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    Photo of Dr. Kingston
    Photo of Dr. Kingston
    Photo representing drug delivery
    chemical stone work
    Dr. Gourdie in lab
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    VBI building
    drug discovery chemistry in hood
    Allen Reitz, CEO-Fox Chase Chem. Diversity Center, Advisor to VTCDD

VA Tech Center for Drug Discovery


    Photo of Dr. Davalos

Dr. Rafael Davalos

Rafael Davalos named L. Preston Wade Professor

A member of the Virginia Tech faculty since 2006, Davalos has made significant contributions to the fields of cancer detection and treatment using advanced electroporation, biotransport, and dielectrophoresis.

    Photo of Dr. Rajagopalan

Dr. Padma Rajagopalan

Padma Rajagopalan named Robert H. Hord Jr. Professor in Chemical Engineering

Rajagopalan joined the Virginia Tech faculty in 2007 and is a leader in the field of liver tissue engineering. She has pioneered unique engineered tissue mimics that dramatically improve our ability to maintain stable and functional cultures of liver cells outside the body. She has developed the first 3-D liver mimic that can recapitulate several critical aspects of liver architecture that are found within the body.

    Photo of Dr. Zhang

Dr. Mike Zhang

Mike Zhang named Elizabeth and James E. Turner Jr. '56 Faculty Fellow

A member of the Virginia Tech faculty since 2001, Zhang's research program focuses on development of safe and effective vaccines or therapeutics to combat existing and emerging human and livestock diseases with particular expertise is the development of delivery mechanisms for vaccines and therapeutics that improve their effectiveness.

    Photo of Dr. Gourdie

Dr. Robert Gourdie

Review paper explores cardiac scar solutions

An international team of researchers from the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Instituteand the Universities of Bonn and Freiberg in Germany recently published a review paper online in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery – one of the highest ranked journals in medical research – that summarizes the potential therapeutic promise of targeting the non-muscle cells in the heart responsible for cardiac scarring.

    Photo of Dr. Davalos

Dr. Rafael Davalos


    photo of Dr. Verbridge

Dr. Scott Verbridge

Scott Verbridge and Rafael Davalos describe novel tumor treatment in Scientific Reports

The paper, "Targeted cellular ablation based on the morphology of malignant cells," describes research into a new treatment option involving pulsed electric fields (PEFs) that is better at targeting and killing malignant cells while leaving healthy cells alive.


    Photo of Dr. Gourdie

Dr. Robert Gourdie

First clinical trial for novel skin wound-healing compound is a success

Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute scientist Robert Gourdie developed a wound-healing peptide while researching how electrical signals trigger heartbeats. He never imagined that the peptide, ACT1, would prove to heal venous leg ulcers twice as quickly as the current standard of care.

    Photo of Dr. Falkinham

Dr. Joseph Falkinham


    Photo of Dr. Merola

Dr. Joseph Merola

New drug approach could offer relief to patients, hospitals fighting antibiotic resistance

The new antibiotics target the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, or staph, and the antibiotic resistant strains commonly known as MRSA, short for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

    Photo of Dr. Sobrado

Dr. Pablo Sobrado

Drug discovery researcher receives NSF support to examine enzymes that may improve human health

Pablo Sobrado, an associate professor of biochemistry in theCollege of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a Fralin Life Science Institute affiliate at Virginia Tech, studies the function of flavin-dependent enzymes, which are involved in many biochemical reactions in the cell.

    Photo of Dr. Davalos
Dr. Rafael Davalos
    Photo of Dr. Finkielstein

Dr. Carla Finkielstein 

Cancer Under Attack - Virginia Tech community forms a strong front against cancer

Cancer touches nearly everyone in some way.  Two members of the Virginia Tech Center for Drug Discovery are featured in the interesting and informative article.

    photo of Dr. Verbridge

Dr. Scott Verbridge

Undergraduate studies glioblastoma cells, the most malignant type for brain cancer

Megan Richards is one of 10 students in the Biomechanics Research Experience for Undergraduates at Virginia Tech this summer.  She works in the Laboratory for Integrative Tumor Ecology under the guidance of Scott Verbridge, assistant professor in the School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences.

    Photo of Dr. Lu

Dr. Chang Lu

New technology helps personalized medicine by enabling epigenomic analysis with a mere 100 cells

A new technology that will dramatically enhance investigations of epigenomes, the machinery that turns on and off genes and a very prominent field of study in diseases such as stem cell differentiation, inflammation and cancer, is reported on today in the research journal Nature Methods.

