Faculty Research

The College of Pharmacy at the University of Iowa is comprised of two academic departments which house many faculty members whose research spans diverse fields. Their combined efforts make the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy a premiere research facility. Find out more about research areas in the college.

We invite you to view our research faculty members and information on their current research interests, within the academic departments: Pharmaceutical Sciences and Experimental Therapeutics (PSET) and Pharmacy Practice and Science (PPS).

Assistant Professor
After receiving her MD from Taishan Medical College and MS in Clinical Pharmacology from Fudan University, Dr. An joined Ruijin Hospital for 2 years as a clinical pharmacist and research scientist. Then she pursued a further study and got her PhD degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences from SUNY at Buffalo. Her graduate research focused on the role of transporter on the pharmacokinetics (PK) and pharmacodynamics (PD) of anticancer agent. Her research was further expanded after she joined the R&D group of Abbott, where she gained extensive hands on experience in clinical drug development, PK/PD modeling and simulation. Prior to joining University of Iowa, Dr. An has worked at University of Florida as an Assistant Professor for one and half years. Dr. An's research interests include building mechanism-based PK/PD modeling of small molecules (such as tysosine kinase inhibitors) and large molecules (such as Epo); understanding the mechanisms of poor brain penetration of small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors and offering novel approaches to overcome it; evaluating the transporter- and enzyme-based herbal-drug interactions.
Assistant Professor
Dr. Brogden is both a clinical pharmacist and pharmaceutical scientist, with a secondary appointment in the Department of Dermatology. Her research program explores the skin as a means of drug delivery, and as a portal for understanding underlying pathologic processes within the body. Dr. Brogden’s laboratory provides a translational and interdisciplinary setting in which clinical and laboratory research intersect, allowing a fluid transition between benchtop, animal, and human studies. Specifically, the following areas are currently being explored. 1) Development of microneedle delivery techniques for patients with challenging drug delivery needs, focusing primarily on pediatric and geriatric populations. 2) Formulation of innovative cutaneous drug preparations for treatment of localized skin disorders. 3) Elucidation of age-related changes in skin barrier and mediator expression as related to immunosenescence and the development of age-related dermatology conditions
Professor
Dr. Donovan's research interests include novel drug delivery systems in mucosal drug delivery especially via the nasal, gastrointestinal and vaginal epithelia; and mechanisms of drug absorption and disposition.
Associate Professor
In general, Dr. Doorn's work involves examining the role of reactive intermediates in toxicity and disease. Specifically, his mechanistic, hypothesis-driven research focuses on the potential role of protein modification by a reactive metabolite of dopamine metabolism in neurotoxicity and neurodegenerative disease, i.e. Parkinson’s disease. Dopamine (DA) is an important neurotransmitter that is metabolized by monoamine oxidase to 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetaldehyde (DOPAL), an intermediate shown to be reactive toward proteins and toxic to dopaminergic cells. Specifically, the following areas are being investigated. (1) Characterize the chemistry of DOPAL, with emphasis on determining DOPAL reactivity toward proteins and identifying novel ways to synthesize the DA-derived aldehyde. (2) Elucidate mechanisms for generation of DOPAL at aberrant concentrations, involving exposure to drugs, oxidative stress and environmental agents. (3) Identify proteins modified by DOPAL. The Doorn lab is developing a proteomics-based approach to isolate and identify proteins with DOPAL adducts. (4) Determine the functional consequence of protein modification by DOPAL. Several potential targets are being studied, including the proteasome and proteins involved in DA synthesis and trafficking. In summary, the Dr. Doorn is studying the biological chemistry of DOPAL, as aberrant levels of the DA-derived aldehyde may represent a “chemical trigger” for neurodegeneration (e.g. PD). This work is highly significant as outcomes of the research may yield novel targets for therapeutic intervention, and future work will evaluate the potential of aldehyde-scavenging drugs to attenuate DOPAL-mediated toxicity and neurodegeneration.
Professor of Medicinal and Natural Products Chemistry
Dr. Duffel’s current research activities are centered on enzyme-catalyzed reactions that occur with xenobiotics. The major component of this effort includes studies to better understand and predict the role that sulfotransferases play in the cytotoxic, immunologic, mutagenic and carcinogenic responses to drugs, environmental chemicals, and other xenobiotics. This exploration of sulfotransferases employs a broad array of techniques in enzymology, biological chemistry, and chemistry that range from laboratory-based to computational approaches. These studies include investigations into the molecular bases for the substrate specificities, catalytic mechanisms, stereospecificities, and regulation of these enzymes. One major current research effort is directed towards understanding how metabolites of polychlorinated biphenyls alter the catalytic function of those sulfotransferases involved in steroid hormone metabolism. Other studies include the potential roles of sulfated metabolites of xenobiotics in disruption of endocrine hormone signaling, in carcinogenesis, and in other toxicities.
Associate Professor
Dr. Elangovan's primary research focus is biomaterials and tissue engineering. He is also involved in translational and health outcomes research pertaining to the field of periodontology and implant dentistry.
Associate Professor
The main emphasis of Dr. Jin’s research is the total synthesis of various biologically active natural products and structural analogues, the discovery and development of new synthetic methods with particular interest in asymmetric reactions, and synthesis of novel anticancer agents.
Professor
Dr. Kerns’ research is focused in three programmatic areas. One research program is focused on antibiotic resistance and anti-infective drug discovery. This program employs synthetic chemistry as the foundation of an interdisciplinary strategy utilizing the design, synthesis and evaluation of novel antibiotics, analogs and molecular probes to study bacterial resistance mechanisms and to explore the development of new agents that are active against drug-resistant pathogens.

