Pharmacology, Toxicology and Experimental Therapeutics Track Faculty

The primary department of each Pharmacology, Toxicology and Experimental Therapeutics track faculty member is listed.

*not accepting students as a major advisor

Syed Ali, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Web Profile
My laboratory is studying the effects of nanomaterials on the central nervous system.We have demonstrated that NPs are capable of generating oxidative stress and free radicals, which may in turn produce neurotoxicity.  Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and graphenes are considered to have revolutionized the field of nanotechnology because of their light weight. However, this property can be potentially hazardous if it allows CNTs or graphenes to reach the lung and blood stream after environmental exposure.  Using in vitro and in vivo approaches,We plans to investigate the potential of CNTs to produce adverse effects on cellular systems due to their ability to cross the blood brain barrier (BBB). In addition, we are also investigating the effects of cell phone radiation on BBB integrity using both cell culture models and whole animal approach.     In addiction,my research focused also on the study of cellular and molecular mechanisms of oxidative stress and free radical-induced neurodegeneration and potential neuroprotective mechanisms of antioxidants. DWe have demonstrated that selective CNS-acting drugs, drugs of abuse, dietary supplements, environmental agents, pesticides, and organometals induce neurotoxicity by generating free radicals. Using different pharmacological and genetic approaches We have also demonstrated that peroxynitrite is responsible in methamphetamine (METH)-induced dopaminergic neurotoxicity and compromises BBB integrity.  We have s l utilizes the MPTP-mouse model of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and to examine the neuroprotective role of nitric oxide inhibitors, protease inhibitors and selective dopaminergic agonists and antagonists.

Antiño Allen, PhD
Pharmaceutical Sciences
Web profile
Our laboratory utilizes pharmacologic approaches and genetic models to examine how the changes in the neuronal microenvironment e.g. inflammation, oxidative stress affects cognitive function.

John M. Arthur, MD, PhD
Internal Medicine/Nephrology
Web profile
I am a physician-scientist with research and clinical interests in the prediction of outcomes in kidney disease. The research in my laboratory focuses on the discovery and validation of biomarkers in renal diseases including acute kidney injury, diabetic nephropathy, chronic kidney disease and glomerular diseases like IgA nephropathy. We use targeted analysis of candidate markers by multiplexed bead array, ELISA and mass spectrometry and proteomic discovery analyses by liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry to identify and qualify biomarkers in animal models and humans.

Nukhet Aykin-Burns, PhD
Pharmaceutical Sciences
Web profile
My primary interests concern the effects of environmental toxins, such as lead and PCBs, on oxidative stress and the effects of mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress on radiation-induced normal tissue damage (especially skin and liver).

Alexei Basnakian, MD, PhD
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Web page
Role of DNases in tissue injury and cell death

William Bellamy, PhD
Pathology
Web Profile
Molecular diagnostics; mechanisms of drug resistance in hematopoietic tumors.

Sarah Blossom, PhD
Pediatrics
Web page
Developmental exposure to environmental toxicants in a mouse model and understanding mechanisms of exposures on immune system, neurodevelopment, and behavior

Marjan Boerma, PhD
Pharmaceutical Sciences
Web profile
The overall objective of my research is to elucidate biological mechanisms of cardiovascular injury from exposure to ionizing radiation, and to identify potential methods for intervention. We focus on radiation-induced heart disease as a side effect of radiation therapy to the chest and cardiovascular effects of exposure to space radiation. Our research is performed with animal models of whole body irradiation and image-guided localized irradiation combined with in vivo non-invasive echocardiography, ex vivo cardiac function measurements, and histological and molecular analyses.

Michael Borelli, PhD
Web Profile
Radiology

John Bowyer, PhD
National Center for Toxicological Research
Web profile
Over the last 25 years, my research has focused on the neurotoxic effects of stimulants, particularly the amphetamines, as it relates to seizures and hyperthermia.  In the last 10 years my research interests have focused primarily on the molecular biology/toxicology aspects of neurotoxic insults as they relate to brain vasculature, specifically, the adverse effects of amphetamines on the meninges and the choroid plexus.  Most recently, our group within the FDA has been looking at mechanisms to open up the BBB to test the neurotoxicity of drugs that have minimal access to the CNS.

Gunnar Boysen, PhD
Environmental and Occupational Health
Web profile
My research focuses on how environmental and occupational exposure, nutrition, and genetic diversity influence cancer initiation, promotion and progress.

