Graduate Programs


Faculty Research Mentors

STEFAN BALAZ, PH.D.
STEFAN BALAZ, PH.D. (Vermont)

Professor and Chair of the Dept. of Pharmaceutical Sciences-Vermont Campus
Program Affiliation: M.S. in Pharmaceutical Sciences
(802) 735-2615 | stefan.balaz@acphs.edu 

Dr. Balaz’s research is oriented towards the development of experimental and computational methods for determining drug disposition and receptor binding. In disposition, his lab performs experimental measurements using (1) surrogate phases to find structural determinants of transbilayer transport rates and accumulation in membranes and triglyceride phases, and (2) binding to prevalent human proteins such as albumin and extracellular matrix components. The data is used to develop structure-based models for predicting the volume of distribution and other pharmacokinetic characteristics. One of the major goals of this work is to find ways to tailor drug structures for limited distribution, thereby reducing the cytotoxicity of drugs such as those used in treating some cancers or arthritis.

Allison Burton-Chase, Ph.D
Allison Burton-Chase, Ph.D (Albany)

Assistant Professor
Program Affiliation: M.S. in Health Outcomes and Informatics
(518) 694-7362 | allison.burton-chase@acphs.edu

Dr. Burton-Chase's primary area of research is on the behavioral aspects of cancer prevention and survivorship in families with hereditary cancer syndromes. She is specifically interested in developing interventions to improve health behaviors in this population, with a focus on improving patient-provider communication. Recent projects include comparing Lynch syndrome-associated colorectal cancer survivors with sporadic controls to examine similarities and differences in the cancer survivorship experience and examining screening behaviors and patient-provider communication regarding gynecologic cancer risk for women with Lynch syndrome.

 

YANA CEN, PH.D.
YANA CEN, PH.D. (Vermont)

Assistant Professor
Program Affiliation: M.S. in Pharmaceutical Sciences
(802) 735-2647 | yana.cen@acphs.edu

Dr. Cen's research focuses on the design and synthesis of molecular probes and therapeutic agents targeting epigenetic modifying enzymes. The ultimate goal is to translate these findings into novel treatments for cancers and age-related diseases. One of the ongoing projects in her lab involves the study of sirtuins (or Class III HDACs) which are involved in central physiological regulation mechanisms, many of them with relevance to metabolic regulation and aging processes. This work formed the basis for a three-year, $480,000 NIH research grant awarded to Dr. Cen in 2017 and titled "Novel Probes for Sirtuins: A Chemical Biology Approach."

Christopher Cioffi, Ph.D.
Christopher Cioffi, Ph.D. (Albany)

Assistant Professor
Program Affiliation: M.S. in Pharmaceutical Sciences
(518) 694-7224 | christopher.cioffi@acphs.edu                                                                             

Dr. Cioffi is a medicinal chemist with extensive experience in integrated drug discovery working on research programs in support of large pharma, biotech, academic, and NIH collaborations. He has made significant drug design contributions to programs spanning multiple therapeutic indications (e.g., dyslipidemia, irritable bowel syndrome, CNS, and ophthalmology) and has helped advance drug candidates into pre-clinical development and clinical trials. In 2018, Dr. Cioffi was named co-principal investigator on a three-year, $1.45 million NIH research grant aimed at developing novel drug compounds for treating Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of vision loss in people age 50 and older.

RICHARD E. DEARBORN, JR., PH.D.
RICHARD E. DEARBORN, JR., PH.D. (Albany)

Associate Professor
Program Affiliation: M.S. in Pharmaceutical Sciences
(518) 694-7387 | richard.dearborn@acphs.edu

Dr. Dearborn’s research focuses on development neurobiology in the fruit fly (Drosophila) in three primary areas: 1) The elucidation of vitamin D3 up-regulated protein 1 (VDUP1) tumor suppressor function during brain development, including VDUP1’s role in neural stem cell biology, 2) Hedgehog (Hh)-dependent regulation of VDUP1 in cell proliferation, including how tumor cell-specific differences in Hh signaling affect pharmacological treatment strategies, and 3) Molecular characterization of Eph receptor signaling pathways, which regulate axon guidance, vascular growth, and tumorigenesis. The lab emphasizes molecular-genetic approaches in these studies, each with clinical and translational relevance.

