Li, Wei Ph.D.

Professor
Director of UTCoP Drug Discovery Center
Faculty Director of Shared Instrument Facility

Office: 561 COLLEGE OF PHARMACY BUILDING
881 MADISON AVENUE
MEMPHIS TN 381632198
Tel: (901) 448-7532
wli@uthsc.edu
https://www.uthsc.edu/pharmacy/drug-discovery-center.php

Education

  • Ph.D., Columbia University in the City of New York, Chemistry
  • MS candidate., Dalian Inst Chem Phys, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chemical Physics
  • B.S., University of Science & Technology of China, Chemical Physics

Group News (from August 11 2017)

September 19, Qinghui''s paper in collaboration with Dr. Yue''s lab on the role of survivin in ovairan cancer is accepted in Oncotarget, congratulations to Qinghui who is now enjoying the new life at NYC. 

August 16, Zongtao''s paper on the synthesis and biological testing of 1,20-D3 is accepted in Scientific Reports, congratulations to Zongtao, Hao, Jim and all other co-authors. 

August 14, the Li lab welcomes three new graduate students this fall, Luke from China, Najah from Saudi, and Brandon from Atlanta. Luke and Najah will work on chemistry, and Brandon will work on biology. 

August 11, Zongtao will join University of Pensylvinia as a postdoctoral researcher starting from September 1. Qinghui will join Cornell Medical School in NYC as a postdoctoral researcher starting September 1. Congratulations to both Zongtao and Qinghui, for their hard work in the past five years and the advancement in their professional careers. The group and our collaborators will miss the them a LOT and wish the best for their career development!

My Current CV

Group Members

 

An August 2017 snapshot of the Li and Miller groups. The two groups work closely and we have joint lab research meetings on collaborative projects.

From left to right (Li group members are in bold):

  1. Dr. Dong-Jin Hwang, research associate in the Miller group
  2. Dr. Souvik Banerjee, postdoc in the Miller group
  3. Ms. Kinsie E Arnst, PhD graduate student in the Li group. B.S. from Houston Baptist University
  4. Dr. Yali He, postdoc in the Miller group
  5. Dr. Qinghui Wang, PhD student in the Li group, MS from Peking University  (graduated in 2017, and currently a postdoc at Cornel Medical School)
  6. Dr. Duane D. Miller, Professor Emeritus
  7. Dr. Zhongzhi (Jim) Wu, Research Assistant Professor in the Li group. PhD from Nanjing University
  8. Dr. Wei Li, Professor
  9. Mr. Brandon Bumbaca, PhD student in the Li group. BS from Georgia Institute of Technology.
  10. Dr. Hao Chen, Postdoc in the Li group. PhD from Sichuan University in China.
  11. Ms. Shanshan Deng, PhD student in the Li group. MS from China Pharmaceutical University
  12. Mr. Hanxuan Li, PhD student in the Li group. BS from Zhejiang University
  13. Dr. Zongtao Lin, PhD student in the Li group, MS from Peking University (graduated in 2017, and currently a postdoc at U Penn)
  14. Ms Najar Albadari, MS student in the Li group

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), Abbivie, Inc..
  12. Dr. Min Xiao, PhD (graduated in December 2015), computer scientist.
  13. Dr. Zongtao Lin, PhD student (2012-2017), currently a postdoc at U. Penn.
  14. Dr. Qinghui Wang, PhD student (2012-2017), currently a postdoc at Medical College of Cornel University in NYC.

Research Funding

Active:

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

NIH/NCI
Title: “ Targeting the colchicine site in tubulin for advanced melanoma”
1/1/2016-12/31/2020 
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
NIH/NCI
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

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. See here for a recent report about our work in this area:
 http://researchfeatures.com/2017/06/19/small-molecule-cancer-treatments/

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 Graduate Student Positions

Postdoc Positions:

A postdoctoral position in cancer biology is immediately available in the lab of Prof. Wei Li, College of Pharmacy at UTHSC, for NCI funded projects. Recent PhDs with research experience in cancer biology or a related field and have excellent skills in animal experiments are expected. A minimum of two first author papers published in high impact journals in the cancer research field is required, and previous experience in assisting PI writing grant applications is strongly preferred. The postdoctoral researcher is expected to independently carry out research projects with minimal supervision from the PI, has excellent written and communication skills, and can assist Dr. Li in his writing grant applications. The position  is available immediately, with possibility of renewal dependent upon successful progress in research. Salary is competitive and commensurate with experience. Interested individuals should contact Prof. Wei Li by email wli@uthsc.edu. 

