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Dr. Conor R. Caffrey
Development of drugs and diagnostics for parasitic diseases of poverty, high-throughput and high-content screening
Conor R. Caffrey, Ph.D
Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Research Summary: Parasite biology, Technologies, Drugs and Diagnostics for parasitic diseases of poverty
I am interested in the basic (chemical, molecular and cell) and applied (diagnostics and drug development) biology of the tropical parasitic diseases, including, schistosomiasis, hookworm disease and African trypanosomiasis. Three broad themes underpin my research: (1) the identification and validation of protein targets (e.g., proteases and kinases) for drug development; (2) the pre-clinical and translational development of drugs, including the development and application of associated technologies (high-content and high-throughput screening platforms, RNA interference, C. elegans as a drug discovery model, protein expression and animal models of infection); and (3) development of point-of care (POC) diagnostics. To facilitate these cross-disciplinary interests I interface with bioinformaticians, medicinal chemists, pharmaceutical chemists, structural biologists and automated systems biologists, among others. My research themes converge with the mission of the Center for Discovery and Innovation in Parasitic Diseases (CDIPD), namely the delivery of new therapies and technologies to help alleviate suffering caused by the ‘neglected’ diseases associated with poverty.
B.Sc. (Hons.) in Zoology, University College Dublin, Ireland (1988); Ph.D. in Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology, University College Dublin, Ireland (1994).
Awards and Honors:
Wellcome Trust Traveling Research Fellowship to Europe (1994-1996); Scientific American Magazine’s ‘SciAM50’ award for outstanding contributions to biomedical research (2007); Associate Editor for the Journal of Parasitology (2005-present); Specialist Editorial Board for the International Journal for Parasitology - Drugs and Drug Resistance (2011-present).
Director of the Biochemistry Core, Sandler Center for Drug Discovery, UCSF (2001-2011); Senior Scientist, Center for Discovery and Innovation in Parasitic Diseases, UCSF (2012-2014); Nematode and Trematode Core Director for the CDIPD at UCSD (2015-present);
Key Contributions to Pharmaceutical Sciences
- How parasite proteases contribute to parasitism
- Validated various proteins (e.g., proteases and kinases) as drug targets for parasitic infections
- Identified assorted small molecule chemistries as leads for treatment of parasitic infections
- Co-developed a number of technologies for high throughput and high content screening, and automated image analysis of complex large parasites
Selected Recent Publications (view more)
- Burns et al. (2015) Caenorhabditis elegans is a useful model for anthelmintic discovery. Nat Commun. 2 (6):7485.
- Geary TG et al. (2015) Anthelmintic drug discovery: into the future. J Parasitol. 101(2):125-133.
- Asarnow, D. et al. (2015) The QDREC web server: determining dose-response characteristics of complex macroparasites in phenotypic drug screens. Bioinformatics. 31(9):1515-1518.
- Silveira AM et al. (2016) Evaluation of the CCA Immuno-Chromatographic Test to Diagnose Schistosoma mansoni in Minas Gerais State, Brazil. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 10(1):e0004357.
- Vermeire JJ et al. (2016) Odanacatib, a Cathepsin K Cysteine Protease Inhibitor, Kills Hookworm In Vivo. Pharmaceuticals 4;9(3).
Potential Collaborative Programs with the Pharmaceutical Industry
Collaborations with industry are a key component of our research. For example, we work with Merck and Celgene and AstraZeneca to discover small molecule therapies of parasitic infections.
We are particularly interested in industry liaison for POC diagnostics.
Industry training or placement opportunities for students interested in the drug discovery process.