Li, Wei Ph.D.

Faculty Director of Shared Instrument Facility

MEMPHIS TN 381632198
Tel: (901) 448-7532


  • Ph.D., Columbia University in the City of New York, Chemistry
  • MS candidate. Leave for US before graduation, Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chemical Physics
  • B.S., University of Science & Technology of China, Chemical Physics

My Current CV

Group Members

 Li group photo september 2015

A July 2015 snapshot of the Li group. From left to right:

  1. Qinghui Wang, PhD student, M.S. from Peking University
  2. Dr. Jin Wang, PhD (graduated in July 2015).
  3. Rachel N Ness, PharmD/PhD dual degree student, B.S. from NYU.
  4. Xiaoxin Wu, MS student, B.S. from China Pharmaceutical University (graduated in May 2016).
  5. Dr. Dejian Ma, Research associate and Manager of Shared Instrument Facility, Ph.D. from Nanjing University, China.
  6. Dr. Wei LiPI
  7. Dr. Min Xiao, PhD (graduated in December 2015)
  8. Zongtao Lin, PhD student, M.S. from Peking University
  9. Kinsie Arnst, PhD student, B.S. from Houston Baptist University.
  10. Dr. Zhongzhi Wu (not in picture), Postdoctoral Researcher, PhD from Nanjing University.

Previous group members and summer/rotation members and last known position:

  1.  Mr. Radomir Slominski, summer intern (Emory), summer of 2004, M.D. residence at University of Alabama at Birmingham.
  2. Mr. Jinghu Li, Ph.D. candidate, 2004-2005, transferred to UIUC
  3. Mr. Chris Scheid, summer intern (The College of William & Mary), summer of 2008
  4. Dr. Zhao Wang, Ph.D. student (2005-2010), FDA officer.
  5. Ms. Ashley Vorenkamp, Summer Research Scholar from Louisiana State University, summer of 2010.
  6. Ms. Victoria Strong, Tennessee State University, Summer of 2011
  7. Dr. Dajun Chen, Postdoc researcher, 2012, manager a CRO at the
  8. Ms. Whitney Bogus, Summer Research Scholar from Tennessee Tech University, Summer of 2013
  9. Ms. Rachel Ness, UTHSC dual degree PharmD/PhD student, lab rotation, summer 2013.
  10. Dr. Reddy Marepally, Postdoc researcher, 2013-2015, scientist in a CRO at Houston.
  11. Dr. Jin Wang, Ph.D. student (2010-2015), postdoctoral research at University of Oklahoma.
  12. Dr. Min Xiao, PhD (graduated in December 2015), B.S. from East China University of Science and Technology, China

Research Funding


1. PI: 1R01CA148706-06, MPI: Wei Li (NIH contact); Duane D. Miller

Title: “Targeting the colchicine site in tubulin for advanced melanoma”
This is the second cycle award of this project to continue our efforts in developing orally available tubulin inhibitors. Five year total direct: 1,317,560, total cost 1,852,165

2.  PI: 1R01CA193609-01A1
Title: “Selective targeting IAPs for cancer therapy”
This grant is develop small molecule IAPs inhibitors for cancer therapy.
5/1/2016-4/30/2021, five year total direct $1,331,505, total cost: $1,913,635

3. PI: Grant Incentive Grants
University of Tennessee Health Science Center
$25,000, 7/2015-6/2016, support for resubmission of an R21 application (17% for A0).

4. PI: UTHSC Collaborative Research Network (CORNET) Grant, MPI: Kczorowski and Li
University of Tennessee Health Science Center 
“Selective targeting of TRPC3 ion channel for Alzheimer’s disease therapy”
5/1/2016-4/30/2017, $50,000 total direct (Li lab share: $28,000)

5. Co-I: UTHSC Collaborative Research Network (CORNET) Grant, PI: Liang Hong
University of Tennessee Health Science Center 
“Novel 20-hydroxyvitamin D3 (20D3) analogues for periodontitis treatment”
5/1/2016-4/30/2017,  $50,000 total direct (Li lab share: $15,000)


1. MPI: 1R21CA193090-01A1 (Wei Li, NIH contact PI; Duane Miller, MPI)
NIH/NCI, impact score 23, 8.0 percentile
“Synergistic targeting MAPK pathway and tubulin polymerization for melanoma”
Requested 4/1/2016-3/31/2018, requested direct $275,000, request total cost: $418,000

Completed Funding:
Please see the relevant sections in the CV.