    Photo of Dr. Merola

Dr. Joseph Merola


    Photo of Dr. Davalos

Dr. Raphael Davalos

Two Members of the Virginia Tech Center for Drug Discovery featured in
Virginia Tech is among top 100 worldwide universities granted U.S. patents in 2014

Virginia Tech ranked No. 93 because of 23 patents that it received in 2014 through Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Inc., an affiliated corporation of Virginia Tech that provides technology transfer and commercialization services to faculty, staff, and students.

Dr. Belen Cassera


    phot of Dr. Carlier

Dr. Paul Carlier

Drug discovery researchers identify, refine compound to combat malaria parasite

Paul Carlier, a professor of chemistry in the College of Science, and Maria Belen Cassera, an assistant professor of biochemistry in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, have discovered a compound that packs a mean punch to the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum 

    Photo of Dr. Mackey

Dr. Zachary Mackey

Life science researchers discover possible drug target to combat sleeping sickness

Scientists identified a protein, called proliferating cell nuclear antigen or PCNA, that is vital to the sleeping sickness parasite’s good health. Disrupting this protein with drugs could potentially make it impossible for the parasite to reproduce and survive, reducing the health dangers to its human hosts.

Dr. Lissett Bickford

Virginia Tech researcher helped find new way to use electric fields to deliver cancer treatment

A team of researchers has devised a new way to target tumors with cancer-fighting drugs, a discovery that may lead to clinical treatments for cancer patients.

    Photo of Dr. Davalos

Dr. Rafael Davalos

New technology shows promise for delivery of therapeutics to the brain

According to the authors, the current medical use of chemotherapy to treat brain cancer can be inefficient because of the blood-brain-barrier that impedes the delivery of drugs out of blood vessels and into the tumor.


    photo of Dr. Verbridge

Dr. Scott Verbridge

Advances in 'tumor engineering' lead to grant to improve drug therapy

Certain malignant tumors have illustrated an ability to evolve in such a way that they are able to resist therapy in relatively fast time frames.

    photo of Dr. Santos

Dr. Webster Santos

Webster Santos named Cliff and Agnes Lilly Faculty Fellow

Agnes Lilly established the Cliff and Agnes Lilly Faculty Fellowship to provide annual support to outstanding faculty involved with the Institute for Advanced Study in the College of Science.  The Lilly Fellowship appointment is for three years.

Chemist part of three nation group to receive nearly $1 million in international funding

The National Science Foundation, along with the National Science Foundation of China, and the German Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, have recently awarded a multi-national group, including Webster Santos, associate professor and Blackwood Junior Faculty Fellow of Life Sciences in chemistry, a three year grant worth $950,000 to examine the reactivity and application of copper boryl complexes.

    Photo of Dr. Kingston

Dr. David Kingston and Dr. Belen Cassera

Race Against Time

As malaria becomes resistant to current treatments, new molecules must be found to kill the parasite. Virginia Tech chemists are hoping one of 22,000 natural extracts hold the answer.

Scientists tap natural extracts in search for malaria drug

    Photo of Dr. Dorn

Dr. Harry Dorn, VT Carilion Research Institute, and the Chemistry Dept.

Researchers discover first evidence to support controversial theory of 'buckyball' formation

Researchers at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute have reported the first experimental evidence that supports the theory that a soccer ball-shaped nanoparticle, commonly called a buckyball, is the result of a breakdown of larger structures rather than being built atom-by-atom from the ground up.

    Photo of Dr. Valdez

Dr. Gregerio Valdez, VT Carilion Research Institute

Growth factors could be key to warding off symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and aging

An early-career researcher at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute has won his first major independent grant from the National Institutes of Health. And if his research pans out, the result could be a therapeutic technique to slow – or even stop – the onset of the most debilitating symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS.

Deeper than, 'EvoCor' identifies gene relationships

Valdez and his team designed a search engine – called EvoCor – that identifies genes that are functionally linked.

    Photo of Dr. Gourdie

Dr. Robert Gourdie, VT Carilion Research Institute

Going viral: Targeting brain cancer cells with a wound-healing drug

At the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, three scientists are planning to create a virus capable of destroying brain cancer.

Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute sets a new pace in heart research

The Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, well known for its innovative, world-class brain research, is launching a major new initiative in cardiovascular research.

Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute scientist's work could lead to wounds healing twice as fast

Robert Gourdie and his research team have developed a compound that helps tissue samples heal more quickly. Now the Catalyst grant is spurring advanced research into the repair and regeneration of damaged tissue.

First clinical trial for new skin wound-healing compound is a success

Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute scientist Robert Gourdie developed a wound-healing peptide while researching how electrical signals trigger heartbeats. He never imagined that the peptide, ACT1, would prove to heal venous leg ulcers twice as quickly as the current standard of care.


