Drug Discovery

Drug discovery doesn't begin in a lab; it begins with a patient. People suffering from cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, immune disorders, infectious diseases and trauma need help and hope. Researchers at the Purdue Institute for Drug Discovery are driven to find the connection between the molecular basis of disease and the compounds that might change the course of disease.


  • Accelerate the rate of drug discovery to move revelations from the lab to commercialization and then to the millions of patients who need hope and relief.
  • Create an innovative research and teaching environment to stimulate discovery and the translation of basic research into new ways to diagnose and treat disease.
  • Increase grant funding and industry investment.
  • Attract new researchers of international reputation and proven ability.
  • Foster research, clinical translation, education and commercialization in the development of lifesaving and life-enhancing drugs.


  • In early 2016, Purdue pledged to invest more than $250 million in the life sciences over the next five years, including Purdue's recently announced Pillars of Excellence in the Life Sciences Initiative, now called the Life Science Institutes, aimed at enhancing Purdue's research and graduate education in the life sciences.
    • The investment will enable high-impact faculty hires as well as dozens of new positions across six colleges, advanced instrumentation purchases and shared research facilities that enhance the life sciences.
    • This initative also established the Purdue Institute for Integrative Neuroscience and the Purdue Institute of Inflammation, Immunology and Infectious Disease.
  • Purdue researchers currently have 16 new drugs in human trials, plus 40 more in the pipeline, placing Purdue among the top institutions in the United States for drug discovery.
  • In 2016, Purdue researchers affiliated with the Purdue Institute for Drug Discovery published 496 papers, a 5 percent increase over 2014, and received 38 U.S. patents.
  • A partnership with Houston Methodist Hospital will facilitate clinical collaborations between Purdue drug makers and hospital clinical faculty to speed translation of drugs in the pipeline into human clinical trials.
  • Purdue established Boilermaker Health Innovations, a nonprofit Purdue corporation focused on raising money for the sole purpose of translating Purdue's drugs into human clinical trials. An advisory board helps determine which Purdue drugs have the greatest potential for having an impact in medicine. The board is nearly ready to select the first candidate drug for translation.
  • The Purdue Institute for Drug Discovery was established in fall 2014 as part of Purdue's Discovery Park, with the mission of developing new diagnostic tools and treatments for people in need.
  • The success of the Institute for Drug Discovery has created the need for more faculty, including the four new faculty researchers who were hired in fall 2015.
  • In 2016, the institute's newest facility, a state-of-the-art high-throughput, high-content chemical genomics screening facility, opened, paving the way for researchers to identify new chemical tools to study biological pathways for the development of novel drugs and diagnostic approaches.
  • Purdue's drug discovery researchers have made many promising advances in drug discovery since the Purdue Moves were announced. Here are a few examples of their exciting advancements:
    • In March 2016, a team led by Richard Kuhn, director of the Purdue Institute for Inflammation, Immunology and Infectious Disease, and Michael Rossmann, Purdue's Hanley Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences, was the first in the world to determine the structure of the Zika virus, revealing insights critical to the development of effective antiviral treatments and vaccines.
    • In early 2016, an international team of scientists led by Catherine Hill, professor of medical entomology and a member of the Purdue Institute for Integrative Neuroscience, sequenced the genome of the tick that transmits Lyme disease, the most common vector-borne illness in North America, shedding light on how ticks acquire and transmit pathogens and offering tick-specific targets for control.
    • In fall 2014, Philip Low, director of the Purdue Institute for Drug Discovery and the Ralph C. Corley Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, announced a breakthrough in his development of a technology that “lights up” cancer cells and thereby helps surgeons to remove them more effectively.
      • Since then, several advances in fluorescence-guided surgery have been made with our partners at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, focused on the clinical testing of molecules designed and created at Purdue
    • In April 2016, Low also announced that he may have found a new way to genetically engineer T-cells to target specific tumor cells by assigning them a "tumor-specific hit list", offering a potential improved way to treat some cancers.
    • Bumsoo Han, professor of mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering, developed a new tumor model that has been shown to predict how certain types of cancer cells react differently to a commonly used chemotherapy drug.
    • Purdue research points toward a class of compounds that could be effective in combating infections caused by Enterovirus D68. This virus has stricken children around the United States and beyond with serious respiratory infections, and might be associated with polio-like symptoms.
    • Kavita Shah, Walther Associate Professor of Bioorganic Chemistry and Chemical Biology, developed a chemical genetic approach to identify substrates in breast cancer for use as potential targets for the treatment of breast cancer.
    • In October 2015, Purdue became one of just two sites in the U.S. to house a new type of ultramodern PET imaging technology. The upgraded equipment will provide cutting-edge small animal imaging capabilities for drug discovery scientists.
    • A team of Purdue University researchers received a $1 million W.M. Keck Foundation grant to develop a new type of imaging technology for cell and tissue analysis. The concept creates a new way to perform in vivo spectroscopy, the process of using a pulsing laser light to determine the precise chemical content of tissues in living organisms.

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