Graduate Student Positions:

Our lab welcome motivated and talented students to join us towards PhD study. Graduate students will either focus on medicinal chemistry which requires extensive synthetic chemistry skills or computer-aid drug design backgrounds, or focus on biological aspect of the drug discovery research. Intrerested applicants should submit applications before the deadline to the UTHSC graduate program. 

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:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/myncbi/wei.li.11/bibliography/45414079/public/?sort=date&direction=descending

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
  • 2017-present    Director of UTHSC College of Pharmacy Drug Discovery Center

Publications

  1. Seleverstov, O, Tobiasz, A, Jackson, JS, Sullivan, R, Ma, D, Sullivan, JP, Davison, S, Akkhawattanangkul, Y, Tate, DL, Costello, T, Barnett, S, Li, W, Mari, G, Dopico, AM, Bukiya, AN. Maternal alcohol exposure during mid-pregnancy dilates fetal cerebral arteries via endocannabinoid receptors. Alcohol, 61, 51-61, 2017.
  2. Deng, S, Lin, Z, Li, W. Recent advances in antibody-drug conjugates for breast cancer treatment. Curr Med Chem, 2017.
  3. Yang, R, Mondal, G, Ness, RA, Arnst, K, Mundra, V, Miller, DD, Li, W, Mahato, RI. Polymer conjugate of a microtubule destabilizer inhibits lung metastatic melanoma. J Control Release, 249, 32-41, 2017.
  4. Banerjee, S, Hwang, DJ, Li, W, Miller, DD. Current Advances of Tubulin Inhibitors in Nanoparticle Drug Delivery and Vascular Disruption/Angiogenesis. Molecules, 21 (11), 2016.
  5. Slominski, AT, Kim, TK, Hobrath, JV, Oak, ASW, Tang, EKY, Tieu, EW, Li, W, Tuckey, RC, Jetten, AM. Endogenously produced nonclassical vitamin D hydroxy-metabolites act as "biased" agonists on VDR and inverse agonists on RORα and RORγ. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol, 2016.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Wu, X, Wang, Q, Li, W. Recent advances in heterocyclic tubulin inhibitors targeting the colchicine binding site. Anticancer Agents Med Chem, 2016.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Slominski, AT, Kim, TK, Li, W, Tuckey, RC. Classical and non-classical metabolic transformation of vitamin D in dermal fibroblasts. Exp Dermatol, 2015.
  13. 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.
  14. Masoud, GN, Li, W. HIF-1α pathway: role, regulation and intervention for cancer therapy. Acta Pharm Sin B, 5 (5), 378-89, 2015.
  15. Lin, Z, Li, W. The Roles of Vitamin D and Its Analogs in Inflammatory Diseases. Curr Top Med Chem, 2015.
  16. Wang, Q, Lin, Z, Kim, TK, Slominski, AT, Miller, DD, Li, W. Total synthesis of biologically active 20S-hydroxyvitamin D3. Steroids, 2015.
  17. Mundra, V, Li, W, Mahato, RI. Nanoparticle-mediated drug delivery for treating melanoma. Nanomedicine (Lond), 10 (16), 2613-33, 2015.
  18. 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.
  19. Ness, RA, Miller, DD, Li, W. The role of vitamin D in cancer prevention. Chin J Nat Med, 13 (7), 481-97, 2015.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
  26. Xiao, M, Li, W. Recent Advances on Small-Molecule Survivin Inhibitors. Curr Med Chem, 2015.
  27. 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.
  28. 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.
  29. 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.
  30. 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.
  31. 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.
  32. 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.
  33. 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.
  34. 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.
  35. 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.
  36. 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.
  37. 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.
  38. 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.
  39. 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.
  40. 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.
  41. 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.
  42. 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.
  43. 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.
  44. 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.
  45. 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.
  46. 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.
  47. 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.