University of California, Riverside

Department of Chemistry




Maurizio Pellecchia
Professor of Biomedical Sciences & Chemistry CFM


University of Naples Federico II, Naples, Italy - M.S.
University of Naples Federico II, Naples, Italy - Ph.D
Fellowship, European Molecular Biology Organization, ETH Zürich
Fellowship, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Office: 317 Sch. of Medicine Research Bldg
Phone O/L: (951) 827-7829
Research Area:

Research Summary

Our laboratory focuses on the design, synthesis and evaluation of novel pharmacological tools in the areas of cancer, neurodegeneration, and potentially other disease areas, using innovative drug discovery approaches. The overall goal of the laboratory is to bring together basic sciences including modern nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) techniques, x-ray crystallography, computer modeling, traditional medicinal synthetic chemistry, and cell-biology to elucidate the molecular basis of disease and to design novel pharmacological tools that serve for target validation and to develop novel therapeutic agents. A central theme of our laboratory is the development of novel methodologies to tackle protein-protein interactions (PPIs) as targets for drug discovery, and to further advance our most promising agents into potential therapeutics.

Examples of our most recent and exciting studies can be summarized as follows:
  • We developed several powerful approaches and strategies to ligand design that seem particularly suited for tackling challenging drug targets, such as those involved in protein-protein interactions.
  • Using our approaches, we discovered, optimized and characterized several potential therapeutic compounds targeting proteins of the Bcl-2 family, such as Mcl-1, Bfl-1, and Bcl-2. These agents are potentially very useful in overcoming cancer resistance to radiation or chemotherapy. We are investigating their efficacy to treat CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia), melanoma, prostate, breast, pancreatic, and lung cancers.
  • We are developing novel agents that aim at inhibiting cancer metastases by targeting a number of genes that are involved in migration and adhesion of cancer cells to other tissues (EphA2, SIAH, MDA-9/syntenin, PEX domain of MT1-MMP, CD44, Tcl-1, ROR1, etc.). These agents are being developed and tested in models of melanoma, CLL, prostate and pancreatic cancers.
  • We developed innovative targeted delivery approaches based on the EphA2 receptor. Conjugation of these delivery agents with chemotherapeutic drugs selectively deliver the cytotoxic agents to cancer cells, while sparing normal cells. In mice xenograft models, this approach increases the efficacy and reduces side effects (increase the therapeutic window) of chemotherapy.  The approach is being developed with various chemotherapeutic drugs currently in use as first line treatment (taxol, gemcitabine, fluradarabine, doxorubicine, etc.) against pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, renal carcinoma, melanoma, CLL, and potentially other tumors.
  • We developed novel and potent agents targeting the EphA4 receptor. These agents can find therapeutic utility in certain type of cancers (stomach cancer), in spinal cord injury, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and Alzheimer’s Disease. Our agent is currently being developed into a potential therapeutic against ALS by Iron Horse Therapeutics, Inc.    


Selected Publications


More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Department Information

Department of Chemistry
Chemical Sciences
501 Big Springs Road

Tel: (951) 827-3789 (Chair's Assistant)
Fax: (951) 827-2435 (confidential)