancer.

Shilpa Sant

Sant, Shilpa P.: Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (2008) Université de Montréal

Research interests: The goal of our laboratory is to develop an independent and multidisciplinary research program at the interface of biomaterials, controlled drug delivery, and tissue engineering. We use interdisciplinary approach to build biomimetic microenvironments in vitro based on our expertise in the Pharmaceutical Sciences, Materials Sciences, Cell Biology and Micro/nanotechnologies. Specifically, we aim to develop tissue-engineered tumor models that recreate the three-dimensional structure, cell-cell/cell-matrix interaction, stromal environments, and signalling cues present in vivo. These three-dimensional models will be used for understanding the pathophysiology of the disease as well as for preclinical evaluation of drug safety and efficacy.

Doel Soejarto

Soejarto, D. Doel: Professor Emeritus, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (1969) Harvard University

Research interests: Taxonomy and conservation of plants, with special focus in Southeast Asia, particularly, Vietnam and Laos, and study of plants used in indigenous therapy, as well as tropical rainforest explorations of new and potential medicinal plants (bioprospecting), as part of collaborative research projects at UIC. I also study the taxonomy of the family Actinidiaceae. Since 1998, I have been directing an international collaborative program to study the biodiversity of Vietnam and Laos, as part of the International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups (ICBG) Program ( and of the Fogarty International Center, NIH. Our ICBG program activities include floristics and conservation at Cuc Phuong National Park; studies of medicinal plants of Laos; biological evaluation of plants of Vietnam and Laos using anti-HIV, anticancer, anti-TB and anti-malarial bioassays toward the discovery of biologically active molecules as potential candidates for pharmaceutical development; and the promotion of economic development among communities in Vietnam and Laos, where our ICBG work is being undertaken. Aside from UIC as base institution, our ICBG consortium members include Purdue University, Vietnamese Academy of Science and Technology in Hanoi (Institute of Biotechnology, Institute of Chemistry, and Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources), Cuc Phuong National Park (Vietnam), Traditional Medicine Research Center in Vientiane (Laos), and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (industrial partner).

Douglas Thomas

Thomas, Douglas D.: Associate Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (2000) Louisiana State University

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Research interests: Our goal is to elucidate fundamental mechanisms to explain the etiologies of cancer. In addition to gene mutations, aberrant epigenetic modifications also play major roles in cancer development and progression. The primary focus of this lab is to investigate the myriad of abnormal epigenetic modifications that have been associated with tumor phenotype via tumor suppressor silencing or upregulation of oncogenic proteins. Our approach uses both in vitro and in vivo model systems coupled with a multitude of methodologies including mass spectroscopy, confocal microscopy, electron paramagnetic resonance imaging of free radicals, chemiluminescence, electrochemical, and molecular biology techniques. The current emphasis of our team focuses on genome-wide analysis of events leading to the development and ultimate treatment of breast cancer.

Debra Tonetti

Tonetti, Debra A.: Professor of Pharmacology, Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (1990) Loyola University Chicago

Research interests: Pharmacology and biology of breast cancer including mechanisms of endocrine-resistance and pregnancy-associated breast cancer. Protein Kinase C signaling as a mechanism of tamoxifen-resistant breast cancer. Pregnancy Associated Breast Cancer. Interaction of soy phytoestrogens with tamoxifen for the chemoprevention of breast cancer.

Zongmin Zhao

Villegas, José: Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (2017) University of Pennsylvania

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Research interests: Computational modeling and drug design. Development of peptide-based therapeutics for targeting cancer and HIV. We specifically aim to exploit the emergent properties of peptide assemblies to develop novel mechanisms of actions in order to accelerate the drug discovery process and combat drug resistance.

Don Waller

Waller, Donald P.: Professor Emeritus, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (1974) The Ohio State University

Research interests: Reproductive pharmacology and toxicology, STD prevention in women, environmental toxicology. Characterization of PCB exposures in pregnant African American women through ingestion of fish from Lake Michigan. Toxicology studies on new contraceptive devices and agents. Antifertility screening of plant-derived compounds and crude plant extracts. Mechanisms of male mediated effects on fetal development.

Zaijie (Jim) Wang

Wang, Zaijie (Jim): UIC Distinguished Professor, University Scholar, Professor of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutics, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (1996) University of California San Francisco

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Research interests: Pain, addiction, and natural product pharmacology.

We apply the power of neurobiology, pharmacology, molecular biology, genetics, and targeted delivery in our studies

Zongmin Zhao

Zhao, Zongmin: Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD (2017) Virginia Tech

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Research interests: Drug delivery, biomaterials, cellular engineering, immunomodulation. Our research focuses on innovating drug delivery, cellular engineering, and immunoengineering technologies for advanced therapeutics, with the ultimate goal to improve the diagnosis and treatment of a range of diseases including cancer, infectious diseases, inflammation, drug addictions, and autoimmune diseases. We exploit inspirations from intrinsic biology to fundamentally understand synthetic materials-biology interactions and to develop application-driven technologies for advanced therapeutics. The current focus of our research group includes 1) engineering living cells as the next-generation platforms to tackle biological barriers for drug delivery, gene editing, and beyond, 2) genetic engineering of cells for advanced cell therapy, and 3) biomimetic and material-driven engineering of the immune system/cells for vaccination and immunomodulation.

Adjuncts and Affiliate Faculty Heading link

Celerino Abad-Zapatero

Abad-Zapatero, Celerino: Research Professor. Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Affiliated with the Institute for Tuberculosis Research (ITR) and Center for Biomolecular Sciences (CBS). PhD Biophysics, University of Texas at Austin (1978). Postdoctoral Research Associate, Purdue University, Michael G. Rossmann (1979-1985). Structure-Based Drug Design (Abbott Laboratories, 1985-2008)

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Background and Research Interests: A physicist by training, I pursued X-Ray Crystallography and macromolecular structure (e.g. proteins, viruses) studies as an entry into the field of Biophysics. Applied the crystallographic methods of X-ray diffraction to Structure-Based Drug Design (SBDD) at Abbott Laboratories for over twenty-two years. After retirement from Abbott, I have continued to use my experience and expertise in SBDD to study targets of biomedical interest first at CBS with Prof. M. Johnson, and now anti-tuberculosis targets with Prof. Scott Franzblau and colleagues at ITR. In addition, I am pursuing new methods of optimizing drug discovery by developing ideas and concepts related to ‘Ligand Efficiency Indices’ (LEIs) as alternative variables to expedite discovery. Details can be found in the above website.

Alison Ondrus

Ondrus, Alison E.: Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences (courtesy). PhD (2009) MIT

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Research interests: The chemical structures of metabolites are repositories of biological information. How this information is encoded, interpreted, and enacted remains an uncharted dimension in human health. As our most structurally complex metabolite, cholesterol acts as a substrate for a repertoire of signaling molecules that coordinate processes in development, neurobiology, and the immune response. Accordingly, dysregulated activity of cholesterol and its metabolites lies at the heart of diseases such as cancer, neurodegeneration, and immune system disorders. Our lab uses a combination of synthetic, biochemical, and genetic tools to define how specific cholesterol metabolites wire and re-wire cellular pathways, with the ultimate goal of translating their structural code into new small molecule therapeutics..