Donald C. Lo, PhD, PI
We develop new drug and drug target candidates for neurodegenerative and traumatic diseases of the CNS, including Huntington's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and stroke. We use novel in vitro and ex vivo discovery methods (e.g., biolistic transfection of neural tissues) and work in numerous collaborations with academia and in industry.
The goal of our lab and Center for Drug Discovery is to contribute to the development of new drug and drug target candidates for neurodegenerative and traumatic disorders of the CNS, using techniques ranging from electrophysiology to novel primary neuronal co-culture and brain slice models for Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, stroke, and glaucoma. Our studies are highly collaborative with other laboratories in academia, disease research foundations, and biopharmaceutical research organizations.
High-throughput biology—a key to predicting clinical efficacy. While high-throughput systems biology and drug screening technologies have revolutionized the initial stages of drug discovery, a major hurdle is identifying the most promising among the hundreds and thousands of "hits" that emerge from high- and ultra high-throughput screening campaigns, and in addition to validate their mechanisms of action.
"High-throughput biology" assay platforms are emerging in which more complex and contextual—and therefore more physiologically and clinically relevant—assay models are engineered to be scalable and automated to serve as an effective stage of the drug development pipeline. Such in vitro/ex vivo assay platforms are designed to retain substantially higher levels of tissue context and interactions among relevant cell types than typical in vitro assays, but to be capable of industrially relevant throughput rates for target validation studies and for drug lead identification and optimization.
Our current focus is to develop and implement such "high throughput biology" discovery platforms for a range of neurodegenerative and traumatic disorders of the brain and eye.
Collaborations are key to the success of translational medicine. While investigator-initiated research remains a mainstay of basic and disease mechanism research, the validation of new hypotheses and their translation into druggable targets and therapeutic agents with clinical potential requires teamwork and resources beyond the scope of a typical university research laboratory. The majority of our lab projects are thus run in collaboration with other research groups (including biotechnology and pharmaceutical firms) and disease research foundations in which we help to advance new drug pathways and targets identified upstream in the discovery process (e.g., from disease-mechanism research, high-throughput target and chemical compound screening) to downstream stages of translation towards clinical testing (e.g., animal models and other aspects of preclinical development).