D Gomika Udugamasooriya, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Department: Advanced Imaging Research Center, Biochemistry

Graduate Programs: Biological Chemistry, Biomedical Engineering

Biography

I was born in Sri Lanka and moved to the US for higher studies in 2001. After completing my graduate studies and postdoctoral fellowship, I joined the faculty at UT Southwestern Medical Center in 2009. I have been working in the fields of medicinal chemistry and chemical biology over 15 years and have gathered experience in major drug development approaches such as natural products, structure based design and high throughput combinatorial techniques.

My approach in research is to use simple chemical tools to address complex biological problems. Over the last 6 years, I have been exploring the use of peptoids - a class of peptidomimetics, mainly focusing in oncology applications. Peptoids are biologically amenable and easy to synthesize and more importantly have great drug like properties. We have developed a unique on-bead two-color (OBTC) cell screen to ‘directly’ identify the highest specificity ligands from large combinatorial libraries targeting cell surface biomarkers. By applying this methodology, we were able to successfully identify and validate high affinity and specific peptoid ligands for (i) VEGFR2, (ii) T-cell receptors, (iii) cancer stem cells (iv) Fibulin-5 (a novel protein important in angiogenesis) and (v) cancer specific lipid phosphatidylserine (PS).

The current focus of my research group is centered on:

(1) Further validating above mentioned peptoids in both therapeutics and imaging (by coupling of imaging agents) applications.

(2) Developing diverse peptoid combinatorial libraries, identifying high specific peptoids for various cancer specific bio-markers (through ‘targeted’ OR ‘unbiased’ selections), validating their therapeutic and imaging potentials with an ultimate goal of developing ‘theragnostic’ agents and personalized medicine.

(3) Applying on-bead combinatorial principles in synthesizing and imaging of contrast agent libraries to study and identify optimized imaging agents.

Education

Undergraduate "university of Colombo, Sri Lanka" (1999), Chemistry
Graduate School Wayne State University (2006), Biochemistry

Research Interests

  • Cancer and cancer stem cell biology research
  • Cancer therapy-diagnostic tool development - "Theragnostics"
  • Combinatorial synthesis and cell screen
  • Novel contrast agent development
  • Peptidomimetics (in particular peptoid) development

Publications

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Honors/Awards

  • SPORE Career Development Award
    (2010)

Professional Associations/Affiliations

  • Phi Lambda Upsilon - Alpha Psi chapter (Honorary Chemical Society)
  • The American Chemical Society