Texas Therapeutics Institute

Jointly funded by the Texas Emerging Technology Fund (ETF) and the University of Texas (UT) is establishing research laboratories in three UT campuses: UT Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC), and UT-Austin (UTA). TTI faculties will coordinate their research activities to provide the necessary inter-institutional infrastructure to advance drug discovery and development in the State of Texas. TTI faculties will establish independent, complementary, and collaborative  translational drug discovery programs.

The Texas Therapeutics Institute at The Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine (TTI-IMM) was established in 2010 by Dr. C. Thomas Caskey with funding from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, The University of Texas System, and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. TTI-IMM was created for the discovery, development, and commercialization of therapeutic agents and diagnostic tools. Research conducted at the center focuses on the establishment of proof-of-principle for therapeutics and the identification and validation of drug targets. TTI is located in the Fayez S. Sarofim Research Building, in the heart of the Texas Medical Center. TTI’s mission is to carry out translational research and drug discoveries related to cancer, cardiovascular disease, and stem cells.


Zhiqiang An, PhD, Professor and Director, Robert A. Welch Distinguished University Chair in Chemistry

Dr. Zhiqiang  An, Professor and Director
Dr. An has an outstanding track record in the pharmaceutical industry, including the delivery of several clinical candidates of monoclonal antibodies.  His current major research interest is on the mechanism of resistance to antibody treatment in breast cancer.   Drug resistance is often a limiting factor for clinical efficacy of existing cancer therapies. Dr. An’s research team is studying cancer drug resistance mechanisms in the HER/ErbB signaling pathways using monoclonal antibodies as platform technology.  Dr. An’s team is exploring mechanisms of cancer drug resistance and discover/develop antibodies for potential diagnostic and therapeutic applications.  Dr. An is also a professor at The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

Qingyun (Jim) Liu, PhD, Professor, Janice D. Gordon Distinguished Professor in Bowel Cancer Research

Dr. Qingyun Liu, Professor
Dr. Liu’s group will be focused on understanding the functions of a group of receptors (LGR4, LGR5, and LGR6) that play critical roles in normal growth and development, as well as to the initiation, growth and metastasis of cancer, especially of colon cancer.   We are in the process of identifying the endogenous ligands of these receptors.  Our goal is to delineate the signaling mechanisms of these receptors and identify small molecule/biologicals that can modulate the activity of this system for the development of novel therapeutics in regenerative medicine and cancer treatment. 

Xin (Alex) Ge, PhD, Associate Professor

Dr. Xin Ge, Associate Professor
Dr. Ge’s work focuses on discovery and engineering of biologics, such as monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) and therapeutic enzymes. His lab is committed to inventing enabling methodologies that facilitate biologics development, which are important but difficult or even impossible with current technologies. Bypassing the limits associated with what nature offers, his team applies engineering strategies to streamline a set of in vitro approaches including synthetic library, rational design, functional selection, repertoire sequencing, etc. Combinations of these approaches provide a powerful means for developing highly potent mAbs of biological activities relevant to disease diagnosis and treatment. Many mAbs discovered in Dr. Ge’s lab have showed significant efficacy in various models of cancer, stroke, obesity, and neuropathic pain. In addition, mAbs originated from his group have been licensed to bio-pharm industry for further development and commercialization.

Wenliang Li, PhD, Associate Professor

Dr. Wenliang Li, Associate Professor
Dr. Li’s lab is interested in studying cancer metastasis that is responsible for over 90% of cancer death. Much of their work involves in functionally exploring human kinome (kinases) in vitro and in vivo, to identify new players in cancer metastasis, as an avenue to gain novel insights into the still elusive mechanisms of metastasis. The goal of their studies is to discover new prognostic markers, drug targets and better therapeutics for human metastatic diseases.

Kyoji Tsuchikama, PhD, Associate Professor

Dr. Kyoji Tsuchikama, Associate Professor
The primary interest of Dr. Tsuchikama’s lab is in developing novel ADC linker technologies by taking advantage of the power of organic chemistry, medicinal chemistry, and chemical biology. One example is branched ADC linkers that can be equipped with multiple drug molecules. Most ADC linkers developed to date accommodate only single cytotoxic drugs. The clinical potential of such multiloading ADC linkers had remained unexplored because of the lack of efficient and versatile methods. The Tsuchikama lab developed efficient methods for installing dual-loading ADC linkers in a simple and quantitative manner. Based on this success, they are currently advancing the multi-loading strategy to produce next-generation ADCs for combating the cancer drug resistance and heterogeneity. These are unsolved issues in cancer chemotherapy leading to discontinuation of medication and recurrence of malignancy. They envisage that their ADC technologies will provide innovative approaches for overcoming such unsolved issues and establish a novel technology platform providing a number of valuable additions to the current list of drug candidates for the future clinical studies.

Ningyang Zhang, PhD, Associate Professor

Dr. Ningyan Zhang, Associate Professor
The proteolytic process mediated by proteinases including matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) in the tumor microenvironment plays a critical role in tumor growth, invasion, metastasis, and cancer drug resistance. Dr. Zhang and her team will study the interactions between proteinases and anti-tumor antibodies in the tumor microenvironment and will delineate the roles of proteinses (MMPs) play in tumor resistance to cancer antibody therapies.

Dr. Clifford Stephan, Assistant Professor
Dr. Stephan received his PhD from the Department of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee. He is a vascular biologist with extensive experience in pharmacology and drug discovery. Dr. Stephan began his biotechnology/pharmaceutical career at Encysive Pharmaceuticals, Houston, Texas in 1993. He started and ran the High Throughput Screening New Drug Discovery Program at Encysive, becoming its Director in 2005. Since 2007 he has served as the Director of the John S Dunn high-throughput and high-content screening core laboratory of the Gulf Coast Consortium (GCC) for Chemical Genomics and is responsible for all screening campaigns, data acquisition, analysis and database management. Beginning in 2011, Dr. Stephan will serve as the Principle Investigator for the Cancer Prevention Research in Texas (CPRIT) GCC High-Throughput Screening Program concentrating on development of drug combinations for use in cancer prevention, overcoming resistance or decreasing overall toxicity. Dr. Stephan lectures regularly on drug discovery in graduate programs and has organized GCC workshops on high–throughput screening and its application to drug discovery research.