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Precision Medicine

Precision medicine deploys cross-disciplinary insights from the fields of chemistry and biology to develop personalized and adaptive patient therapies by quantifying and targeting the molecular drivers and diagnostic markers of disease.  These individually tailored regimens can significantly reduce the unintended toxicity of various treatments and greatly improve patient outcomes.

In concert with the National Institute of Health’s Precision Medicine Initiative, UVA has identified precision medicine as a University-wide research focus. This research cluster brings together interdisciplinary co-mentoring teams with expertise in small molecule synthesis, bioanalytical chemistry, and translational science.

Areas of Study

Cluster members are broadly interested in the development of improved diagnostic assays to identify heterogeneities in patient disease states and novel therapeutic approaches that can be used to target these differences. Examples of ongoing collaborative projects include:

Precision Diagnostics

  • Efficacy and Personalized Response Assays Pre- and Post-Islet Transplant (Huiwang Ai)
  • Chemical Proteomics to Identify Disease Markers (Ken Hsu)        
  • Targeted Imaging Agents for Disease (Cliff Stains)

Personalized Medicine

  • Glucose-Responsive Insulin (Huiwang Ai)
  • Targeted Small Molecule Cancer Therapy (Mike Hilinksi)
  • Targeting Inflammation, Pain, and Cancer (Ken Hsu)
  • Targeted Microbes for Cancer Treatment (Marcos Pires)
  • Gated Release of Cytotoxic Agents in Diseased Cells (Cliff Stains)

Mentoring Plan and Resources

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Research Rotations, Selection of Co-Mentoring Team, and Development of a Plan of Study

During the fall of their first year, Fellows will complete three research rotations within cluster member labs followed by selection of a cluster member as a primary research advisor. A relevant collaborator outside the Fellow’s home department (typically within the School of Medicine) will serve as a co-mentor. Co-mentors serve on the Fellow’s thesis committee and meet regularly with the Fellow and cluster member to assess the progress of the collaborative research project. Once a Fellow has identified a co-mentoring team, an initial meeting will be held to define a plan of study based on the Fellow’s research and career goals.

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Interdisciplinary Coursework and Training

Given the interdisciplinary nature of the precision medicine, Fellows will be required to take at least one course outside their home department.  The primary advisor and co-mentor will assist the Fellow in identifying suitable courses (typically within the School of Medicine) and cross-disciplinary experimental training.

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Teaching Experience

To prepare Fellows as mentors, build improved understanding of disciplinary content, and improve public speaking skills, Fellows will be provided formal training in teaching and the opportunity to teach during their first year.

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Preparing Fellows for Multiple Career Pathways

In partnership with the University’s PhD+ program, the co-mentoring team will assist Fellows in aligning academic training with their career goals, whether those include academe, industry, law, policy, science communication or other applications.

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Developing a Community at the Chemistry-Biology Interface

To further foster collaboration outside the co-mentoring relationship, we will hold a monthly Chemistry-Biology Interface Seminar series that features two speakers from labs broadly interested in chemical biology to ensure that Fellows are exposed to the full breadth of chemical biology research at UVA.  In order to take full advantage of this network, Fellows will receive training in communication skills and present at least twice during their graduate career.

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Conference Travel

Fellows will receive financial support to attend national conferences and present their work in order to enhance their professional connections in the field beyond UVA.

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Grant Writing

Fellows will receive mentoring to support submission of proposals for national fellowship opportunities, including those sponsored by the NIH and NSF.