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2020 Group News

Special Issue of Molecules to honor Dr. Duane D Miller, the deadline for submission 6/30/2021, please consider to contribute. Dr. Li is guest editing a special issue of the journal to honor Dr. Duane D. Miller, who is an Emeritus Professor at UTHSC and a member of the NAI. Please see the link for details and consider contributing a research paper or review paper.  https://www.mdpi.com/journal/molecules/special_issues/Honor_Miller

Special Issue of Molecules for Tubulin Inhibitors, the deadline for submission is 6/30/2021, please consider contributing. Dr. Li and Dr. Kevin Pinney at Baylor University are co-guest editings a special issue on Tubulin inhibitors. Both review and research papers are welcome. Please see the link for details and consider contributing to this special issue. https://www.mdpi.com/journal/molecules/special_issues/tubulin_2021


Feb 8, Hongmei and Qinghui’s paper, “The tubulin inhibitor VERU-111 in combination with Vemurafenib provides an effective treatment of Vemurafenib-resistant A375 melanoma”, is accepted in Frontiers in Pharmacology (IF=4.4), section Pharmacology of Anti-Cancer Drugs.

Jan 27, Jim and Sicheng’s paper “Discovery of N-(3,4-dimethylphenyl)-4-(4-isobutyrylphenyl)-2,3,3a,4,5,9b-hexahydrofuro[3,2-c]quinoline-8-sulfonamide as a potent dual MDM2/XIAP inhibitor”, is accepted in J. Med. Chem. (IF=6.2).

Jan 14,  Dr. Li’s startup company, SEAK Therapeutics LLC, is accepted to the NCI’s Development Center’s pilot program CARE – Connecting Awardees with Regulatory Experts. SEAK will have the opportunity to be connected with an FDA officer at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), and get expert advice on the development of our lead compound as a potential targeted therapy for pediatric cancers.


Nov 11, Shanshan Deng, a graduate student in the Li lab (8/2016-12/2020), successfully defended her PhD thesis, and becomes “Dr. Shanshan Deng”. Shanshan will start her postdoc at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). Congratulate to Shanshan!

Sept 17, Dr. Li’s startup company, SEAK Therapeutics LLC, received an NCI SBIR Phase 1 grant, 1R43CA257324-01, for the development of SEAK-114 as a potential agent for pediatric cancer. Dr. Zhongzhi Wu is the contact PI, and Dr. Li is an MPI.

Sept 7, Dr. Li joined the Editorial Board as an Editorial Board member for the journal Cancer Letters.

Sept 3, Foyez’s paper, titled “Orally available tubulin inhibitor VERU-111 enhances antitumor efficacy in paclitaxel-resistant lung cancer”, is accepted in Cancer Letters (IF=7.4). Shanshan and Hao also contributed significantly to this paper. Congratulations to all.

Aug 12, Dr. Li’s startup company, SEAK Therapeutics LLC, is awarded an NCI supplementary grant in the amount of $55k to attend the NIH I-Corps training that will be held virtually in late 2020.

Aug 11, Dr. Jianjun Chen, a former lab member in the Li lab and is currently a full professor in China, published a review paper titled “Vitamin D and its analogs as anticancer and anti-inflammatory agents” in European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. Dr. Li and his long-time collaborator, Dr. Slominski at UAB School Medicine, are co-authors for this review paper.

Aug 10, Ms Kelli Hartman joins the Li lab as a PhD graduate student. She will be working with Shanshan on preclinical studies of our tubulin inhibitors against metastatic breast cancer, a joint project with Dr. Tiffany Seagroves’ lab in College of Medicine currently funded by a DoD grant. Welcome Kelli.

Aug 5, Dr. Li is appointed as a UTHSC Distinguished Professor, a title that can be retained as long as one is an active faculty member at UTHSC.

July 28, the Li lab, in collaboration with the Zhou lab at Emory School of Medicine, received an NCI R01 grant, titled “Dual inhibition of MDM2 and XIAP as a therapeutic strategy in cancer”, for the total amount of $2.72 million over the next five years.

July 28, Dr. Li’s startup company, SEAK Therapeutics LLC, is featured in the 2020 UTRF newsletter, https://utrf.tennessee.edu/supporting-the-entrepreneurial-community-utrf-helps-launch-six-technology-startups-in-fy-2020/.

June 18, Sicheng’s book chapter of Vitamin D in human health is published in the electronic book titled ” Essential and Toxic Trace Elements and Vitamins in Human Health”, hardcover ISBN: 9780128053782, eBook ISBN: 9780128093016, by Elsevier. Congratulations to Sicheng’s hardwork.

May 27, The 3rd Annual Advisory Committee meeting of the UTHSC College of Pharmacy Drug Discovery Center (UTCoP DDC) was held today via Zoom. In this third year, the seven DDC members collectively brought in a little over $4 million funds that credited to UTCoP as PIs, Co-Is, or subcontract PIs, the average per DDC member is $576,189 for this year. Thanks to the hard work for all DDC members and the Advisory Committee members.

May 20, Dr. Li co-authored a paper with Dr. Slominski’s lab at UAB, titled “CYP11A1-derived vitamin D3 products protect against UVB-induced inflammation and promote keratinocytes differentiation” in Free Radical Biology and Medicine (IF=5.66).

April 10, Dr. Li and collaborators (Dr. Seagroves and Dr. Miller) is awarded a 2020 UTHSC CORNET grant, titled “Testing efficacy of an orally bioavailable tubulin inhibitor (VERU-111) to inhibit taxane-sensitive and taxane-resistant HER2+ breast cancers”. This is a one-year, $50k pilot grant to support cross-college collaborations.

March 15, Hanxuan (Luke)’s review paper, titled “Osteoporosis: Mechanism, Molecular Target, and Current Status on Drug Development”, was published in Current Medicinal Chemistry. Congratulations to Luke and our collaborators in UTHSC College of Medicine.

Jan 27, The Li lab in collaboration with Dr. Tiffany Seagroves lab at UTHSC pathology received the award notice for a DoD Breast Cancer Research Program Breakthrough Level II grant. The total amount of this $2.27M grant is divided between the labs of Dr. Li (leading PI, amount $1.27M) and Dr. Seagroves (0.997M). Congratulations to the efforts of Shanshan, Hao, Jim and the rest of the team members.

Jan 21, The Li lab in collaboration with Dr. Duane Miller received a second Industry Sponsored Research Agreement grant to develop new therapeutic agent for cancer treatment. Total amount $100k paid over two years.

Jan 14, Shanshan’s paper, titled “An orally available tubulin inhibitor, VERU-111, suppresses triple-negative breast cancer tumor growth and metastasis and bypasses taxane resistance”, is published and featured in the cover page in the Feb’2020 issue of Molecular Cancer Therapeuticshttps://mct.aacrjournals.org/content/early/2019/10/23/1535-7163.MCT-19-0536.long. Congratulations to Shanshan and all the co-authors.