Scientific Collaborators

RobertDemoiseauxRobert Damoiseaux, Ph.D. is a High Throughput Screening (HTS) expert and a professor in the Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology of the David Geffen School of Medicine. His research interests focus on the development of novel HTS technologies. He also directs the Molecular Screening Shared Resource (MSSR) which is a cutting edge facility involved in research projects with, among others, UCLA, Caltech, and the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. He received his PhD at the University of Lausanne under Dr. Kai Johnsson (currently director at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, Munich) and then joined the Institute for Functional Genomics (GNF, Novartis) where he was in charge of the development of the next generation assay platform for proteases. He authored over 100 manuscripts and patents on high throughput screening and synthesis, was recognized as expert author in Wiley’s Development of Therapeutic Agents Handbook and is also an editor for Springers Current Protocols in Molecular biology. He is also member of the NIH study section and special emphasis panel reviewing high throughput screening grants. His expertise in high-through-put screening and the use of novel technologies brings him into demand for scientific collaborations and consulting for both academia and industry.


Ajit Divakaruni, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor in Molecular & Medical Pharmacology at UCLA. His laboratory has broad interest in mitochondrial metabolism and bioenergetics, with a particular emphasis on targeting mitochondrial inner membrane transporters to treat metabolic and neurodegenerative disease. Facilitated transport of metabolites, co-factors, and ions across the mitochondrial inner membrane can regulate a range of physiological processes including those as varied as thermogenesis, maintenance of euglycemia, and synaptic neurotransmission. Dr. Divakaruni’s lab is also actively developing new assays, protocols, and data interpretation roadmaps to help make these measurements accessible to non-specialists interested in metabolism and mitochondrial function. Prior to UCLA, Dr. Divakaruni did his post-doctoral training at UCSD where he trained with Dr. Anne Murphy.


Patrick Harran, Ph.D. received a Bachelors degree from Skidmore College in New York. He holds a Ph.D. from Yale University and completed an NIH-sponsored postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University. Harran joined the faculty at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in 1997. In 2005, he was promoted to full Professor and named the Mar Nell & F. Andrew Bell Distinguished Chair in Biochemistry. He moved to UCLA in 2008 as the inaugural D.J. & J.M. Cram Chair in Organic Chemistry. Harran specializes in natural products and medicinal chemistry. He has been a Fellow of the Alfred P Sloan Foundation, the recipient of a CAREER award from the NSF, an Eli Lilly Grantee, the AstraZenenca Excellence in Chemistry Award, the Pfizer Award for Creativity in Organic Synthesis, the Distinguished Alumni Award from Skidmore College, and the Merck Chemistry Council Award. In 2005 he was awarded the E. Bright Wilson Prize from Harvard University and named the Mar Nell and F Andrew Bell Distinguished Chair in Biochemistry at UTSW. In 2007 he received the Norman Hackerman Award in Chemical Research from the Robert A Welch Foundation. Dr. Harran co-founded Joyant Pharmaceuticals with the backing of Sanderling Ventures in 2005. Assets developed at Joyant provided the basis for launching Diazon Pharmaceuticals in 2013.


Andrea Hevener, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Hypertension at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. Dr Hevener’s laboratory studies the transcriptional regulation of immunometabolism with a specific focus on the role of nuclear receptors in controlling mitochondrial energetics and immune cell function. Recently, Dr Hevener’s team showed that the estrogen receptor (ER) α is critical for regulating mitochondrial dynamics and metabolism in macrophages. Importantly, impaired myeloid-specific ERα action contributed to macrophage dysfunction and promoted an obesity-insulin resistance-atherosclerosis susceptibility phenotype in female mice. Dr Hevener is an executive committee member of the UCLA Iris Cantor Women’s Health Research Center and the NIH-sponsored UCSD-UCLA Diabetes Research Center. She received her PhD from in kinesiology and physiology and biophysics and performed a fellowship in endocrinology and metabolism at UC San Diego.


