I consider myself a chemical biologist with a strong background in pharmaceutical chemistry, biophysics and translational medicine. I trained at the University of Naples (Italy) where I obtained a MS in Organic Chemistry and a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences, at the ETH-Zurich (working with 2002 Nobel Laureate Prof. Dr. Kurt Wüthrich) and the University of Michigan. Prior to my recruitment in 2002 at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research as Associate Professor, I spent a few years in the pharmaceutical industry. I have been a Professor of Chemical Biology at the now Sanford-Burnham-Prebys Medical Discovery Institute for almost 15 years and I served as the Associate Director for Translational Research for the Institute’s NCI designated Cancer Center. I have been the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies at the SBP for several years and I trained numerous graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. I also taught two general courses on translational medicine and pharmacology.
Since 2015 I am a Professor of Biomedical Sciences at the University of California at Riverside, School of Medicine and I hold the Daniel Hays endowed Chair in Cancer Research. At UCR I have established a diverse and vibrant research laboratory that encompasses project scientists, post-doctoral scientists, graduate students, and undergraduate researchers. Since 2016 I am also the founding Director of the Center for Molecular and Translational Medicine at UCR (molmed.ucr.edu), an initiative that supports and facilitate UCR faculty in drug discovery and translational research activities. Since 2020 the Center is also part of a larger UC-wide Drug Discovery Consortium. My research is at the forefront of academic drug discovery and chemical biology initiatives. Our goals are to support target identification and validation studies in oncology, neurodegenerative, and infectious diseases. During my 20+ years of career in this field I have taught, trained, and inspired dozens of undergraduate students, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and young investigators to pursue careers in biomedical sciences and translational medicine. In addition to teaching specific pharmacology and drug discovery courses, I train laboratory members in the development of innovative pharmacological agents and their use in target validation studies in cellular and animal models. Central to these activities are the developing and the application of novel methods and strategies to drug discovery and translational medicine. Our focus in on the development of antagonists of protein-protein interactions using innovative approaches including the HTS by NMR, covalent agents targeting Lys, Tyr, or His residues, and structure-based design strategies.