The Department of Molecular Medicine, one of the eight basic science (“laboratory research”) departments of the Beckman Research Institute, investigates the mechanisms underlying cancer and other diseases to develop novel molecular therapeutics.
Led by David Horne, Ph.D., an internationally recognized leader in the field of natural products synthesis, the mission of the Department of Molecular Medicine includes:
- identifying new molecular targets for cancer therapy
- developing small synthetic molecules and natural product derivatives to address these therapeutic targets
- developing bioorganic approaches for cancer therapy
- evaluating genomic markers for predicting cancer risk and response to therapy
To accomplish these objectives, molecular medicine researchers employ leading-edge approaches and technologies. These include high throughput screening of medicinal plant extracts and chemical compound libraries, organic and bioorganic synthesis, analyzing the genetic basis for disease using functional genomics, proteomics, and microarray gene expression profiling, and protein X-ray crystallography. Computerized molecular modeling and structure activity relationships are now considered essential components of modern drug design and medicinal chemistry. X-ray crystallography provides valuable structural information for the detailed understanding of drug-target interactions for the design of more effective therapeutic agents.
Because of the central role chemistry plays in molecular therapeutics, Horne, a synthetic organic and medicinal chemist is an award-winning professor of chemistry, and was appointed chair of the department in 2008.
The overall long-term goal of molecular medicine is to customize the prevention and treatment of cancer on an individualized basis. This means developing molecular-targeted therapies to match an individual’s genomic profile in order to achieve the most effective clinical response with the least toxicity and drug resistance. In pursuit of this goal, researchers in the department collaborate with multidisciplinary teams including basic, translational and clinical researchers throughout City of Hope.