Lisa Brents, PhD
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Web profile
The objective of my laboratory is to develop treatment strategies for opioid use disorder that can be administered to pregnant women without negatively affecting fetuses.

Timothy Chambers, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Web page
My lab is focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms of anticancer drugs, in particular microtubule inhibitors such as Taxol, and agents which directly engage the cell death apparatus such as Bcl-2 inhibitors.  Our interest is on determining the signaling events that link drug induced damage to destructive or protective cellular processes.  We use cell lines, primary cell cultures, and clinically derived specimens, and utilize a broad array of biochemical, cellular and molecular techniques.

John Chelonis, PhD
Pediatrics
Behavioral assessment across species (rats, monkeys, and humans)

Daniel Doerge, PhD
National Center for Toxicological Research
Web page
Dr. Doerge’s areas of research specialization include chemical and biochemical mechanisms of toxicity, thyroid toxicology, toxicology of soy isoflavones, acrylamide, bisphenol A and inorganic arsenic. He also specializes in the applications of modern mass spectrometry that emphasize high-throughput determinations of pharmacokinetics and DNA adducts, as well as chemical risk assessment.

William Fantegrossi, PhD
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Web page
Research in my laboratory is currently focused on several categories of emerging drugs of abuse, including synthetic cannabinoids (constituents of K2/”Spice” smoking blends), analogues of cathinone (present in “bath salts” preparations), and novel arylcyclohexylamines (related to PCP and ketamine.) In an effort to better understand the biological actions of these emerging drugs of abuse, we use behavioral pharmacology techniques in rodents to compare these compounds with more the well-known drugs of abuse which these emerging drugs are designed to mimic (such as the phytocannabinoid delta9-THC, psychostimulants like MDMA and methamphetamine, and PCP).

Sherry Ferguson, PhD
National Center for Toxicological Research
Neurobehavioral toxicology
Web profile

Brendan Frett, PhD
Pharmaceutical Sciences
Web profile
Dr. Frett’s research is focused on small molecule drug design and developing enabling chemical methodologies to expedite the drug discovery process. In particular, he is interested in identifying single-agent therapies capable of controlling multiple, dysregulated pathways in cancer.

Amy Goodwin, PhD
National Center for Toxicological Research
Neurobehavioral toxicology

Robert Griffin, PhD
Radiation Oncology
Web profile
Radiation and Cancer biology, exosomes and cell to cell crosstalk in stem  cell differentiation and activity, nanomedicine applications

Qiang Gu, PhD
National Center for Toxicological Research
Web profile
Dr. Gu’s research focuses on molecular changes associated with neurotoxicity in animal and cell-culture models. This effort is aimed at identifying biomarkers for neurotoxicity assessments as well as understanding signal-transduction cascades following neurotoxic insults and ultimately, molecular mechanisms underlying neurotoxicity.

Abdallah Hayar, PhD
Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences
Web profile
Electrophysiology of olfactory bulb and cerebellar neurons – Alcohol research – Rhythmic motor movements such as licking and running – Effects of radiation on neuronal function – Imaging neuronal network – Synchronous bursting of neurons.

Robert Heflich, PhD
NCTR: Division of Genetic and Molecular Toxicology
Web profile
Bob Heflich received a Ph.D. in Microbiology from Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey in 1976. He embarked on a career in genetic toxicology through postdoctoral training with Veronica Maher and Justin McCormick at Michigan State University, studying mechanisms of DNA repair and mutagenesis in normal human fibroblasts. Bob joined the U.S. FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research in 1979 where he has remained long enough to experience four name changes in his department, starting with the Division of Mutagenesis and most recently, the Division of Genetic and Molecular Toxicology. His present research involves the development of approaches to measure and analyze mutations in laboratory animals.  Studies have been conducted to evaluate the transgenic gpt, lacI, cII, and φX174 am3 reporter genes and the endogenous Hprt, Tk, and Pig-a genes in mice and rats for sensitivity and prediction of chemical genotoxicity.  The overall goal of these efforts is the application of sensitive and predictive in vivo mutation assays for regulatory purposes. Other research interests include the development and characterization of relevant in vitro assays for evaluating the risks associated with tobacco product exposure. Bob has published over 250 papers in peer reviewed journals, has served as Editor-in-Chief of Environmental and Molecular and Mutagenesis, and participates on several FDA and international committees dealing with genetic toxicology regulatory issues.