    Photo of Dr. Lu

Dr. Chang Lu, Chemical Engineering

Researchers follow a protein's travel inside cells to improve patient monitoring, develop drugs

In science, "simple and accessible detection methods that can rapidly screen a large cell population with the resolution of a single cell inside that population has been seriously lacking," said Virginia Tech chemical engineer Chang Lu.

Chang Lu receives $1.3 million grant to further research on analyzing epigenetics

For more than a decade Chang Lu, associate professor of chemical engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, has worked on the development of tools to efficiently analyze living cells. The long-term goal is to gain a better understanding of a range of diseases.

Dr. Maria Belen Cassera, Biochemistry

Stopping malaria transmission: A Virginia Tech biochemist is out for blood

The parasites responsible for the mosquito-borne infectious disease are increasingly resistant to current drug approaches, and almost half of the world is at risk of contracting an illness.

    Photo of Dr. De Vita
Dr. Raffaella De Vita, Engineering, Science and Mechanics
Raffaella De Vita receives government's highest of engineering honors to study pelvic disorders

Today, De Vita, associate professor of engineering science and mechanics at Virginia Tech, is one of 102 researchers named a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

    Photo of Dr. Zhang

Dr. Mike Zhang, Biological Systems Engineering

Biological systems engineering scientist develops critical vaccines for human, pig diseases

Pig herds infected with porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome can be financially devastating to farmers. The syndrome causes reproductive failure in sows and respiratory disfunction in young pigs.

Could a vaccine help smokers quit? 

Professor Mike Zhang's vaccine would block nicotine molecules in the bloodstream from reaching the pleasure-receiving parts of the brain.

    Photo of Dr. Edgar

Dr. Kevin Edgar, Sustainable Biomaterials

Novel polymer helps oral medications reach the bloodstream

All too often, when a person takes a pill full of a potent and effective drug, the drug passes straight through the body, not reaching the organ where it is needed — a waste of money and inconvenient if it is a cold medicine, but potentially dire if it is a treatment for a serious illness. Polymer chemists at Virginia Tech and pharmaceutical scientists at Purdue University have teamed up to design a solution

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VTCDD Member Collaborations

Dr. Abbey Whittington (Material Science Engineering), Dr. John Matson (Chemistry), Dr. Michelle Theus (Biomedical Sciences)

Awarded a $5,000 grant from VTCDD

To Study - Traumatic brain injury and regeneration: A novel therapeutic platform for drug delivery

Dr. Paul Carlier (Chemistry), Dr. Michael Klemba (Biochemistry)

Awarded a $5,000 grant from VTCDD

To Study - Positioning a class of potent, benzothiophene-core anti-malarial compounds for pre-clinical development

Dr. Marion Ehrich (Vet Med/Biomedical Sciences), Dr. Kevin Edgar (Sustainable Biomaterials)

Awarded a $5,000 grant from VTCDD

To Study - Using amorphous solid dispersion (ASD) to improve clopidogrel pharmacokinetics

Dr. Robert Gourdie (VTCRI), Dr. E. Johan Foster (MII)

Awarded a $2,500 grant from VTCDD

To Study - Development of poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) nanoparticles for the delivery of a novel Connexin-43 memetic peptide in glioblastoma stem cells

Dr. Joseph Merola (Chemistry), Dr. Joseph Falkinham (Biological Sciences)

Awarded a $4,716 grant from VTCDD

To Study - Metal complex antimicrobials: A safe and effective approach to drug resistant pathogens

Dr. Bin Xu (Biochemistry), Dr. Richey Davis (Chemical Engineering), Dr. Chenming Zhang (Biological Systems Engineering)

Awarded a $5,000 grant from VTCDD

To Study - Development of natural product-based functional nanoparticles for treatment of type 2 diabetes and its complications

Dr. Blaise Costa (VCOM), Dr. Jatinder Josan (Chemistry)

Awarded a $5,000 grant from VTCDD

To Study - Development and Pharmacological Characterization of Mechanistically Distinct NMDA Receptor Allosteric Modulators


Dr. Abby Whittington (Material Science Engineering), Dr. Timothy Long (Chemistry)

Awarded a $305,961 grant from Proctor & Gamble

To Study - Incorporating Actives into Additive Manufacturing Approaches

Dr. Josep Bassaganya-Riera (Biomedical Sciences), Dr. Raquel Hontecillas (Virginia Bioinformatics Institute)

Awarded a $1,500,000 grant from NIH/NIAID

To Study - Modeling Immunity to Enteric Pathogens

Dr. Rafael Davalos (Biomedical Engineering), Dr. Scott Verbridge (Biomedical Engineering)

