Xiaoyu Zhang, PhD

Dr. Zhang is developing small molecules that promote targeted protein degradation in human cancers. Although targeted cancer therapies have been successful in recent years, many oncogenic proteins are still considered “undruggable” because the conventional drug design strategy often fails to interfere with these proteins.

Marsha M. Hirschi, PhD

Dr. Hirschi is creating a tool to investigate specific glutamate receptor subpopulations and elucidate their role in cancer mechanisms. Glutamate receptors on neurons are involved with learning and memory in a time- and tissue-specific manner and abnormal function can lead to cancer. Detailed understanding of how glutamate receptors work may provide insight into new therapies for cancers ranging from gliomas to peripheral malignancies, such as pancreatic cancer.

Joseph D. Schonhoft, PhD

Dr. Schonhoft [Merck Fellow] aims to understand how immune cells abnormally proliferate and secrete a pathogenic variety of antibody proteins that cause organ and tissue damage, most notably in the heart and kidneys, during diseases such as amyloidosis and within a subset of multiple myelomas. His research will explain why particular antibody molecules are toxic while others are completely benign. This information may be used to develop new diagnostic probes for the early detection of these molecules, which could greatly improve the effectiveness of current clinical treatments.

Liron Bar-Peled, PhD

Dr. Bar-Peled is exploring how the protease Caspase-8 regulates T cell activation, which represents a critical step in the adaptive immune response to cancer. While Caspase-8 has long been appreciated to be essential for T cell activation, the molecular mechanisms underlying its role in this process remain poorly understood. His work will focus on identifying and characterizing the proteins cleaved by Caspase-8, which may provide additional therapeutic avenues to activate T cells to target malignant cells in cancer patients.