Together with our imaging modality scientists and clinicians, part of my research program is designated to provide technical supports in design, synthesis, and chemical/biological characterization of molecular imaging (MI) agents, theranostic compounds or so-called therapy-enabling diagnostic (TED) agents for investigators from MGH Psychiatry Department and other local hospitals, researchers at the Harvard Medical School. Some of our current research efforts include the following:
Development of (i) target-specific and nanoparticle-based multi-functional MI agents for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other neurological disorders, brain tumor, breast cancer and other tumors; (ii) in vivo animal imaging platform for pre-clinical characterization of lead theranostic compounds. These include: design, synthesis, and chemical/biological characterization of MI agents and/or theranostic compounds, using conjugate and medicinal chemistry techniques. In particular, employing both MRI and Optical Imaging technologies, we will further determine lesion-specific and altered Fe metabolism as a biomarker for AD and breast cancer. In addition, bioluminescence/fluorescence-based in vivo model for TED lead optimization will be developed through collaboration with our optical imaging lab. We will also develop novel normal and cancer stem cell-labeling agents for stem cell tracking, proliferation and differentiation characterization, and its interactions with microenvironment that strongly influences its fates.
Cheminformatics-based investigations for (i) quantitative structure-property/activity relationship (QSP/AR) of TED agents; (ii) rational drug design of targeted theranostic compounds. We will design and identify novel lead therapeutic agents for disease-related targets and MI agents for disease-specific biomarkers. These will also include synthesizing tailored chemical compound libraries such as small focus libraries (SFLs) around lead structures using combinatorial and medicinal chemistry techniques for TED lead optimization. We will also curate both in-house and commercial compound libraries such as metal-complexing agents (NIST SRD 46) as imaging/contrast ligands and therapeutic agents, natural/synthetic antioxidants, and MI and contrast agent database (MICAD).
In summary, our research thrust is centered around this translational biomedical research paradigm that have the potential to contribute to the development of image-based personalized patient care.