People - TTP

Photo of Dr. Dalby in lab with researcher

TTP has assembled a multi-disciplinary team of highly motivated scientists with expertise in the area of compound management, biochemistry & enzymology, cancer biology, automated HTS, computer-based modeling, and medicinal chemistry to provide a truly comprehensive early-stage targeted therapeutic development platform.

TTP Team


Kevin N. Dalby, Ph.D., Director

Dr. Kevin Dalby (@KevinNDalby) is the Johnson & Johnson Centennial Professor of chemical biology and medicinal chemistry in the College of Pharmacy and Department of Oncology at The University of Texas in Austin. Dr. Dalby is the author of more than 100 publications on the molecular basis of protein kinase regulation and cancer-related drug discovery research. Dr. Dalby directs the overall operations of TTP.

The Dalby laboratory is developing a small molecule screening program to identify strategies and lead compounds to address the current COVID-19 pandemic as well as future coronavirus outbreaks. These screens target multiple critical elements of a coronavirus infection cycle, including its ability to enter host cells, to replicate within the host, and to avoid the host’s immune surveillance. These screens make possible the implementation of strategies to target both host and viral proteins using FDA-approved drugs, drugs in pre-clinical development, as well as many thousands of in-house test compounds. While tremendous effort is underway to develop vaccines for the current pandemic, this development faces enormous challenges and will likely not address future epidemics. It is critical for the future health and economic security of the US to develop a suite of candidate drugs for future pandemics.

Pengyu Ren, Ph.D., Co-Director

Dr. Ren is a Professor of Biomedical Engineering, William J. Murray Jr. Fellow #4 in engineering at UT Austin. Dr. Ren is an elected Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. Dr. Ren has published about 80 journal articles and 5 book chapters. Dr. Ren develops computational methods to study biomolecular structure and interactions. In collaboration with Dr. Dalby, Dr. Ren investigates novel kinase inhibitors (over 20 joint publications). Dr. Ren directs the TTP’s operations of the computational modeling.

Eun Jeong Cho, Ph.D., Operational Director

Dr. Cho is a research scientist with years of experience in high-throughput screening and core facility operation since 2006. Dr. Cho has strong expertise in assay development, high throughput automation, analytical chemistry, biochemistry, administration, and management. Dr. Cho is the author of over 50 publications and wrote two book chapters. She led over 30 screening projects, in which some of them are under progression of lead development. She oversees the day-to-day operation of TTP, supports grant application, consultation on assay development and screening, and user training, as well as leading the screening program. 

Team Members

Tamer Kaoud, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor

Dr. Kaoud is an exceptional cancer biologist who has been trained as a chemical biologist and enzymologist. He has extensive expertise in protein purifications, assay development, and mechanistic analysis, including all biophysics analysis and target validation in cancer cell models. He supports cell-based screening studies, maintaining the tissue culture facilities and propagating cell lines.

Ramakrishna Edupugant, Ph.D., Research Associate

Dr. Edupugant  has 10 years of both industrial and academic expertise in medicinal chemistry with 20 scientific publications and oversees the medicinal chemistry phase of screening projects via coordinating the modeling and structural components of each medicinal chemistry project. In addition, he coordinates with the Innovating for Health (i4Health) Institute (formerly the Drug Dynamics Institute) to provide sufficient quantities of prioritized compounds for formulation and pharmacokinetic analysis.

Chengwen Liu, Ph.D. Research Associate

Dr. Liu earned his Ph.D. degree in physical chemistry in 2015 from Peking University. He has rich experience in classical modeling of biomolecules and electronic structure calculations of molecular interactions. He is responsible for developing computational models and performing free energy simulations to assist structure-based drug discovery.

Rae M. Sammons, Ph.D. Research Associate

Dr. Sammons has experience in biochemical and cell-based assays. Dr. Sammons works in assay development and executing high throughput screening.

Administrative Staff

Catherine Rodriguez, Administrative Program Coordinator

Ms. Rodriguez supports the administrative aspects of TTP, such as invoicing and cost-recovery operations, staff hiring, scheduling of meetings, and record-keeping.