Our Mission

To accelerate drug and biotherapeutic development at Saint Louis University, with an emphasis on underserved populations and neglected diseases.


The scope of the Saint Louis University Institute for Drug and Biotherapeutic Innovation (SLU-IDBI) is defined broadly, encompassing human and animal therapeutics such as small molecules, protein drugs, and gene therapy. SLU-IDBI’s scope also encompasses enabling technologies such as medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, animal models, delivery technologies, structural biology, and computational biology.

Example Projects

Hepatitis B Virus:  The Tavis and Meyers labs are collaboration on hit to lead and lead optimization studies on inhibitors of the HBV ribonuclease H.  Inhibiting the RNaseH blocks viral reverse transcription and the anti-RNaseH drugs we seek to develop are envisioned to be used in combination with other classes of drugs to improve the cure rate for HBV therapy.

Herpes Simplex Virus:  The Morrison lab is conduction lead optimization studies on inhibitors of HSV replication.  These inhibitors interfere with viral DNA replication and block production of infectious virus.  The anti-HSV drugs we seek to develop are envisioned to be used in combination with existing drugs to suppress viral outbreaks faster than currently possible, and against viral strains that are resistant to existing treatments.

Improve antibiotic effectiveness:  The Walker lab is conducting medicinal chemistry campaigns to develop inhibitors of bacterial efflux pumps.  There are few antibiotics available against Gram negative bacteria such as E. col, P. aerogenosa, and A. baumanii because these pathogens pump the drugs out of the cell.  The efflux inhibitors under development are envisioned to be used to enable use of existing antibiotics in the hard-to-treat Gram negative bacteria.

Cryptococcus neoformans:  The Donlin lab is working with multiple medicinal chemists to identify novel chemical scaffolds that inhibit the growth of the human fungal pathogen, Cryptococcus neoformans. We envision that any new small molecule inhibitors will be used in combination with existing drugs to fully eliminate C. neoformans in immunocompromised patients.

Long-term drug delivery:  The Zustiak lab is engineering hydrogels as a drug delivery vehicle.  Hydrogels are inert gels that can be loaded with drugs and injected into people.  The rate of release of the drugs within the hydrogels can be adjusted changing their chemical and physical composition.  Hydrogel delivery technologies are envisioned to be used for a wide range of indications in which steady release of drug over time will improve treatment of the patients.

Fibrosis:  The Griggs lab is developing integrin inhibitors to treat fibrosis, the process of scar formation, in organs such as lung, liver and kidney. Integrins are molecules that govern cell attachment, spreading, migration, and survival, and play a key role in promoting and maintaining fibrosis. Anti-integrin drugs may be useful to treat chronic lung diseases such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, fibrosis in chronic kidney diseases, and fibrosis in liver due to NASH, viral infections, or alcohol.

Multiple sclerosis:  The Sverdrup lab is nearing clinical trials on novel inhibitors of facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD).  FSHD is a debilitating, progressive weakening of the muscles that can lead to serious muscle dysfunction and mobility loss.  The Sverdrup lab discovered a key pathway in cells to target with drugs and then identified inhibitors of that pathway that are now drug candidates.  These drugs are predicted to block progression of the disease, and possible promote remission of disease severity.

Morqino Disease:  the Montano lab is developing enzyme replacement and gene therapy approaches against Morquio Disease, a childhood genetic disorder that causes toxic buildup of mucopolysaccharides in cells.  This buildup causes birth defects, development delays, and death in children.   The leading therapies are just entering pre-clinical studies.