When University of Michigan (U-M) scientist Isin Cakir, Ph.D. discovered a link between an enzyme called histone deacetylase 6 (HDAC6) and obesity in mice, he knew the next step in his research would be identifying molecules that could potentially block that same enzyme safely in humans.

To pursue that investigation, he turned to Michigan Drug Discovery (MDD), U-M’s university-spanning program, to help coordinate and fund drug discovery projects across campus. By working with MDD, Cakir was able to optimize his compounds, which were recently disclosed in a 2022 patent application, for testing relevant disease models.

The ability to capitalize on fundamental new discoveries in biology, by applying the tools of drug discovery, is at the core of what MDD was established to achieve. Academic research programs are replete with opportunities to translate fundamental studies of human health and disease into new methods of treatment. However, while university faculty are specialists in their fields, they may have less expertise or fewer resources for translating basic science research into new medicines – which is where the MDD plays an important role.

Once associated with a project, MDD is a force multiplier that can bring critical experience and resources to early-stage drug discovery projects by connecting faculty with relevant experts on campus including scientists who have experience bringing new treatments to the market in the pharmaceutical industry. By providing faculty with funding to conduct important proof-of-concept experiments, along with mentorship and guidance, MDD helps researchers identify and optimize novel drug candidates. The program supports research teams seeking new therapies for a wide range of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, opioid addiction, pain, and bacterial and viral infections.


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