Research in the Li Lab

The research in our lab is highly multi-disciplinary and often involves collaboration with other labs. Currently research in our group broadly focuses on the following three areas:

1. Discovery of novel therapeutic agent for melanoma. Melanoma is the most deadly skin cancer and its incidents are rising rapidly in the world. While early stage melanoma can be cured by surgical removal, once metastasized, it is very difficult to treat and the median survival is only a few months. Working with Dr. Duane Miller in our department, our group aims to design and synthesize novel small molecules inhibiting certain validated drug targets. One of the targets is the colchicine binding site in tubulin. Tubulin is a well validated target with at least three distinct binding sites for drugs to interact: the paclitaxel binding site (e.g., Taxol, epothilones), the vinblastine binding sites (e.g., Vinblastine, Vincristine), and the colchicine binding site. Techniques used in our lab include molecular modeling, organic synthesis, in vitro and in vivo biological assay, and nanotechnology based drug delivery approaches by incorporating certain peptides to target receptors that are over expressed by cancer cells, in order to reduce potential toxicity associated with systematic drug administrations. Computer aided drug screening and design are heavily used in this area of research.

2. Discovery of novel vitamin D analogs as potential therapeutic agents. The importance of sufficient vitamin D (such as Calciferol) in human bodies has been well recognized. Vitamin D have broad benefits to human health, including bone formation, cancer prevention, and anti-inflammation effects. However, the use of existing vitamin Ds and their analogs suffer from a severe side effect called hypercalcemia (elevated levels of calcium in blood stream) which could result in calcification of soft tissues, organ failure or even death. Working with Dr. Slominski, Dr. Miller and other researchers, we are identifying new biologically active metabolites of vitamin D and chemically synthesize them. 

3. Discovery of new small molecules interrupting protein-protein interactions, particular the inhibitors of apoptosis proteins (IAPs).

In addition, several new directions are also being explored with the aim to develop them further into potential major research projects. 

Postdoc and PhD Positions are available

Postdoc Position Available Immediately:

A postdoc position is immediately available to work on the biological aspects of small molecule drug discovery projects targeting tubulin polymerization or protein-protein interactions. This position will be supported by grants from NIH, and is expected to last 4+ years. The lab focuses on and offers opportunities for small molecule drug discovery. The candidate will have a PhD or MD in cancer research, with demonstrated experience with good publication records as the first author or equivalent. Essential skills include various in vitro and in vivo biological assays to determine the potency and efficacy of small molecules in cancer cells, Western blots, flow cytometry, RT-PCR, xenograft models, and other related cancer biology techniques. Strong motivation, the ability to work independently, and results oriented are desirable. Interested applicants should send a summary of research experience, a CV, and contact information for three references to Dr. Wei Li at

PhD Student Positions for Fall 2016 Admission:

We currently have opening for PhD students for the Fall 2016 admission. Students will be either in the medicinal chemistry track focusing on organic synthesis of small molecules, or in the bioanalytical/translational science track focusing on cancer biology (in vitro and in vivo biological studies, mechanistic studies for our new compounds). Full tuition waiver and health insurance will be provided with the admission to the program, and a generous stipend (currently $24,000 per year) will be provided for all students. All drug discovery projects in the lab are usually interdisciplinary and involves collaborations with other labs, and thus students have ample opportunities to interact and learn from other aspects of the research. Students who has significant research experience in the respective area after the B.S. degree are preferred. Strong commitment to biomedical research, good work ethics and mature personality are desired. Interested applicant should submit formal applications to UTHSC graduate admission:

Research Keywords

medicinal chemistry; small molecule drug discovery; tubulin inhibitors targeting the colchicine binding site; noncalcemic vitamin D analogs for inflammation; analytical chemistry; chemical biology; IAP inhibitors

For the most up to date publication list, please follow the link below:

Professional Experience

  • 1992-1994      Graduate Research Assistant, Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • 1994 - 1999     Graduate Research Assistant, Columbia University in the City of New York
  • 1999 - 2001     Instructor and Director of Instrument Facility, University of Tennessee HSC (UTHSC)
  • 2001 - 2004     Assistant Professor and Faculty Director of Shared Analytical Instrument Facility, UTHSC
  • 2004 - 2009     Assistant Professor (tenure-track) and  Faculty Director of Shared Analytical Instrument Facility, UTHSC
  • 2009-2014 Associate Professor (tenured) and  Faculty Director of Shared Analytical Instrument Facility, UTHSC
  • 2014-present   Professor and  Faculty Director of Shared Analytical Instrument Facility, UTHSC