A second area of study in the Kern laboratory focuses on biologically important glycoconjugates. An emphasis within this program is the evaluation of new approaches to inhibit cellular interactions and biological processes mediated by cell surface glycosaminoglycans. The Kerns group is developing new strategies to design and synthesize non-polyanionic molecules that block or modulate physiological processes mediated by glycosaminoglycan-protein interactions.

The Kerns group also provides Medicinal Chemistry expertise and support for follow-up to high throughput screening and for a number of interdisciplinary, translational research projects focused on the design, synthesis and evaluation of novel bioactive small molecules and molecular probes. Ongoing studies include optimizing lead structures for use as chemical probes to validate new drug targets and characterizing structure-function relationships for lead structures toward the discovery of new therapeutics for a number of diseases including infectious diseases, inflammatory lung disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer.
Professor
Dr. Kirsch's research interests include macromolecular peptide prodrugs for targeted drug delivery, the kinetics and mechanisms of the chemical instability of drugs, the kinetics and mechanisms of the physical instability of dispersed and colloidal systems, and pharmaceutical package integrity technologies.
Associate Professor
We have three main research program areas in our group. The first one is on the total syntheses of novel cytotoxic marine marcrolactones. We are currently focused on the syntheses of 14-membered ring callipeltosides and aurisides. A second theme is to develop chemical strategies for the syntheses of complex Stemona alkaloids. These molecules possess challenging structures and potent biological activity. The third area of research is the application of biotransformations to problems in synthetic organic chemistry. Research efforts include the preparation of chiral synthons by enzymatic desymmetrization of meso-compounds to single enantiomers and microbial hydroxylation of heteroatoms and unactivated carbons. These chiral synthons are then employed in the total enantioselective syntheses of natural products with great biological importance: marine glycosylated and halogenated macrolides and complex alkaloids of great biological significance.
Professor
My laboratory is focused on the development and testing of non-viral gene delivery systems. This typically involves the development of peptides that either bind ionically or covalently to plasmid DNA to direct its targeting across the cell membrane and to the nucleus. We also develop glycopeptides for gene delivery, where the N-glycan mediates cell-specific targeting of DNA and receptor mediated endocytosis. The lab expertise includes solid-phase peptide synthesis, HPLC and MS, plasmid DNA and siRNA formulation, in vitro and in vivo testing of gene delivery systems and bioconjugate chemistry including N-glycan purification and PEGylation of peptides.
Associate Professor
Research in the Roman Lab focuses on the role of Regulator of G Protein Signaling (RGS) proteins in normal cellular signal transduction as well as in disease states, such as cancer. Primarily, we are interested in the discovery and development of small molecule interventions, which we call "pre-therapeutic' agents that have potential to become drugs. We are heavily interested and invested in high throughput screening to accomplish our research goals. To do so, we implement the cutting-edge technologies including dynamic mass redistribution, AlphaScreen and fluorometric, genetically encoded biosensors for interrogating RGS protein activity in cells.