Michael Jung, Ph.D. received his BA in 1969 from Rice University and his PhD in 1973 from Columbia University, where he worked with Gilbert Stork as an NSF Fellow. After a one-year NATO postdoctoral fellowship with Albert Eschenmoser at the ETH in Zurich, he joined the faculty at UCLA in 1974, where he is now a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry. He currently consults for 20 industrial laboratories in both biotech and big pharma settings. He is an authority on synthetic organic and medicinal chemistry and has more than 400 patents and/or applications worldwide arising from both his consulting activities and his own research. Recently he has expanded his role in medicinal chemistry at UCLA and has more than 15 ongoing collaborations. Two compounds from his lab has been approved and are on the market: 1) Xtandi, approved 8/31/12 for the treatment of castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC), and 2) Erleada, approved 2/14/18 for the treatment of non-metastatic CRPC. He has supervised 92 PhD and 9 Masters theses and has taught 128 postdoctoral scholars. He has published more than 350 articles and given over 625 lectures on his research.


Carla Koehler, Ph.D. is a Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCLA. Her lab seeks to understand the fundamental processes of mitochondrial biogenesis and assembly. Her current research focuses on developing vertebrate models for mitochondrial diseases as well as using yeast for mechanistic studies on mitochondrial biogenesis. She came to UCLA after doing post-doctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Gottfried Schatz at the Biozentrum, Basel, Switzerland. Her research characterized a new protein import pathway in the mitochondrion and linked a defect in protein import with the inherited disease deafness-dystonia syndrome. Dr. Koehler completed her graduate studies at Iowa State University, characterizing the inheritance of mitochondrial DNA during her M.S. studies and studying dimorphism in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Dr. Koehler is an Associate Editor for Current Genetics. She has been a member of the Molecular Biology Institute, Jonsson Cancer Center, and the Brain Research Institute.


Marc Liesa-Roig, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in-residence in the Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology and the Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. His laboratory seeks to identify mitochondrial mechanisms adapting or maladapting to metabolic diseases, with the goal to identify novel therapeutic targets. He closely collaborates with Dr. Shirihai, co-directing different projects in mitochondrial biology. Mitochondrial research in his laboratory focuses in liver, pancreatic beta cells and brown adipose tissue. Dr. Liesa-Roig graduated with honors in Biochemistry at the Universitat de Barcelona. He performed his doctoral studies under the supervision of Prof. Antonio Zorzano at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Barcelona examining the role and regulation of mitochondrial dynamics and Mfn2 in skeletal muscle and their role in insulin resistance. Dr. Liesa-Roig is an Academic Editor at PLOS One and a Guest Editor at the Journal of Molecular Biology.


Jake Lusis, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Departments of Microbiology and Medicine at UCLA. He has a secondary appointment in the Department of Human Genetics, where he is also Vice Chairman. He has served on advisory panels for the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, and various private companies and organizations. Presently, he serves on the Board of Scientific Counselors, NHLBI. His lab studies common forms of cardiovascular and metabolic disorders, using population-based approaches in both animal models and humans. Dr. Lusis’ lab is particularly interested in complex interactions, such as gene-by-gene, gene-by-environment, and gene-by-sex interactions, that are difficult to investigate directly in humans. To dissect such interactions, they analyze common disease using a systems biology perspective, integrating clinical trait phenotypes with genetic, epigenetic, transcriptomic and other high-throughput data. Dr. Lusis received his Ph.D. in Biophysics from Oregon State University. He was a postdoctoral fellow with Kenneth Paigen at Roswell Park Memorial Institute, Buffalo, NY. Among Dr. Lusis’ awards are the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Research, the American Heart Association Duff Award, and the NAVBO Benditt Award.


Karen Reue, Ph.D. is a Professor and Interim Chair of Human Genetics and Professor of Medicine at UCLA. Dr. Reue has diccovered novel genes involved in lipid metabolism and homeostasis. The primary research focus of the Reue Lab is characterizing novel genes of lipid and glucose metabolism, especially in the context of aberrant metabolic regulation. Mouse models of lipodystrophy and atherosclerosis have revealed key enzymes and proteins involved in triglyceride synthesis and bile acid regulation. Dr. Reue earned her Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles, after which she began her postdoctoral training at The Rockefeller University in New York.


