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Advances in Health and Medicine

Pitt’s DDI Drives Drug Discovery


Pick a disease. Let’s say you understand its mechanism. A logical way to treat it would be with a drug. But of millions of drugs available, how might you find one that works, or create a new one?

Drug discovery is a classic example of translational science, a.k.a. “bench to bedside” research (or, in this case, “bench to medicine cabinet”). Advances made in the laboratory lead to new and more effective drugs for patients, and driving that research at Pitt is the Drug Discovery Institute (DDI), directed by D. Lansing Taylor. At DDI, Pitt biochemists study protein interactions, design new drug compounds, and develop automated technologies to enhance existing research methods.

Since it opened in 2006, DDI has expanded to include a high-production facility capable of holding 500 million chemical compounds, a molecular library screening center, and high-tech equipment that gives researchers virtually infinite drug-screening opportunities. Barry Gold, DDI associate director says, “We really focus on teamwork here at Pitt. In fact, other universities are copying how we’re keeping our experts and their equipment in close proximity.”

Dennis Curran helped develop AR67, a new drug with anti-cancer potential. “Everyone has [his/her] own niche in academia, but we have great leaders who can relate to people up and down the pipeline,” says Curran, who collaborated not only at DDI but with colleagues in Kentucky, as well. The ability to work across distances is just one more element DDI makes possible.

Taylor thinks DDI will help Pitt find tomorrow’s drugs by partnering with today’s pharmaceutical giants. “By combining our intellectual power with [pharmaceutical partners’] business knowledge, we will gain mutual value that will help our institution and the world,” he says.