KAREN C. GLASS, PH.D.
KAREN C. GLASS, PH.D. (Vermont)

Associate Professor
(802) 735-2636 | karen.glass@acphs.edu
Program Affiliation: M.S. in Pharmaceutical Sciences

Dr. Glass' laboratory investigates how epigenetic mechanisms regulate diverse cellular activities. High field Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography, and biochemical and molecular biology approaches are utilized to determine the three-dimensional structures and functions of chromatin binding proteins implicated in human diseases such as leukemia, heart disease, and cancer. Ultimately, these studies will lead to the identification of new therapeutic targets, more specific treatment strategies, and better overall outcomes for patients. Click the following link to read about Dr. Glass' latest NIH-funded grant.

MARTHA A. HASS, PH.D
MARTHA A. HASS, PH.D. (Albany)

Associate Professor and Dean, School of Graduate Studies
(518) 694-7238martha.hass@acphs.edu
Program Affiliation: M.S. in Pharmaceutical Sciences

Dr. Hass’ research integrates synthetic organic chemistry, pharmaceutical formulation and stability, biochemical assays, medicinal chemistry, and pharmacology. Her laboratory provides training opportunities for students in the areas of drug synthesis, pharmaceutical formulation, topical drug delivery, and assessment of drug efficacy. A major area of focus is the synthesis and activity of new drugs for use as topical agents to treat skin diseases. One group of novel co-drugs is designed to replenish natural antioxidants in the skin for enhanced and extended photoprotection relative to existing topical products. Other topical agents under development utilize the co-drug approach to target hyperproliferation of keratinocytes and inflammation associated with psoriasis.

Kideok Jin, Ph.D.
Kideok Jin, Ph.D. (ALBANY)

Assistant Professor
(518) 694-7175 | kideok.jin@acphs.edu
Program Affiliation: M.S. in Pharmaceutical Sciences

About 70% of estrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancers have a significantly reduced risk of invasive breast cancer through the use of various endocrine therapies. Despite the relative safety and significant anti-neoplastic and chemopreventive activities of tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors, many initially responsive breast tumors develop resistance and ultimately recur. My current research is to investigate the secretome leading to the endocrine resistance in crosstalk between endocrine resistant breast cancer and tumor microenvironment. The long-term mission of my laboratory is to understand the steps of the endocrine resistant process in order to develop therapeutic approaches to prevent and treat endocrine resistant breast cancer effectively. The ultimate goal of my research is to bring therapies into the clinic that will improve the survival of metastatic breast cancer patients.

Timothy LaRocca, Ph.D.
Timothy LaRocca, Ph.D. (Albany)

Assistant Professor 
Tel: (518) 694-7332 | E-mail: timothy.larocca@acphs.edu
Program Affiliation: M.S. in Molecular Biosciences

Dr. LaRocca’s research interest lies primarily in the mechanisms of eukaryotic programmed cell death or PCD. This includes the processes of apoptosis, necroptosis, and the molecular switches that balance the two pathways. Dr. LaRocca is particularly interested in the role of glucose in driving PCD. He is actively investigating the mechanism of hyperglycemic cell death and its role in the exacerbation of ischemic brain injury (stroke). A second project in his lab is an NIH-funded grant aimed at improving understanding of a type of red blood cell death called necroptosis and exploring ways to influence this process. Results from this work could one day lead to improved treatments for patients suffering from bacterial blood infections and other blood related disorders. 

MEENAKSHI MALIK, D.V.M., PH.D. (ALB)
MEENAKSHI MALIK, D.V.M., PH.D. (Albany)

Associate Professor
(518) 694-7168 | meenakshi.malik@acphs.edu
Program Affiliations: M.S. in Pharmaceutical Sciences, M.S. in Molecular Biosciences

The long term research goal of Dr. Malik’s laboratory is to understand the complexities of host pathogen interactions for the development of improved prophylactics and therapeutics against important bacterial infections. She has a three-year grant by the National Institutes of Health to investigate the mechanisms by which Francisella tularensis, a category A biothreat agent survives inside the immune cells and suppresses the protective immune responses. A second area of focus is investigating the molecular mechanisms leading to the development of antibiotic resistance in methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strains. Click the following PubMed link for additional information on research projects taking place in Dr. Malik's lab.

