I was born in Sri Lanka and moved to the US for higher studies in 2001. After completing my graduate studies and postdoctoral fellowship, I joined the faculty at UT Southwestern Medical Center in 2009. I have been working in the fields of medicinal chemistry and chemical biology over 15 years and have gathered experience in major drug development approaches such as natural products, structure based design and high throughput combinatorial techniques.
My approach in research is to use simple chemical tools to address complex biological problems. Over the last 6 years, I have been exploring the use of peptoids - a class of peptidomimetics, mainly focusing in oncology applications. Peptoids are biologically amenable and easy to synthesize and more importantly have great drug like properties. We have developed a unique on-bead two-color (OBTC) cell screen to ‘directly’ identify the highest specificity ligands from large combinatorial libraries targeting cell surface biomarkers.
By applying this methodology, we were able to successfully identify and validate high affinity and specific peptoid ligands for:
- T-cell receptors,
- Cancer stem cells,
- Fibulin-5 (a novel protein important in angiogenesis), and
- Cancer-specific lipid phosphatidylserine (PS).
The ultimate goal of my research program is to generate a global set of tools to detect, treat and monitor cancer, moving us one step closer to personalized medication.