Laura James, MD*
Pediatrics
Web profile
Acetaminophen toxicity; drug metabolism

Cynthia Kane, PhD
Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences
Web profile
We are team investigating the impact of alcohol consumption on brain function. We study the impact of alcohol across the lifespan, from the impact on a fetus when a mother drinks alcohol, through the impact of adolescent and adult binge and chronic drinking, to the impact on the aging brain.

Gur Kaushal, PhD*
Internal Medicine
Web profile
Dr. Kaushal’s research focuses on studying the role of metalloproteinases, cell death proteases and autophagy-lysosomal degradation pathways usinf models of renal diseases. The regulation of protein turnover and degradation of proteins by proteases is of vital importance in a number of clinical disorders including the pathogenesis of acute kidney injury (AKI). Since AKI is an independent risk factor for mortality and morbidity, studies on elucidation of the molecular events in AKI are important at finding therapeutic interventions that can prevent AKI. Dr. Kaushal’s studies have used mouse models of AKI including ischemia-reperfusion and cisplatin nephrotoxicity.  One of the Dr. Kaushal’s research projects is to examine the role of meprins in AKI. Dr. Kaushal originally discovered the previously unrecognized role of kidney meprins as matrix-degrading enzymes and, following systematic work, he showed the role of meprin A in ischemic, sepsis, and toxic AKI. Inhibition of meprin A provided protection from AKI. Dr. Kaushal’s findings that meprins degrades extracellular matrix components, and produce biologically active interleukin-1β from its inactive preform, have clinical significance not only in AKI, inflammation and leukocyte infiltration but also has impact in the process of cancer cell metastasis. Dr. Kaushal’s lab has identified ADAM10 as the protease involved in the shedding of meprin A from the brush-border membranes and currently he is investigating the role of ADAM10 in AKI.  Dr. Kaushal has also been working on the research project related to the mechanisms of cell death and survival signaling during AKI.  Dr. Kaushal’s lab has recently demonstrated that the executioner caspases, caspase-6 and -7 are direct transcriptional targets of p53 and showed the functional significance of this transactivation during cisplatin nephrotoxicity.  Another area of Dr. Kaushal’s research focuses on the role of autophagy in AKI as well as in chronic kidney disease (CKD). Dr. Kaushal’s studies demonstrate that induction of autophagy mounts an adaptive response, suppresses cisplatin-induced apoptosis, and prolongs survival of renal tubular epithelial cells.  We are further exploring the cross-talk between autophagy and apoptosis in AKI. Since autophagy is involved in the degradation of long-lived proteins such as ECM protein we are also investigating the role of autophagy in progressive accumulation of fibrosis in CKD.

Richard Kurten, PhD
Physiology and Biophysics
Web profile 
Current laboratory studies are focused on using tissue platforms derived from the human lung and esophagus to study infectious and allergic disease and pharmacology of smooth muscle and mucosal tissues.

Hong-yu Li, PhD
Pharmaceutical Sciences
Web profile
Research interests include drug discovery of targeted therapeutics focusing on Single Agent Poly-pharmacology (SAP), drug discovery research for “non-druggable” targets, and development of a kinase fragment library and novel synthetic methodologies for accelerating the drug discovery process.

Jia Liu, PhD
Microbiology and Immunology
Web profile
The Liu lab studies host intrinsic innate signaling using poxvirus as probing tool. We also engineer poxviruses for immunotherapy of cancer such as ovarian cancer.

Shi Liu, PhD
Pharmaceutical Sciences
Web profile
1. Signaling underlying cell survival (heart cells, aging, prevention and repair medicine) and cell death (cancer chemotherapy). 2. drug discovery (from natural products)

Annie Lumen, PhD
National Center for Toxicological Research
Web profile
Research in Dr. Lumen’s lab focuses on the development of computational (PBPK/PD/Dose-Response) models for drugs and environmental chemicals as a reliable predictive tool to support relevant regulatory decisions. We develop modeling frameworks that have the capability to do cross-species extrapolations, invitro to invivo extrapolations, and capture life-stage dependent kinetic alternations to guide dose selection during pregnancy and support other risk assessment needs for drugs and chemicals that are of interest to the agency. My lab is equipped with various modeling platforms including MATLAB, acslX, WinNonlin, GastroPlus, Simbiology, and Cluster Computation for parallel processing

Lee Ann MacMillan-Crow, PhD
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Web profile
Elucidation of biochemical mechanisms involved with kidney damage during sepsis and transplantation. Focus on mitochondria, cell death, and oxidant generation as well as novel therapies to reduce damage.