David Shackelford, Ph.D. career in cancer research began studying acute myelogenous leukemia at Brandeis University, where he received his PhD. He did his postdoc in Dr. Reuben Shaw’s lab at The Salk Institute, where he began studying signal transduction and metabolism during carcinogenesis of solid tumors. His research is translational in focus and integrates the study of human tumors and genetically engineered mouse models of cancer. His goals are to uncover the molecular mechanisms driving lung carcinogenesis, developing new in vitro and in vivo cancer models, and identifying new personalized therapies to treat cancer based on the tumor’s genetic and molecular alterations. Dr. Shackelford’s current work on lung tumors focuses on exploiting the tumor’s Achilles’ heel, which is a dependence on oncogenic signaling and high rates of cellular metabolism. In a recent study he has demonstrated a previously unrecognized vulnerability in non-small cell lung tumors to undergo tumor cell death following treatment with the metabolic therapeutic phenformin. Their study opens up the possibility of repurposing therapeutics, originally designed to treat metabolic disease to be used as anti-cancer agents in the clinic.

OrianShirihaiOrian Shirihai, MD, PhD is the director of the Metabolism Unified Research Theme at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Professor of Medicine (Endocrinology) and Molecular & Medical Pharmacology at UCLA.  Prior to joining UCLA, Dr. Shirihai was with The Department of Medicine at Boston University Medical Center (BUMC) and Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Shirihai joined BUMC from the Department of Pharmacology at Tufts University, Boston where he was an Adjunct Associate professor. Dr. Shirihai did postdoctoral work with Prof. Stuart Orkin at Harvard University. At BUMC, his lab played a pivotal role in the development of cutting edge technology for high throughput respirometry in collaboration with Seahorse Bioscience (acquired by Agilent Technologies). Dr. Shirihai is a member and founder of the Mitochondria ARC (Advancing Research through Collaborations) which is part of the ARC system of BUMC department of medicine. Dr. Shirihai earned his MD and PhD degrees from the Faculty of Medicine at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology.


Alexander M. Van der Bliek, Ph.D. is Professor of Biological Chemistry at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. He received his undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands and his PhD from The Netherlands Cancer Institute where he studied multi-drug resistance in cancer cells in the laboratory of Dr. Piet Borst. He then moved to the United States for postdoctoral studies in the laboratory of Dr. Elliot Meyerowitz at CalTech. By cloning the Drosophila shibire gene, he discovered the role of the large GTPase Dynamin in endocytosis. He confirmed this role in mammalian cells in collaboration with Dr. Sandra Schmid at the Scripps Research Institute. After starting his own lab at UCLA in 1993, Dr. van der Bliek lab embarked on the study of mitochondrial fission and fusion. His lab discovered the role of the dynamin-related protein Drp1 in mitochondrial fission, thereby helping to establish the molecular basis for mitochondrial dynamics. His lab subsequently discovered the functions of two mitochondrial proteins that interact with Drp1 in different ways. One protein, called Mff, proved to be the main receptor for Drp1 on the surface of mitochondria, while the other protein, Fis1, helps regulate downstream events after mitophagic fission. The Van der Bliek lab continues to study the roles of dynamin-related proteins in mitochondrial fission and fusion using C. elegans and cultured mammalian cells as complementary model systems.


David Walker, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology and a faculty member of the Molecular Biology Institute at UCLA. Dr. Walker completed his Ph.D. degree at the University of Manchester, UK. He then went on to carry out postdoctoral work with Seymour Benzer at the California Institute of Technology. Dr. Walker has a long-standing interest in the biological mechanisms of aging. In recent years, his research group has made important insights into the relationship between intestinal aging and organismal aging. In this work, Dr. Walker is exploring the relationships between age-related changes in microbiota composition, intestinal physiology and the health and viability of the aging host organism.

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Jonathan Wanagat, M.D., B.comm, Ph.D. is Associate Professor in the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. Dr. Wanagat began his career in gerontology and geriatric medicine at the University of Wisconsin, where he received his M.D. and Ph.D. under the guidance of Judd Aiken. He went on to the University of Washington for his internship and returned to the University of Wisconsin for the remainder of his internal medicine residency. He completed a clinical geriatrics fellowship at the University of Washington with support from a John A. Hartford Foundation Center of Excellence grant and is currently a senior fellow and acting instructor in the Division of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine. During his Brookdale Leadership in Aging Fellowship, he began investigating the genetic enhancement of longevity and treatment of age-related diseases under the mentorship of Dr. Peter Rabinovitch.