  1. Lin, Z, Marepally, SR, Ma, D, Kim, TK, Oak, AS, Myers, LK, Tuckey, RC, Slominski, AT, Miller, DD, Li, W. Synthesis and Biological Evaluation of Vitamin D3 Metabolite 20S,23S-Dihydroxyvitamin D3 and Its 23R Epimer. J Med Chem, 2016.
  2. Lin, Z, Marepally, SR, Kim, TK, Janjetovic, Z, Oak, AS, Postlethwaite, AE, Myers, LK, Tuckey, RC, Slominski, AT, Miller, DD, Li, W. Design, Synthesis and Biological Activities of Novel Gemini 20S-Hydroxyvitamin D3 Analogs. Anticancer Res, 36 (3), 877-86, 2016.
  3. Wu, X, Wang, Q, Li, W. Recent advances in heterocyclic tubulin inhibitors targeting the colchicine binding site. Anticancer Agents Med Chem, 2016.
  4. Yi, B, Chang, H, Ma, R, Feng, X, Li, W, Piazza, GA, Xi, Y. Inhibition of breast cancer cell motility with a non-cyclooxygenase inhibitory derivative of sulindac by suppressing TGFβ/miR-21 signaling. Oncotarget, 2016.
  5. Xiao, M, Wang, J, Lin, Z, Lu, Y, Li, Z, White, SW, Miller, DD, Li, W. Design, Synthesis and Structure-Activity Relationship Studies of Novel Survivin Inhibitors with Potent Anti-Proliferative Properties. PLoS One, 10 (6), e0129807, 2015.
  6. Slominski, AT, Kim, TK, Li, W, Tuckey, RC. Classical and non-classical metabolic transformation of vitamin D in dermal fibroblasts. Exp Dermatol, 2015.
  7. Lin, Z, Marepally, SR, Ma, D, Myers, LK, Postlethwaite, AE, Tuckey, RC, Cheng, CY, Kim, TK, Yue, J, Slominski, AT, Miller, DD, Li, W. Chemical Synthesis and Biological Activities of 20S,24S/R-Dihydroxyvitamin D3 Epimers and Their 1α-Hydroxyl Derivatives. J Med Chem, 58 (19), 7881-7, 2015.
  8. Wang, Q, Lin, Z, Kim, TK, Slominski, AT, Miller, DD, Li, W. Total synthesis of biologically active 20S-hydroxyvitamin D3. Steroids, 2015.
  9. Lin, Z, Li, W. The Roles of Vitamin D and Its Analogs in Inflammatory Diseases. Curr Top Med Chem, 2015.
  10. Masoud, GN, Li, W. HIF-1α pathway: role, regulation and intervention for cancer therapy. Acta Pharm Sin B, 5 (5), 378-89, 2015.
  11. Hwang, DJ, Wang, J, Li, W, Miller, DD. Structural Optimization of Indole Derivatives Acting at Colchicine Binding Site as Potential Anticancer Agents. ACS Med Chem Lett, 6 (9), 993-7, 2015.
  12. Mundra, V, Li, W, Mahato, RI. Nanoparticle-mediated drug delivery for treating melanoma. Nanomedicine (Lond), 10 (16), 2613-33, 2015.
  13. Banerjee, S, Wang, J, Pfeffer, S, Ma, D, Pfeffer, LM, Patil, SA, Li, W, Miller, DD. Design, Synthesis and Biological Evaluation of Novel 5H-Chromenopyridines as Potential Anti-Cancer Agents. Molecules, 20 (9), 17152-65, 2015.
  14. Ness, RA, Miller, DD, Li, W. The role of vitamin D in cancer prevention. Chin J Nat Med, 13 (7), 481-97, 2015.
  15. Masoud, GN, Wang, J, Chen, J, Miller, D, Li, W. Design, Synthesis and Biological Evaluation of Novel HIF1α Inhibitors. Anticancer Res, 35 (7), 3849-59, 2015.
  16. Slominski, AT, Kim, TK, Li, W, Postlethwaite, A, Tieu, EW, Tang, EK, Tuckey, RC. Detection of novel CYP11A1-derived secosteroids in the human epidermis and serum and pig adrenal gland. Sci Rep, 5, 14875, 2015.
  17. Pingili, AK, Kara, M, Khan, NS, Estes, AM, Lin, Z, Li, W, Gonzalez, FJ, Malik, KU. 6β-hydroxytestosterone, a cytochrome P450 1B1 metabolite of testosterone, contributes to angiotensin II-induced hypertension and its pathogenesis in male mice. Hypertension, 65 (6), 1279-87, 2015.