Mugimane Manjanatha, PhD
National Center for Toxicological Research
Web profile
My work involves development and application of transgenic mutational mouse models for identifying and characterizing hazards, expecially, genotoxicity and epigenetic modifications for risk assessment using “mode of action” type analysis.

Mitch McGill, PhD
Environmental and Occupational Health
Web profile
Research interests include: drug-induced liver injury, biomarkers, liver regeneration, and clinical laboratory testing.

Grover P. Miller, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Web profile
My research group investigates the role of enzymes, especially cytochromes P450 (CYP), in the activation and processing of xenobiotic chemicals, such as drugs, pollutants, and dietary compounds, from a chemist’s perspective. We specialize in the identification and validation of biochemical mechanisms through experimental approaches and often develop analytical tools along the way. Nevertheless, our projects are often multi-disciplinary and collaborative to effectively tackle complex challenges by recruiting experts in computational, analytical, and clinical research.

Shengyu Mu, MD, PhD
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Web profile
The primary interest of my research has been focusing on the pathogenesis of hypertension in renal salt-reabsorption and the systemic vasculature. The long-term goal of our laboratory is to understand the mechanism of the development of hypertension and to translate our basic scientific discovery to clinics to contribute to a final cure for hypertension.

Nirmala Parajuli, DVM, PhD
Pharmacology and Toxicology, and ACHRI
Web profile
Long-term interest of my laboratory is to understand molecular mechanisms responsible for cold storage (CS)-induced renal damage. My research focuses on exploring novel mechanisms by which CS alters protein quality and renal function after transplantation, and importantly, to identify a possible therapeutic target that could lead to improved renal outcome after transplantation. Specifically, I plan to investigate the roles of proteasome, heat shock proteins and complement pathway during CS plus transplantation. We have established a rat kidney transplantation model, which will be fundamental in studying my independent research project on CS mediated renal damage. In addition, I’m also collaborating with Dr. MacMillan-Crow to study the molecular mechanisms that disrupt mitochondrial dynamics during renal CS and transplantation using our rat kidney transplant model.

Eric Peterson, PhD
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Web profile
The overall goal of our research is to develop new antibody-based medications to treat chronic and acute methamphetamine (METH) abuse.

Steve Post, PhD
Pathology
Web profile
We are interested in understanding the mechanisms by which scavenger receptors regulate macrophage function in chronic inflammatory disease.

Paul Prather, PhD
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Web profile
I am a cellular/molecular pharmacologist whose research interests involve understanding the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the addictive states produced by drugs of abuse. Specifically, for over 20 years I have been investigating the cellular and molecular mechanisms of signal transduction mediated by G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) with which drugs of abuse interact, specifically opioids and cannabinoids.

Anna Radominska-Pandya, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Web profile
Dr. Radominska-Pandya’s research interests include, but are not limited to: Structure-function relationship studies of human UGTs; Regulation of human UGTs; Roles of UGTs and lipids as anti-proliferation agents in various cancer models; Suppression of human UGTs in cancer cells; Interactions between UGTs and Cannabinoid Receptors and their combined role in cancer prevention and treatment; Delivering UGT genes, siRNA, and/or drugs into cancer cells using nanomaterial as delivery agents; and Roles of UGTs in the biotransformation of drugs including Coumadin (warfarin), resveratrols, and drugs of abuse such as Marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids.  For more information visit webpage here.

Robert Reis, PhD
Geriatrics
Web profile 
My research focuses on the molecular genetics of longevity and age-associated diseases. I was trained in genetics, and turned to C. elegans as a model system in which to define and characterize genes that govern longevity.  Using novel gene-mapping methods we developed, we discovered over 27 highly-significant loci for lifespan, resistance to stresses, and Darwinian fitness.  Using chromosomal fine-mapping, we identified one longevity gene as REC-8, a meiotic cohesin that helps hold tetrads together and was thought to be silent in mitotic cells.  However, we showed that it actually makes somatic tissues more vulnerable to diverse stresses, while stabilizing the meiotic genome, and its depletion in C. elegans or knockout in haploid yeast increases lifespan.  My group was the first to identify the Pirin gene on the human X chromosome as a regulator of post-menopausal bone loss in women, a discovery confirmed in a Chinese population.  We also pioneered the role of homologous recombination in the development and progression of myeloma, prostate, and breast cancers. We were the first to note that cells from many different cancer types feature very high levels of homologous recombination, and high expression of the Rad51 recombinase complex that mediates it.  We are now working chiefly on genetic factors that regulate lifespan, and that contribute to protein aggregates — key toxic intermediates in neurodegenerative diseases.  We have identified proteins in specific aggregate types that are highly enriched in Alzheimer’s cortex, and many of them play functional roles in aggregate formation in C. elegans models. Their toxic effects turn out to be mediated in large part by blockage of proteasomes and autophagosomes.  We are combining exploratory proteomics and immunochemistry in human cortex and cultured neurons, with the facile genetics of nematodes, to better understand how aggregates begin, grow, and ultimately disrupt proteostasis.

