The Tenth Talk of the CUFSAA-NA Distinguished Speaker Series organized in association with the Faculty of Science, University of Colombo was delivered by Prof. Gomika Udugamasooriya on February 27, 2024, 09:30AM Eastern Time (February 27, 2024, 8:00pm Sri Lankan Time).
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Event Date & Time: February 27th 2024, 9:30AM Eastern Time (February 27th 2024, 8:00pm Sri Lankan Time (US and Canada)
How to Join: All talks of the Distinguished Speaker Series are FREE and delivered via Zoom Technology.
Meeting ID: 835 2553 7341
Title: Novel technologies to expedite the drug-lead discovery process
Speaker: Gomika Udugamasooriya, PhD, Professor, Department of Pharmacological & Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Houston, Houston, TX, USA, Cancer Systems Imaging, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA, The Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA and Senior Member, National Academy of Inventors, USA.
Abstract: In the conventional western drug discovery process, biologists first define disease specific biomarkers and then chemists and biologists develop drugs to target those biomarkers to attack the disease. According to statistics, only 1 out of initial 10,000 drug-leads become a drug, and this is a major concern in terms of effectiveness of the process. The vast majority of initially developed active drug-leads dropped away during the 5–15-year long drug discovery process, mainly due to their off-target effects. Dr. Udugamasooriya has developed a new on-bead two-color (OBTC) drug-lead discovery technology that can identify the most selective drug-leads at the very beginning, which can minimize the time and resource expenditures on validating those non-selective drug-leads. Various applications of this OBTC technology effectively bypass the conventional drug discovery approach that needs priori knowledge of the biomarker to develop drug-leads. The unbiased OBTC screens provide novel ways to identify new biomarkers and drug-leads to target those at the same time as well. This OBTC technology has so far produced 10 patented novel drug-candidates that are validated up to pre-clinical levels in Cancer, COVID19, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Alzheimer’s, Sepsis, and multiple other disease types.
Education: Dr. Gomika Udugamasooriya obtained his BSc (chemistry special) in 1999 from University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. He completed his PhD in Bioorganic chemistry and biochemistry in 2006 at Wayne State University, Michigan, USA. Then he completed a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at University of Texas – Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA, mainly focusing on cancer chemical biology.
Research & Work Experience: In his independent academic career, Dr. Udugamasooriya first joined as a tenure track Assistant Professor at the University of Texas – Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA in 2009. Then he moved to University of Houston (UH), MD Anderson Cancer Center and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, USA, which is the world’s largest medical center, and currently serves as a tenured Professor of medicinal chemistry. The development of a unique high throughput cell screen to identify highly selective drug-leads for cell surface drug-targets was one of the major milestones in his career.
Professor Udugamasooriya is directing a multi-faceted research program mainly focused on cancer drug-lead discovery and diagnostic tool developments, funded by research grants from National Institute of Health (NIH), Department of Defense (DOD), Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), Innovative Research Award from the Rheumatology Research Foundation, Owens Foundation, Major Inc., and various other sources. He has published over 40 research articles so far in worlds topmost journals, including Nature Chemical Biology, Journal of American Chemical Society, Clinical Cancer Research and European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry etc. He also presented over 75 abstracts and gave about 50 invited seminars in US and worldwide. His novel drug discovery technology has so far produced 10 national and international patents.
Recognizing his impactful and innovative contributions to research and successes in patents and commercialization, he has been inducted as a Senior Member at the United States national Academy of Inventors in 2023, where only 435 Senior Members exist world-wide so far in the academy.
He is an editorial board member and a reviewer of many international scientific Journals. He is a member of grant review panels in US government National Institute of Health (NIH), Auckland Medical Research Foundation – New Zealand, US private foundations such as Keck Foundation and multiple international organizations. He received numerous awards, including Chancellor’s 50-in-5 Scholar multiple times at UH, Faculty Excellence in Research, NIH SPORE Cancer Excellence Career Development award, and in his undergraduate career, he graduated winning the gold medal award in chemistry at University of Colombo.
Professor Udugamasooriya was the Chair of the Graduate Education committee at UH. He has been an advocate for many young scientists and engage in numerous career building seminars and workshops both in US and Sri Lanka. He is actively engaged in conducting seminars and workshops worldwide on cancer prevention and research, highlighting the value of practicing holistic medical approaches. Those include developing good eating habits, building psychological strengths, positive thinking, in addition to conventional cancer treatments.
Additional Ways to view: You can listen to the talk via FBLive and YouTube Live as well.
Prof. Hashini Perera, Professor at the Department of Chemistry will deliver the vote of thanks on behalf of Prof. Rohini M. de Silva, Head of the Department of Chemistry, University of Colombo.
This talk will be moderated by Dr. Wasundara Fernando on behalf of the Speaker Series subcommittee of CUFSAA-NA.