UF Drug Discovery

From the Desk of the CNPD3 Director

The Center for Natural Products, Drug Discovery and Development (CNPD3) was instituted in 2013 and the headquarters are based in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry in the College of Pharmacy at the Medical Science Building. The founding of the Center was driven by the collective initiative by our department and the Dean of the College with the recognition of the need for a concerted drug discovery effort at UF, which coincided with the funding of our proposal for the Drug Discovery and Development (D3) preeminence initiative.

With initial financial support from the Vice President for Research, we have been able to build up the infrastructure with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities to strengthen the assay development and screening capabilities of the Center. The faculty, staff and postdoctoral fellows providing hands-on expertise to the center are funded by the College, NIH/NCI, UF Health Cancer Center and the Director’s endowed DeSantis Professorship funds.

Our Center’s expertise is strategically complemented by affiliated faculty from the different colleges and departments across UF who possess ancillary skills to strengthen our efforts and diversify our activities. Together we possess the requisite core expertise for an academic drug discovery and development platform.

Over the past few years we have been able to initiate several collaborative research programs involving assay development and screening. These have already led to several high profile publications and the submission of joint grant proposals solidifying our efforts towards building multidisciplinary research programs in drug discovery and development across UF.

With the chemical focus of our Center residing on natural products, we have also successfully expanded our collaborations internationally for obtaining access to new material that is unexplored for biomedical research.  I am convinced that internationalization of our research and educational activities would help our Center flourish, both financially and in reputation.

As the leader of UF’s drug discovery initiative, the CNPD3 hosts the annual “UF Drug Discovery Symposium” bringing together both local and national key players in this field. It is my fervent hope that CNPD3 will emerge as one of the leading drug discovery and development research centers in the country.

Hendrik Luesch, Ph.D.

Debbie and Sylvia DeSantis Chair in Natural Products Drug Discovery and Development;
Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry

Research Cores

The CNPD3 provides the infrastructure to screen for novel targets and chemical entities that modulate target activity. Target discovery and validation require genomic scale libraries for overexpression, or gain-of-function, and siRNA-mediated knockdown, or loss-of-function. Validated targets are screened against drug-like small molecule libraries. Assays are miniaturized and made “HTS-ready.” Hits are optimized and developed into probes and/or drug candidates through medicinal chemistry and pharmaceutical development campaigns. In parallel, our structure-based drug design expertise can deliver new starting points to treat specific disease states. To complement these activities, genomes of unexplored microbes will be analyzed for biosynthetic potential to discover new natural products that are not expressed under “standard” conditions. Additionally, the CNPD3 explores the scientific basis of selected nutraceuticals and dietary supplements. Prioritized compounds could also be evaluated by the Translational Drug Development Core which provides services and expertise in bioanalytical drug metabolism and preclinical pharmacokinetics.


The mission of the Center for Natural Products, Drug Discovery and Development, or CNPD3, is to foster early-stage drug discovery by providing the infrastructure, chemical libraries and expertise to screen for disease-relevant targets and for drug-like disease-modifying molecules that modulate target activity. The CNPD3 provides the academic home for the identification of drug leads and subsequent development campaigns carried out in concert with other biomedical centers at the University of Florida to drive forward preclinical and clinical drug development.

Fast Facts

Focus and Research

The chemical focus of the CNPD3 is on unique natural products, and the goal is to fully exploit the biosynthetic and therapeutic potential of untapped biodiversity for drug discovery. Candidate compounds are investigated for further development through interactive chemistry and pharmacology efforts. The center embraces all aspects of natural products research from discovery, biosynthesis and chemical synthesis, assay development, screening and target identification to drug development.

Education and Training

The educational and training objective is to integrate all Ph.D. graduate students and postdoctoral fellows whose interdisciplinary interests are focused on drug discovery. The CNPD3 provides both drug discovery expertise and the infrastructure to screen for novel targets and chemical entities that modulate target activity.

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