  18. Tieu, EW, Li, W, Chen, J, Kim, TK, Ma, D, Slominski, AT, Tuckey, RC. Metabolism of 20-hydroxyvitamin D3 and 20,23-dihydroxyvitamin D3 by rat and human CYP24A1. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol, 149, 153-65, 2015.
  19. Kim, TK, Lin, Z, Li, W, Reiter, RJ, Slominski, AT. N1-Acetyl-5-Methoxykynuramine (AMK) is produced in the human epidermis and shows antiproliferative effects. Endocrinology, 156 (5), 1630-6, 2015.
  20. Slominski, AT, Janjetovic, Z, Kim, TK, Wasilewski, P, Rosas, S, Hanna, S, Sayre, RM, Dowdy, JC, Li, W, Tuckey, RC. Novel non-calcemic secosteroids that are produced by human epidermal keratinocytes protect against solar radiation. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol, 148, 52-63, 2015.
  21. Xiao, M, Li, W. Recent Advances on Small-Molecule Survivin Inhibitors. Curr Med Chem, 2015.
  22. Lu, Y, Chen, J, Wang, J, Li, CM, Ahn, S, Barrett, CM, Dalton, JT, Li, W, Miller, DD. Design, synthesis, and biological evaluation of stable colchicine binding site tubulin inhibitors as potential anticancer agents. J Med Chem, 57 (17), 7355-66, 2014.
  23. Chen, J, Wang, J, Kim, TK, Tieu, EW, Tang, EK, Lin, Z, Kovacic, D, Miller, DD, Postlethwaite, A, Tuckey, RC, Slominski, AT, Li, W. Novel vitamin D analogs as potential therapeutics: metabolism, toxicity profiling, and antiproliferative activity. Anticancer Res, 34 (5), 2153-63, 2014.
  24. Slominski, AT, Kim, TK, Shehabi, HZ, Tang, EK, Benson, HA, Semak, I, Lin, Z, Yates, CR, Wang, J, Li, W, Tuckey, RC. In vivo production of novel vitamin D2 hydroxy-derivatives by human placentas, epidermal keratinocytes, Caco-2 colon cells and the adrenal gland. Mol Cell Endocrinol, 383 (1-2), 181-92, 2014.
  25. Wang, J, Chen, J, Miller, DD, Li, W. Synergistic combination of novel tubulin inhibitor ABI-274 and vemurafenib overcome vemurafenib acquired resistance in BRAFV600E melanoma. Mol Cancer Ther, 13 (1), 16-26, 2014.
  26. Slominski, AT, Zmijewski, MA, Semak, I, Zbytek, B, Pisarchik, A, Li, W, Zjawiony, J, Tuckey, RC. Cytochromes p450 and skin cancer: role of local endocrine pathways. Anticancer Agents Med Chem, 14 (1), 77-96, 2014.
  27. Slominski, AT, Kim, TK, Li, W, Yi, AK, Postlethwaite, A, Tuckey, RC. The role of CYP11A1 in the production of vitamin D metabolites and their role in the regulation of epidermal functions. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol, 2013.
  28. Slominski, A, Zbytek, B, Nikolakis, G, Manna, PR, Skobowiat, C, Zmijewski, M, Li, W, Janjetovic, Z, Postlethwaite, A, Zouboulis, CC, Tuckey, RC. Steroidogenesis in the skin: implications for local immune functions. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol, 137, 107-23, 2013.
  29. Lin, Z, Yang, R, Guan, Z, Chen, A, Li, W. Ultra-performance LC separation and quadrupole time-of-flight MS identification of major alkaloids in Plumula Nelumbinis. Phytochem Anal, 25 (6), 485-94, 2013.
  30. Kim, TK, Kleszczynski, K, Janjetovic, Z, Sweatman, T, Lin, Z, Li, W, Reiter, RJ, Fischer, TW, Slominski, AT. Metabolism of melatonin and biological activity of intermediates of melatoninergic pathway in human skin cells. FASEB J, 27 (7), 2742-55, 2013.
