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Center for SC Drug Discovery Team

Karen Lackey

Executive Director

Karen Lackey is currently the Executive Director, Center for Therapeutic Discovery and Development (CTDD) at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and is responsible for building a portfolio of innovative therapies and medicines. The portfolio is focused on treatments of cancer, immunology, fibrotic and inflammatory diseases, and neurological disorders. CTDD has announced several major partnerships. For example, a multi-year, multimillion dollar collaboration with Bristol-Myers Squibb in fibrosis research, and a strategic alliance with Aeterna Zentaris in multiple disease areas. Previous to her current position, she was the Vice President and Head of Medicinal Chemistry at the Nutley, NJ (USA) site of Hoffmann-La Roche from 2010 - 2013 where she was responsible for oncology, inflammation, virology and new technologies. Prior to that, she was the Vice President of Chemistry, Molecular Discovery Research for GlaxoSmithKline. She played an active role in the discovery of the dual erbB2/EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor, lapatinib, currently marketed as Tykerb. Karen has over 95 publications and patents, principally covering oncology, inflammation, kinase inhibition, gene family molecular design and cellular signaling.



Deirdre Luttrell

Head of Biology and Alliance Manager

Deirdre Luttrell received a B.A. in Zoology for from Pomona College in 1979, followed by an AM in Zoology from Duke University in 1982 and a PhD in Microbiology from the University of Virginia in 1989.  Following postdoctoral work at the University of Virginia and the Glaxo Inc Research institute, she joined the Glaxo Inc Research Institute as a senior scientist in 1993. In 2001 she joined  GlaxoSmithKline where she served as a Project Leader in Oncology and Metabolic Disease and then Manager in High Throughput Biology High Content Screening. She joined MUSC in 2004 as an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Nephrology.  She has recently taken the position of Head of Drug Discovery Biology within the SCCTDD at MUSC.  Dr. Luttrell’s long time scientific interests are in signal transduction and cancer biology, and recently she has been applying her knowledge of growth factor signaling to understanding the mechanisms of non-neoplastic disease processes, such as the renal and vascular complications of diabetes mellitus. At MUSC she has spent a great deal of time developing biomarker assays, working with the SearchLightTM and LuminexTM multiplex ELISA platforms to assay circulating hormones, cytokines and growth factors in human samples, and managing the DCCT/EDIC and VADT sample banks and biomarker databases. She has recently optimized assays for the high quality measurement of plasma prekallikrein, and in collaboration with the Research and Development team at Fibrogen, Inc., has optimized conditions for assaying CTGF in banked VADT plasma samples.


Yuri Peterson

Head of Computational Chemistry, Informatics, & Assay Design

Yuri Karl Peterson received a B.S. in Biotechnology from Salem International University in 1996, a MS in Pharmacology from the Medical University of South Carolina in 2001, and a Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in 2004. Following postdoctoral work in enzymology and drug development at the Duke University Medical Center, and in cheminformatics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2008), he joined the South Carolina College of Pharmacy faculty in 2009. In 2014 he became Head of Computational Chemistry and Informatics of the SCCTDD. Dr. Peterson’s focus is in applied science using in vitro, cell based, and in silico approaches to quantitate protein and small molecule functionality to bridge between chemical biology and pathobiology. He works to link together the pharmacology of cell signaling, chemical biology, and cheminformatics. Yuri has over 35 publications and has contributed to the pharmacology of cancer cell signaling, the study of enzyme kinetics, GPCRs, G-proteins, the scaffolding proteins (like AGS, and arrestin G-protein regulators), prenyltransferases, methyltransferases, and lipid binding proteins.  He has also worked to develop bioassays, high-content microscopy, high-throughput screening, and cheminformatics to probe signaling and in the design and testing of experimental therapeutics.  His recent efforts were to optimize the use of small data sets to create rigorously validated 3D-pharmacophore models, 2D-QSAR models, combined with computational docking. These data serve to create hypotheses for ligand and drug action and to probe vast amounts of chemical space in order to prioritize labor intensive and costly translational experiments. 


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Andrew Lackey

Compound Management

Andrew J Lackey serves as the SCCTDD lead chemistry research technician.  He received his BS in chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) in 2014.  Andrew has extensive industry and academic chemistry experience having research interns at    GlaxoSmithKline in 2009, Kainos Medicine in 2010, UNCC in 2010-2012, Roche in 2013, and the Medical University of South Carolina in 2013.  Andrew’s current position has is efforts directed to the synthesis, purification, and characterization of small molecules for SCCTDD projects. Andrew is managing safety aspects of the chemistry laboratories including appropriate chemical storage, labeling, waste disposal, and documentation. He is also a critical team member in the creation and maintenance of the South Carolina Compound Collection (SC3).


Pieter Burger

Molecular Modeling and Analytics

Pieter Burger obtained a BSc in Biochemistry, BSc honours in Chemical Pathology, MSc in Biochemistry and PhD in Bioinformatics from the University of Pretoria, South Africa. Dr. Burger joined the research group of Professor D.C. Liotta at Emory University for Postdoctoral studies in 2009, later becoming a Technical Research Specialist and head of the Computational Unit within the group. More recently, Dr. Burger joined MUSC as a Research Assistant Professor where he focuses on computational aided drug design (CADD). The use of CADD has become an integral part of all major drug discovery endeavors, encompassing an array of disciplines that include bioinformatics, biophysics, pharmacology, chemoinformatics, and molecular design. Dr. Burger’s research is concentrated on incorporation of receptor flexibility into structure-based drug design (SBDD), identification of complementary small molecule conformations with high binding affinity, and using biophysical methods to investigate ensembles of rapidly equilibrating conformations of small molecules in solution. In addition, he seeks identification of novel synthesizable compounds that display drug-like properties through library enumeration. The power of combining methods from different study fields shows promise in answering questions that will increase efficiency of the drug discovery process. Dr. Burger research are focused on the identification of novel anti-malarial’s agents and understanding the mode of action of allosteric modulators of the ion channel, N-methyl-D-Aspartate (NMDA) receptors, which plays a role in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression, schizophrenia, stroke and seizures.


Marianne Rogers

Administrative Coordinator

Marianne R. Rogers serves as the Administrative Assistant for the South Carolina Center for Therapeutic Discovery and Development, as well as the Department of Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences.  Marianne has been with the Medical University for twenty-five years serving as the Administrative Assistant in the offices of the General Counsel, Vice President for Finance &  Administration and the Chief Operations Officer.


Clara Bailey

Business Manager

Clara Bailey serves as the business manager for the South Carolina Center for Therapeutic Discovery and Development.  Clara received a B.A. in Communication with a concentration in Media Studies from the College of Charleston in 2011.   She has been employed with the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) since 2011.   Beginning with an Internship at the MUSC Publication “The Catalyst” where she learned the Public Relations strategies of the University as well as writing for the publication.  After that she held roles in the Department of Medicine as an Administrative Assistant and Fiscal Technician and at the College of Pharmacy as an Administrative Coordinator.