Ziwei Huang, PhD, Professor and Chair, Pharmacology & Director, Cancer

Ziwei Huang, PhD, Professor and Chair, Pharmacology & Director, Cancer
Research Institute, Upstate Medical University
My laboratory works on the broad area of molecular, cellular and chemical
pharmacology with specific interests in developing and applying computer-aided,
structure-based techniques to study protein-protein and receptor-ligand
interactions implicated in cancer, viral infection, immune and inflammatory
disease, neurodegeneration, cardiovascular disease, and stem cell-based
regenerative medicine. The overall focus is on both fundamental basic research
to study and understand the pharmacological mechanism of protein-protein or
receptor-ligand/inhibitor interactions and translational drug discovery research to
apply such studies of biological recognition to the development of new therapeutics for treating human
diseases. Currently we are conducting a number of research projects as highlighted below.
We are studying the structure-function relationship and mechanism in biological recognition
and signal transduction of chemokine receptors and their ligands. For example, we study CXCR4 and
CCR5, two principal coreceptors of HIV entry, to understand their role in HIV entry mechanism and
gain more general understanding of the signaling mechanism of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs).
We have applied a combination of chemistry, biophysics, pharmacology, and cell biology to study the
structure and interaction of these GPCRs and designed novel synthetic inhibitors targeting HIV
infection via these GPCR coreceptors. In addition to HIV, we are interested in other infectious
diseases such as hepatitis C virus (HCV) and west nile virus (WNV) and developing new inhibitors of
the infection by these viruses.
We are interested in the study of proteins involved in apoptosis and angiogenesis of cancer.
For example, Bcl-2 family and IAP family of proteins are involved in apoptosis of cancer cells. We are
studying the structure-function relationship of these proteins and developing new small molecules
targeted to these proteins capable of triggering apoptosis of cancer cells. The Eph receptor family
proteins are involved in angiogenesis of cancer. We are investigating the pharmacology and
biochemistry of Eph ligand-receptor interactions and developing new synthetic molecules (both
modified peptides and non-peptidic small molecules) to probe and regulate Eph receptor functions in
Finally, we have initiated new research in the area of stem cell-based therapeutic discovery.
For example, by targeting the SDF-1a/CXCR4 axis which is a master regulator of both normal stem
cell trafficking and cancer stem cell metastasis, we are working on the discovery of novel agents that
can specifically direct/promote the migration of neural stem cells toward the injury sites in the brain
for regenerative medicine or blocking the metastasis of cancer stem cells for the treatment of cancer.
The central theme for all of our research projects, some highlighted above, is the
understanding of the pharmacological basis of protein-protein and protein-ligand interactions and
translation of such basic knowledge into the discovery of new drugs. As detailed in many of our
publications, our laboratory has developed and applied various techniques related to drug discovery,
such as computational chemistry and structure-based drug design, synthetic chemistry, biophysical
and biochemical analysis, and molecular and cellular biology and pharmacology.
Education and Clinical Training
PhD: 1993, University of California at San Diego, Chemistry
Postdoctoral Fellow: 1994, University of California at San Francisco