  31. Xiao, M, Ahn, S, Wang, J, Chen, J, Miller, DD, Dalton, JT, Li, W. Discovery of 4-Aryl-2-benzoyl-imidazoles as tubulin polymerization inhibitor with potent antiproliferative properties. J Med Chem, 56 (8), 3318-29, 2013.
  32. Slominski, A, Janjetovic, Z, Tuckey, RC, Nguyen, MN, Bhattacharya, KG, Wang, J, Li, W, Jiao, Y, Gu, W, Brown, M, Postlethwaite, AE. 20S-hydroxyvitamin D3, noncalcemic product of CYP11A1 action on vitamin D3, exhibits potent antifibrogenic activity in vivo. J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 98 (2), E298-303, 2013.
  33. Chen, J, Slominski, AT, Miller, DD, Li, W. Effects of sidechain length and composition on the kinetic conversion and product distribution of vitamin D analogs determined by real-time NMR. Dermatoendocrinol, 5 (1), 142-9, 2013.
  34. Slominski, A, Kim, TK, Zmijewski, MA, Janjetovic, Z, Li, W, Chen, J, Kusniatsova, EI, Semak, I, Postlethwaite, A, Miller, DD, Zjawiony, JK, Tuckey, RC. Novel vitamin D photoproducts and their precursors in the skin. Dermatoendocrinol, 5 (1), 7-19, 2013.
  35. Mundra, V, Lu, Y, Danquah, M, Li, W, Miller, DD, Mahato, RI. Formulation and characterization of polyester/polycarbonate nanoparticles for delivery of a novel microtubule destabilizing agent. Pharm Res, 29 (11), 3064-74, 2012.
  36. Wang, Z, Chen, J, Wang, J, Ahn, S, Li, CM, Lu, Y, Loveless, VS, Dalton, JT, Miller, DD, Li, W. Novel tubulin polymerization inhibitors overcome multidrug resistance and reduce melanoma lung metastasis. Pharm Res, 29 (11), 3040-52, 2012.
  37. Slominski, AT, Kim, TK, Chen, J, Nguyen, MN, Li, W, Yates, CR, Sweatman, T, Janjetovic, Z, Tuckey, RC. Cytochrome P450scc-dependent metabolism of 7-dehydrocholesterol in placenta and epidermal keratinocytes. Int J Biochem Cell Biol, 44 (11), 2003-18, 2012.
  38. Li, CM, Lu, Y, Chen, J, Costello, TA, Narayanan, R, Dalton, MN, Snyder, LM, Ahn, S, Li, W, Miller, DD, Dalton, JT. Orally bioavailable tubulin antagonists for paclitaxel-refractory cancer. Pharm Res, 29 (11), 3053-63, 2012.
  39. Lu, Y, Chen, J, Xiao, M, Li, W, Miller, DD. An overview of tubulin inhibitors that interact with the colchicine binding site. Pharm Res, 29 (11), 2943-71, 2012.
  40. Bukiya, AN, Patil, SA, Li, W, Miller, DD, Dopico, AM. Calcium- and voltage-gated potassium (BK) channel activators in the 5β-cholanic acid-3α-ol analogue series with modifications in the lateral chain. ChemMedChem, 7 (10), 1784-92, 2012.
  41. Slominski, AT, Kim, TK, Shehabi, HZ, Semak, I, Tang, EK, Nguyen, MN, Benson, HA, Korik, E, Janjetovic, Z, Chen, J, Yates, CR, Postlethwaite, A, Li, W, Tuckey, RC. In vivo evidence for a novel pathway of vitamin D₃ metabolism initiated by P450scc and modified by CYP27B1. FASEB J, 26 (9), 3901-15, 2012.
  42. Kim, TK, Wang, J, Janjetovic, Z, Chen, J, Tuckey, RC, Nguyen, MN, Tang, EK, Miller, D, Li, W, Slominski, AT. Correlation between secosteroid-induced vitamin D receptor activity in melanoma cells and computer-modeled receptor binding strength. Mol Cell Endocrinol, 361 (1-2), 143-52, 2012.
  43. Chen, J, Ahn, S, Wang, J, Lu, Y, Dalton, JT, Miller, DD, Li, W. Discovery of novel 2-aryl-4-benzoyl-imidazole (ABI-III) analogues targeting tubulin polymerization as antiproliferative agents. J Med Chem, 55 (16), 7285-9, 2012.