Research in the Department of Biological Chemistry and Pharmacology advances basic understanding of the biochemical, molecular, and genetic mechanisms underlying both normal cellular processes and disease states in humans. Through multidisciplinary collaborative work, scientists can translate these basic findings into studies that will benefit patients for generations.

Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology

This field focuses on the molecular mechanism of drug action and the discovery and validation of novel drug targets. Emphasis areas include signal transduction, genomics and proteomics of membrane proteins (representing the majority of all drug targets). The program focuses on diseases, including neurological disorders and drug addiction, cancer, and cardiovascular-pulmonary diseases.

Neuromuscular Diseases

Several of our faculty members work to better understand and treat neuromuscular diseases and spinal cord injury. Particularly of note are studies that combine basic science and translational studies led by Dr. Arthur Burghes on spinal muscular atrophy and Dr. Sung Ok Yoon on spinal cord injury.


This program will focus on signal transduction pathways, drug-receptor interactions, in vivo drug studies in experimental animals (in particular transgenic animals), the use of functional genomics to understand mechanisms of drug action and to discover novel drugs, and lastly, clinical research involving therapy of mental disorders. The Division of Neuropsychopharmacology (a possible joint venture between several departments including pharmacology and psychiatry) would provide an administrative structure to foster this enormously important area. Furthermore, it would encompass the central nervous system (CNS) focus group of the PiPGx.

Pathogenesis of Diseases

Understanding the manner of development of a disease is vitally important in developing treatment. Many of our faculty members research the pathogenic mechanisms of diseases, which would allow the disease to be prevented if controlled. Particularly of note is the laboratory of Dr. Kirk Mykytyn on the roles of primary cilia.

RNA Biology

Advancing life sciences research and education at the university by building on existing strengths in RNA biology and developing synergies through interdisciplinary initiatives and outreach is important to the department. Many of our faculty research RNA in gene expression and genome maintenance important in human biology and disease. Particularly of note are the laboratories of Dr. Michael Kearse on mRNA translation and Dr. Wen Tang on piRNA.