SHAKER A. MOUSA, PH.D., MBA, FACC, FACB (ALB)
SHAKER A. MOUSA, PH.D., MBA, FACC, FACB (Albany)

Professor, Vice Provost for Research
Chairman of ACPHS Pharmaceutical Research Institute
(518) 694-7397 | shaker.mousa@acphs.edu
Program Affiliations: M.S. in Pharmaceutical Sciences, M.S. in Molecular Biosciences, M.S. in Health Outcomes Research

Dr. Mousa's current research interest is focused on advancing novel concepts in therapeutic and diagnostic targets through the exploration of the role of cell adhesion molecules and extracellular matrix proteins, angiogenesis, thrombosis, and inflammation modulation in health and diseases. To this end, enabling technologies including nanotechnology, biotechnology, pharmacotherapy, and stem cells serve as key catalysts in the discovery of novel therapeutics and diagnostics for the treatment and prevention of various diseases including oncological, cardiovascular, neurological, ophthalmological, inflammatory, and other vascular disorders. Visit the Pharmaceutical Research Institute website to learn more about current projects and initiatives.

MARCEL MUSTEATA, PH.D. (ALB)
MARCEL MUSTEATA, PH.D. (Albany)

Associate Professor
(518) 694-7883 | marcel.musteata@acphs.edu
Program Affiliation: M.S. in Pharmaceutical Sciences

Dr. Musteata's research interests include the development of miniaturized analytical technology for
pharmacokinetic studies and therapeutic drug monitoring, with the purpose of creating personalized therapeutic
devices that integrate chemical analysis, decision, and drug delivery.

Michelle A. Parent, MS, Ph.D., MT(ASCP)
Michelle A. Parent, MS, Ph.D., MT(ASCP) (Albany)

Associate Professor
(518) 694-7314 | michelle.parent@acphs.edu
Program Affiliation: M.S. in Clinical Laboratory Sciences; M.S. in Molecular Biosciences

Dr. Parent is a trained microbiologist, clinical microbiologist, and immunologist. Her research is centered on understanding the immune response to infection, with a specific focus on two bacterial pathogens - Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Yersinia pestis. V. parahaemolyticus is a Gram-negative bacterium most commonly associated with the ingestion of raw oysters. Dr. Parent's research on this bacterium seeks to characterize which type of host response to infection may allow it to evade the host innate responses. Y. pestis is a facultative intracellular gram-negative bacillus. With this pathogen, the focus of the lab's work is to identify and understand those aspects of the immune response needed to survive a lethal pneumonic infection in order to produce a more efficacious vaccine.

WENDY M. PARKER, PH.D.
WENDY M. PARKER, PH.D. (Albany)

Associate Professor
(518) 694-7361 | wendy.parker@acphs.edu
Program Affiliation: M.S. in Health Outcomes and Informatics

Dr. Parker is a medical sociologist and interdisciplinary health services researcher. She studies health disparities throughout the life course in vulnerable populations with a specific emphasis on maternal and child health and complex patient populations. She uses both qualitative and quantitative methodologies through approaches ranging from in-depth interviews and focus groups to survey research and secondary data analysis. Recent work includes a series of projects around medication management in patients with chronic kidney disease and several studies related to women’s health. Her latest project explores strategies for working with young adults on managing their diabetes and understanding gender disparities in chronic disease.

JOHN M. POLIMENI, PH.D.
JOHN M. POLIMENI, PH.D. (Albany)

Associate Professor
(518) 694-7384 | john.polimeni@acphs.edu
Program Affiliation: M.S. in Health Outcomes and Informatics

Dr. Polimeni's research interests include healthcare financing in developing countries, energy efficiency and sustainability, economic development, transitional economies, trans-disciplinary/ecological economics, transportation economics, and sustainable agriculture.

Manish B. Shah, Ph.D.
Manish B. Shah, Ph.D. (Albany)

Assistant Professor
(518) 694-7343 | manish.shah@acphs.edu
Program Affiliation: M.S. in Molecular Biosciences; M.S. in Pharmaceutical Sciences

Work in Dr. Shah's laboratory involves structural biology. He is currently investigating genetic polymorphisms in drug metabolizing Cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes using structural and biophysical methods. CYP's constitute the major enzyme family in drug metabolism, and single nucleotide polymorphisms with amino acid substitutions are important contributors to interindividual variability in drug response. In brief, recombinant protein expression and purification are carried out in the laboratory in order to produce the quantities of CYP protein necessary for crystallization. The crystallographic data is collected remotely, and the three dimensional structure of the protein is then elucidated using computational tools.