One of our projects, currently supported by the National Cancer Institute, is focused on identifying small molecule inhibitors of RGS17. RGS17 is a protein upregulated in both prostate and familial lung cancers. Studies have shown that knockdown of RGS17 in these tumor types causes both tumor shrinkage and a reduction of metastatic potential of those cells. Our prime objective is to recapitulate that phenotype using chemical tools discovered through the use of High Throughput Screening (HTS). In HTS, we screen tens of thousands of diverse small molecules to identify those that inhibit RGS17s function in cancer cells. We utilized highly sophistocated robotics (check out the UI HTS facility page) to perform these screens. After identification of novel inhibitors, they can be optimized for potency, specificity and safety using medicinal chemistry techniques. On this project, we collaborate with Dr. Zhendong Jin, also in the MNPC division at Iowa, who brings his significant synthetic medicinal chemistry expertise to bear on this project. We also collaborate with Dr. Michael Henry, UI Dept. of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics (and Deputy Director of Basic Research for the Cancer Center), who is an expert in prostate cancer.
Lyle and Sharon Bighley Endowed Professor in Pharmaceutical Sciences
Dr. Salem's research interests are primarily focused on self-assembling systems, the rational design of novel drug and gene delivery systems and on the development of sophisticated scaffolds for tissue-specific regeneration. In tissue engineering, Dr. Salem's laboratory applies microfabrication techniques to novel biomaterials to provide spatial control over tissue formation and to integrate minimally invasive scaffold delivery strategies. In drug/gene delivery, he is currently exploring the synergistic application of degradable particle technology, CpG oligonucleotides and heat shock proteins for generating sustained immunotherapeutic responses against cancer.
Associate Professor
Our research group investigates the fundamental properties of protein-ligand interactions, from a physical and chemical perspective. Our primary focus is on pharmaceutically relevant enzymes. The application and development of computational chemistry often plays a central role in addressing research questions centering on the discovery and design of novel ligands to validated drug targets. Computational insights are bolstered by in vitro and in vivo assays. Ongoing projects include: i) development of parallelized in silico docking using high performance computing (HPC) on the University of Iowa's Helium cluster, ii) use of steered molecular dynamics to perform highly accurate and precise free energy calculations to accurately rank order drug leads to a number of antimicrobial and antineoplastic targets, iii) use of hybrid QM/MM electronic structure methods to understand remote allosteric modulation of enzyme catalytic power.
Assistant Professor
Dr. Stevens’ current research interests focus on extending our knowledge of intermolecular interactions for insight into structure-function relationships in small-molecule and bio-inspired pharmaceuticals. The problem of drug delivery and bioavailability presents itself uniquely for each new pharmaceutical application and remains a fundamental question. A clear understanding of material property expression, as it relates to pharmaceuticals, is rooted in a diversity of coupled and competing mechanisms requiring a commensurably diverse scientific approach for transformative insight. My research program, with its cornerstone being the advancement of Brillouin scattering (an analog to Raman scattering) into a multi-dimensional, analytical tool, emphasizes physical chemistry and the interpretation of acoustic, vibrational spectra for expanding our mechanistic understanding of drug-delivery phenomena: protein aggregation, packing polymorphism and stress-induced phase nucleation/transformations. Predictive control of these phenomena extended to current and next-generation pharmaceuticals represents the ultimate goal of my research. Members of my group will gain a multi-disciplinary experience in protein dynamics (folding, aggregation), biopharmaceuticals, mechano- and physical chemistry of solids, laser-light scattering and high-pressure physics with the emphasis being a capacity to draw substantive connections across disciplines for application to pharmaceutics.
Professor
Dr. Weiner’s research focuses on understanding the mechanisms of action of anti-cancer monoclonal antibodies, and on development of novel approaches to immunotherapy of lymphoma. He has been continually funded by the NCI since 1991 and has been the PI on the University of Iowa / Mayo Clinic Lymphoma Specialized Program of Research Excellence (P50 CA097274) since it was initiated in 2002. This grant was renewed competitively in 2007 and 2012. Dr. Weiner’s research extends from basic laboratory investigation to clinical trials. He was the first to demonstrate Toll Like Receptor 9 agonists could be used successfully as immune adjuvants in tumor immunization. He has made major contributions to our understanding of the mechanisms of action responsible for the anti-tumor activity of monoclonal antibodies, including providing evidence that, in some cases, complement can inhibit the efficacy of some monoclonal antibodies. He has established a number of collaborative research programs, including working with Dr. Aliasger Salem from the UI College of Pharmacy on novel uses of nanoparticles to enhance the anti-tumor immune response.
Associate Professor
Mick received his Ph.D. in pharmaceutics (Professor Eugene L. Parrott) from the University of Iowa in 1990. He then began working at Glaxo/Glaxo Wellcome/GlaxoSmithKline as a senior scientist. He worked in product development for 17 years and played a key role in the development of several commercial products including Wellbutrin SR 100 and 200 mg Tablets, Wellbutrin XL 150 and 300 mg Tablets, Epivir Oral Liquid, Zantac 25 mg Effervescent Tablets and Zantac Soft Gelatin Capsules. During this time he also served as an adjunct assistant professor in pharmaceutical sciences at Campbell University School of Pharmacy. He was named co-inventor on numerous patent applications, wrote several book chapters, published a number of papers, and presented numerous podium and poster presentations. Since 2008 he has been serving as Director of University of Iowa Pharmaceuticals, the College of Pharmacy’s cGMP service division. In addition to his responsibilities as Director of UI Pharmaceuticals, Mick is an associate professor of pharmaceutics.
Professor
Dr. Wurster's research interests include the physics of tablet compression, adsorption and desorption thermodynamics, solution calorimetry, analytical applications of FT-IR, surface characterization by XPS, and micellar catalysis.