New Research Center Aims to Advance Drug Design, Discovery

February 13, 2012

Media Contact: David Hefner, Hefner_DN@Mercer.edu  or (678) 547-6244

ATLANTA – The Mercer University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences has launched a new research center charged with designing new drugs and developing new computer-based design methods to advance novel drug discovery.
 
The new center, called the Center for Drug Design, will focus on all aspects of drug design research and teaching, ranging from software development to the application of computer-based methods that will predict biologically active compounds prior to laboratory testing. The Center will serve as a resource for universities, industries, and agencies interested in new drug design and the enhancement of existing drug candidates.  Using state-of-the-art computer technologies, Mercer’s new Center will become one of the premier academic facilities involved in drug design research, teaching and discovery.
 
The Center will use powerful computers and sophisticated graphics workstations to pursue fundamental problems and methodologies at the interface of chemistry, biology and physics. In fact, several drugs currently on the market and used to treat various disease states were developed using similar computer-assisted drug design methodologies.
 
Dr. J. Phillip Bowen, one of the nation’s leading scholars in the area of computer-assisted drug design, is the Center’s director. Bowen joined the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences’ faculty in August as a full professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. He is the author of more than 90 publications and several patents in the areas of organic, medicinal and computational chemistry, as well as computer-assisted drug design. 
 
“I believe we are in a unique position at Mercer University to make meaningful contributions in drug design because of our growing emphasis on the medical, pharmaceutical and other health sciences programs,” said Dr. Bowen, who earned his doctorate in synthetic organic chemistry from Emory University. In addition to pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences, Mercer has health-related graduate and professional programs in medicine, nursing, physical therapy, physician assistant studies and public health. 
 
“I am looking forward to working with colleagues at Mercer, and other university and industry scientists to accomplish some exciting drug discovery research,” Dr. Bowen said.
 
The Center has six goals:
 
- To collaborate with university and industry scientists interested in the design of novel drugs;
- To serve as an umbrella structure to foster research collaborations within Mercer and with other drug discovery groups;
- To develop and create applications of various computer-based methods used in drug design;
- To carry out computer-assisted studies of important biological compounds and systems and to translate fundamental research into information that may be used to design potential therapeutic agents;
- To serve as a national, state and regional resource in computational chemistry, computer-assisted drug design, and related computer-based informatics and bioinformatics methods;
- To provide continuing education activities for scientists interested in learning computer-assisted drug design methods, including seminars, workshops and short courses.
 
“Under the leadership of Dr. Bowen, this new center has profound implications in terms of how we understand and develop new drugs that ultimately make it to the market and into the hands of patients,” said Dr. Hewitt “Ted” Matthews, dean of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and vice president for the Health Sciences at Mercer.
 
About the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Mercer University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences has the No. 3 ranked pharmacy program among private universities in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report. The College offers doctoral degrees in pharmacy (Pharm.D.), pharmaceutical sciences (Ph.D.), and physical therapy (DPT), and the master’s degree (M.M.Sc.) for physician assistants. Founded in 1903 as the independent Southern School of Pharmacy, the school merged with Mercer University in 1959 and in 1981 became the first school in the Southeast to offer the Doctor of Pharmacy degree as its sole professional degree. The College officially became a comprehensive College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in 2006, adding the Department of Physician Assistant Studies in 2006 and the Department of Physical Therapy in 2010. With an enrollment of more than 750 students and a distinguished faculty of basic scientists and clinicians, the College houses five centers focusing on research, teaching and learning. The College’s motto, “A Tradition of Excellence – A Legacy of Caring,” frames its philosophy of providing excellent academic programs in an environment where every student matters and every person counts. For more information about the College, please call 678.547.6244 or visit www.cophs.mercer.edu.
 
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