BINSHAN SHI, PH.D.
BINSHAN SHI, PH.D. (Albany)

Assistant Professor
(518) 694-7116 | Binshan.Shi@acphs.edu
Program Affiliations: M.S. in Molecular Biosciences, M.S. in Pharmaceutical Sciences

Dr. Shi’s research interests are mainly focused on understanding the molecular basis of disease pathogenesis by using advanced molecular biology, virology, molecular genetics, and bioinformatics approaches. Methods used in his lab include a) HIV-1 infectious molecular clone, recombinant virus, and reporter gene technologies to study HIV phenotypes such as infection and replication; b) HIV-1 single genome amplification, sequencing and bioinformatics tools to understand genotype changes and their association with disease progression. Another major area of interest in Dr. Shi’s lab is the design and development of diagnosis assays for detecting infectious diseases, monitoring disease progression, and managing treatments.

Stanley Stevens, PhD
Stanley M. Stevens Jr., Ph.D. (VERMONT)

Associate Professor
(802) 735-2634 | stanley.stevens@acphs.edu 
Program Affiliation: M.S. in Pharmaceutical Sciences

Mass spectrometry (MS)-based proteomics has become a powerful, unbiased approach to understand the complex molecular mechanisms underlying fundamental biological processes as well as mechanisms associated with the development and progression of human disease. This approach is an integral component of our research program at ACPHS Vermont, where we are investigating epigenetics changes that occur in various cell and tissue types after chronic alcohol abuse. Specifically, we utilize MS to identify and quantify changes in alcohol-induced histone modifications as well as differential protein expression on a global scale in cell culture and animal models of acute and chronic alcohol exposure. In conjunction with bioinformatics, MS-based proteomic data can be used to not only determine novel proteins and/or pathways that are affected due to a specific physiological or pathophysiological state, but can also predict the activity of potential upstream regulators (e.g., transcription factors) and downstream functional outcomes. The results from proteomic and bioinformatic analysis can provide a detailed mechanistic framework for the development of targeted hypotheses for future studies.

JEFFREY M. VOIGT, PH.D. (ALB)
JEFFREY M. VOIGT, PH.D. (Albany)

Associate Professor
(518) 694-7308 | jeffrey.voigt@acphs.edu
Program Affiliation: M.S. in Pharmaceutical Sciences

VDUP-1 (TBP-2) is a protein whose expression is decreased in tumors and increased following treatment with Vitamin D. VDUP-1 functions as an inhibitor of thioredoxin, which interacts with a number of transcription factors. Dr. Voigt is currently investigating the role of VDUP-1 in regulation of transcription factor activity and cell proliferation/differentiation in different cell types.

ERIC YAGER, PH.D. (ALB)
ERIC YAGER, PH.D. (Albany)

Assistant Professor
(518) 694-7110 | eric.yager@acphs.edu
Program Affiliation: M.S. in Molecular Biosciences

Research in Dr. Yager’s laboratory is focused on understanding how the body regulates inflammatory responses during flu infection. Recent studies have established a critical role for the multi-protein cytosolic NLPR3 inflammasome complex in host defense and pathophysiology during flu infection. Specifically, Dr. Yager and his team are investigating how NLRP3 inflammasome activation and resultant inflammatory cytokine secretion are regulated on a molecular level to favor host protection over immunopathology. Other areas of research include the identification of novel targets for the development of new anti-viral drugs to combat flu infection and the role of viral-induced inflammation in the etiology and pathogenesis of autism spectrum disorder.

Haian Zheng, Ph.D. (ALBANY)
Haian Zheng, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
(518) 694-7895 | haian.zheng@acphs.edu
Program Affiliation: M.S. in Pharmaceutical Sciences

Dr. Zheng’s research group is interested in the design and evaluation of Complex Drug Products (CDP) that are made of botanicals, peptides, and proteins from nature. Interdisciplinary technologies and translational strategies are used to ensure pharmaceutical quality, elucidate mechanisms of action, and evaluate clinical benefits and risks. These efforts can help empower regulatory decisions and enable patient-centric product design. Current projects in the lab focus on assessing the risks and benefits of medical cannabis products. This includes studying the effects of botanical and endogenous cannabinoids on the brain and the blood brain interface (BBI) as well as investigating the endocannabinoid system (ECS) on drug delivery barriers.