Brian Blagg appointed new director of Warren Center for Drug Discovery

Author: Brian Wallheimer and Tammi Freehling

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Brian Blagg, Ph.D., currently the Lester and Betty Mitscher Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Kansas, will join the University of Notre Dame as the incoming director of the Warren Family Research Center for Drug Discovery and Development and the Charles Huisking Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry, according to Mary E. Galvin, William K. Warren Dean of the College of Science. Rich Taylor, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, has been the acting director of the Warren Center since its inception in 2014.

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Professor Blagg’s program, which has led to advancements in development of potential therapeutics for glaucoma, neural degeneration and cancer, will add to historic strengths at Notre Dame. The Warren Center is a collaborative program that focuses on discovery and development of new therapeutics for treatment of cancer, infectious diseases, and a number of rare diseases. The center pulls together researchers from across the University and supports core research facilities such as the Chemical Synthesis Facility and Computer-Aided Molecular Design Facility.“The College of Science is grateful to Rich Taylor for leading the effort to establish the Warren Center during his time as associate dean for research,” Galvin said. “As the inaugural director, he developed the center to support drug discovery research across the campus and promote external partnerships particularly in rare diseases. We are thrilled to have Brian Blagg join us and now look forward to seeing his efforts to expand the foundation, building upon the Center’s strong foundation.”

“Professor Blagg brings to the center outstanding expertise in rational design. Brian has identified a number of interesting molecules with potential to be next-generation chemotherapeutic agents for cancer as well as other diseases,” Taylor said.  “He is particularly experienced in translational drug discovery which develops basic discoveries in biology and chemistry and translates them towards clinical practice.”

Blagg said his early focus will be to build new relationships with medical schools that can take promising leads with in vitro and in vivo data into phase one human trials, noting that Notre Dame’s reputation for research and scholarship will help in securing these clinical partnerships.

At the University of Kansas, Blagg’s work in small molecule therapeutic agents focused on protein folding and their potential in glaucoma, neurodegenerative diseases and cancers. Blagg earned a B.A. in chemistry and environmental studies in 1994 from Sonoma State University and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 1999 from the University of Utah. In 2002, Blagg completed a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellowship at The Scripps Research Institute. Blagg will begin his work on campus in July and his laboratory will be housed in McCourtney Hall.