2008–2016: The Wells Chairship


James Wells, 2008

Research adds and expands our ability to understand and manipulate complex cellular systems to understand and cure disease

Since 2008, when James Wells became chair, 13 new faculty members joined the department. This group of world-class scientists greatly expanded the department's strength in chemical and computational biology, protein and cellular engineering, and single-molecule and cellular imaging. These talented researchers enable new technologies and discoveries to solve critical molecular problems in biomedical sciences.

  • Gartner

    Zev Gartner’s work focuses the chemical conjugation strategies to construct and engineer cellular assemblies and tissues. His group engineers the body’s building blocks into defined structures spanning the subcellular to tissue length scales. Through their efforts they will a deeper understanding of fundamental biological processes relating to the establishment of tissue structure and its breakdown during disease.

  • Huang

    Bo Huang co-developed super resolution light microscopy (STORM) as a post-doc at Harvard. In his lab at UCSF he has extended this technology and applications to visualize the structure and dynamics of large macromolecular complexes in single cells. These studies tell us how our genome is organized and how proteins are structured and traffic in cells.

  • Shu

    Xiaokun Shu has developed new molecular imaging tools at allow us to visualize single molecules in cells. These tools are being applied to visualize how proteins assemble in cells and how cells are remodeled during proteolysis in differentiation and neural degeneration. His lab is housed at the Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI) that has a close partnership with Pharmaceutical Chemistry.

  • DeGrado

    William DeGrado, a pioneer in the design of proteins from first principles, moved his well-established research program from the University of Pennsylvania to UCSF. His lab is housed in the CVRI where he holds a joint appointment. He has expanded his innovative work on small molecule and protein design as an approach to understanding macromolecule structure and function, especially as it applies to infectious and cardiovascular diseases.

  • Grabe

    Michael Grabe was recruited from University of Pittsburg where he developed new computational methods for predicting small molecule transport in cell membranes. His laboratory is in the CVRI where he seeks to understand the molecular workings of ion channels and transporters as well as how these proteins work together to regulate ion homeostasis in excitable cells and intracellular organelles such as the lysosome.

  • Wang

    Lei Wang was recruited from the Salk Institute in partnership with the CVRI where his lab is housed. Lei was one of the pioneers in the development of technology to incorporate virtually any amino acid into proteins in living cells He is using this powerful technology for evolve new protein function and for molecular imaging.

  • Sheng Ding was recruited from Scripps Research Institute to the Gladstone Institute at Mission Bay. Ding's group innovated the discovery of small molecules that affect stem cell differentiation and regenerative medicine. His work focuses on discovering small molecule drugs that can control various cell fates and functions, including stem cell maintenance, activation, differentiation, and reprogramming in various developmental stages and tissues.

  • Gestwicki

    Jason Gestwicki was recruited from University of Michigan where he started his independent lab to develop small molecule treatments for protein misfolding diseases. He is housed in the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases (IND), which has a close partnership with Pharmaceutical Chemistry at Mission Bay. Gestwicki's group has pioneered the development of small molecules that modulate protein-protein interactions in the molecular chaperone network, targets that were previously recalcitrant to drug discovery efforts.

  • Keiser

    Michael Keiser joined the department from a company he co-founded, SeaChange. He too was hired in partnership with the IND where his lab resides. Keiser's lab investigates how small molecules perturb protein target networks to biological and therapeutic effect. These systems pharmacology studies allow him to predict patient and cellular drug responses, adverse drug reactions, and how drug treatment can be tailored to the individual.

  • Arkin

    Michelle Arkin was recruited from industry where she innovated the development of fragment-based drug discovery for challenging targets such as protein-protein interactions. At UCSF Michelle’s lab uses these and new technologies to identify chemical tools and drug leads for cancer and neglected diseases. In addition to her own independent laboratory she also built and manages the biology group in the Small Molecule Discovery Center (SMDC), one of the top centers for drug discovery in academia.

  • Renslo

    Adam Renslo was also recruited from industry where he leads a group using cutting-edge medicinal chemistry. Renslo's group designs and synthesizes small molecules that modulate disease pathology at the level of the enzyme, cell, and whole animal, with current projects in cancer, infectious disease, and neurodegeneration. He built and manages the medicinal chemistry component of the Small Molecule Discovery Center and along with Michelle Arkin co-leads the SMDC.

  • Altschuler and Wu

    Steven Altschuler and Lani Wu were recruited from University of Texas South­west­ern campus and are leaders in the field of systems and computational biology. This husband-wife team investigates fundamental questions about the origins and impact of cellular heterogeneity in cellular decision making, tissue development and homeostasis. Results from these studies are applied to investigate mechanisms of drug resistance, cancer evolution, and suggest new therapeutic strategies.

The research of faculty members who have been here for even a couple years has typically evolved, so the brief descriptions of their initial research presented above certainly does not encompass the totality of their research (nor even their current interests). Also not mentioned are several faculty members who finished or are finishing their careers elsewhere, and who have made great contributions to the department over the years.

Image credit: © majedphoto