Awarded a $386,000 grant from NIH

To Study - Targeted electric field therapy of malignant infiltrative glioma 1R21 CA192041-01

Dr. Webster Santos (Chemistry), Dr. Greg Valdez (VTCRI)

Awarded a $45,000 grant from Alzheimer's and Related Diseases Research Award Fund

To Study - Screening of sphingosine kinase inhibitors towards neurologic disorders

Dr. Timothy Long (Chemistry), Dr. Abby Whittington (Material Science Engineering)

Awarded a $300,000 grant from Proctor and Gamble

To Study - 3D Printing Enzymes in Water Dispersible Polymers

Dr. Jatinder Josan (Chemistry), Dr. Chenming Zhang (Biological Systems Engineering)

Awarded a $60,000 grant from ICTAS at VT

To Study - Precision Nanomedicine: Heteromultivalent Scaffolds for Fundamental Studies in Cancer Biology & Theranostics

Dr. Joe Merola (Chemistry), Dr. Marion Ehrich (Biomedical Sciences)

Awarded a $10,000 grant from Virginia Tech Foundation

To Study - Initial rodent safety studies on an iridium compound

Dr. Chenming Zhang (Biological Systems Engineering), Dr. Marion Ehrich (Biomedical Sciences)

Awarded a $727,306 grant from NIH

To Study - Novel vaccines for nicotine addiction

Dr. David G. I. Kingston (Chemistry), Dr. Maria Belen Cassera (Biochemistry)

Awarded a $2,000,000 grant from NIH

To Study - Discovery and Mechanism of Antimalarial Natural Products

Dr. Josep Bassaganya-Riera (VBI), Dr. Raquel Hontecillas (VBI)

Awarded a $75,000 grant from Children's National Medical Center

To Study - Modeling Host Responses to Influenza virus infection

Dr. Marion Ehrich (Biomedical Sciences), Dr. Josep Bassaganya-Riera (VBI), Dr. Raquel Hontecillas (VBI)

Awarded a $400,000 grant from VBHRC

To Study - Development of novel anti-inflammatories for IBD

Dr. Michael Klemba (Biochemsitry), Dr. Paul R. Carlier (Chemistry)

Awarded a $3,000 grant from Fralin Life Science Institute

To Study - Synthesis and validation of chemical biological tools for the identification of the target of mefloquine in P. falciparum

Dr. Paul R. Carlier (Chemistry), Dr. Maria Belen Cassera (Biochemistry)

Awarded a $680 grant from VTCDD

To Study - Supplemental funds for in vitro ADME-Tox profiling of PRC1080

Dr. Bin Xu (Biochemistry), Dr. Dongmin Liu (Human, Fitness, Nutrition and Exercise)

Awarded a $2500 grant from VTCDD

To Study - Support for preliminary data for a natural compound drug discovery project targeting amylin amyloid


The mission of the Virginia Tech Center for Drug Discovery (VTCDD) is:

  • To advance the growth and stature of drug discovery and delivery research at Virginia Tech.
  • To assist VT faculty members initiate basic and applied drug discovery and delivery research.
  • To foster a dynamic environment that promotes the recruitment of high quality faculty and students
  • To vigorously pursue continuing education and economic growth through outreach activities with industry and government agencies.

VTCDD Overview

    Dr. Edgar with vial


The field of research in drug discovery and delivery is ripe for exploitation by universities who can provide focused resources in the area. This situation has arisen because the previous model for drug discovery and delivery, with most of the work being done within the pharmaceutical industry, is broken. Mergers and acquisitions within the pharmaceutical industry, both in the United States and Europe, have created giant companies with many layers of management between the scientists doing the work and the decision makers in the company, resulting in a lack of creativity in the key science that drives discovery. In recognition of this, many of the major pharmaceutical companies ("big pharma") are laying off discovery scientists and outsourcing their drug discovery efforts.

This changing landscape of drug discovery provides real opportunities for universities to make significant contributions to the process of drug discovery and delivery, provided that they can provide the intellectual, physical, and financial resources to capitalize on the situation. VTCDD was formed by Virginia Tech researchers who were already regarded as leaders in the drug discovery and delivery area, with more than $29 million in current research support. Under the VTCDD, members are able to coordinate and strengthen programs, share resources, and position themselves for new funding opportunities.

Member Affiliated Colleges and Institutes

College of Science

Fralin Life Science Institute

College of Agriculture & Life Science

College of Veterinary Medicine

College of Engineering

College of Natural Resources & Environment

Virginia Bioinformatics Institute

VT Carilion Research Institute