Sung Rhee, PhD
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Web profile
Calcium and potassium channels on the surface membrane of vascular muscle cells control calcium influx and potassium efflux, respectively, and thereby regulate arterial diameters. My research interests are 1) using ion channel genes as therapeutic agents to normalize blood pressure, and 2) understanding molecular mechanisms that regulate traffic and expression of ion channels in vascular muscle cells during hypertension and related conditions. We use a wide range of techniques including molecular biology, biochemistry, viral gene transduction, patch clamp, vessel perfusion, confocal and super-resolution imaging, and in vivo microscopy.

Dean Roberts, PhD*
Pediatrics
Web profile 
Mechanisms of and detection of acetaminophen toxicity

Nancy Rusch, PhD
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Web profile
Our research focuses on mechanisms of vascular diseases including hypertension and lymphedema, and therapeutics for these disorders.

Sumit Sarkar, PhD
National Center for Toxicological Research
Web profile
Over the last 8 years, my research work has been focused on effect of various neurotoxicants in the brain vasculature and other components of the neurovascular unit. The components of the neurovascular units (pericytes, microglia, astrocytes, and neurons, and basal lamina) act as an intricate network to maintain the neuronal homeostatic microenvironment. Thus, disruptions to this intricate cell network due to exposure to neurotoxicant can lead to neuron malfunction and symptoms characteristic of CNS diseases. My lab investigates the role of neurovascular elements and microvasculature in neurodegenerative disorders with special emphasis on Parkinson and Alzheimer’s disease using rodent models.

Kartik Shankar, PhD
Pediatrics, Section of Developmental Nutrition
Web profile
Research in my group is focused on understanding the developmental origins of obesity and metabolic disease, including the transmission of obesity from mother to child. We employ of range of cellular, whole-animals (in mice) and translational (using clinical studies) approaches and leverage high-dimensional OMIC methodologies. In addition, to strong exposure to metabolism, obesity and reproductive endocrine research, opportunities in the lab combine learning of both wet-bench and bioinformatics related to these techniques.

Frank Simmen, PhD
Physiology and Biophysics
Web profile
Our laboratory is interested in the physiological drivers of colon and breast cancers.  Current work in the laboratory and via our collaborations includes: 1) elucidating the role of Krüppel-like factor 9 (KLF9) in cancer suppression; 2) understanding how the hormonal milieu (focus on insulin and the obesogenic environment) affects tumor cell growth; and 3) characterizing the role of Malic Enzyme 1 (ME1) in oncogenesis.  Projects use a combination of novel mouse models, human cell lines and tissues, and OMICs technologies and are translational and highly collaborative.

William Slikker, PhD
National Center for Toxicological Research
Developmental Neurotoxicology
Web profile

Amanda Stolarz, PhD
Pharmaceutical Sciences
Web profile

Ayako Suzuki, MD & PhD
Gastroenterology
Web profile

John Talpos, PhD
National Center for Toxicological Research
Web profile
For the last 15 years my research has focused on using a “translational” approach to model human cognitive impairments, and the effects of neurotoxic insults, in various pre-clinical species.   In collaboration with other members of the Division of Neurotoxicity, I use a multidisciplinary approach (behavior, immunohistochemistry, and PET imaging) to evaluate the long-term negative outcomes associated with exposure to various neuro-active compounds. In this way we hope to better understand the molecular and anatomical mechanisms of toxicity, and hopefully mitigated or reverse, the effects of this toxicity.

Vladimir Zharov, PhD, DrSc
Otolaryngology and Nanomedicine
Web profile
Dr. Zharov is currently pioneering research in identifying circulating tumor cells in the blood vessels of cancer patients, which will have a major impact on future cancer diagnosis, treatment and follow-up.

Fang Zheng, PhD
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Web profile
Molecular and celllular mechanisms of epilepsy, stroke and other neurological diseases and the discovery of novel therapeutics

Boris Zybaylov
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Web profile
I am interested in the role of non-canonical DNA structures and long non-coding RNAs in human disease. I am also interested in clinical applications of microbiome-derived protein biomarkers