Li, Wei Ph.D.

Faculty Director of Shared Instrument Facility

MEMPHIS TN 381630000
Tel: (901) 448-7532


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

Research Keywords

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Research Description

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BS, Chemistry, Univ. of Sci. & Technol. of China, 1992
PhD, Chemistry, Columbia University, 1999

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 Director of NMR Facility, UTHSC
  • 2004 - 2009     Assistant Professor (tenure-track) and Director of NMR Facility, UTHSC
  • 2009-present  Associate Professor (tenured) and Director of NMR Facility, UTHSC


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. Application of NMR spectroscopy in drug discovery studies. This area of research mainly focused on using high resolution magic angle spinning NMR (HR MAS NMR) to study metabolic changes in intact cells or cell extractions and to characterize chemically modified nanoparticles. We have active collaborations on a variety of projects.
For more information about the group including recent publications, please visit our lab homepage.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. Patil, SA, Wang, J, Li, XS, Chen, J, Jones, TS, Hosni-Ahmed, A, Patil, R, Seibel, WL, Li, W, Miller, DD. New substituted 4H-chromenes as anticancer agents. Bioorg Med Chem Lett, 22 (13), 4458-61, 2012.