New director for U-M’s Center for the Discovery of New Medicines

Posted on: Mon, 2015-02-23 13:17   By: Ian Demsky

Vincent GroppiANN ARBOR—Vincent Groppi, a leader in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, has assumed the position of director of the University of Michigan’s Center for the Discovery of New Medicines.

The CDNM is a virtual center that supports early-stage, innovative drug-discovery research projects across the university and is administratively housed at the Life Sciences Institute. Established in 2012 by several university unit partners, the center has successfully funded three rounds of projects, for a total of 20. It also hosts a series of drug-discovery lectures and connects university research to industry mentors.

“The University of Michigan is poised to be a national leader in academic drug discovery, and I’m very excited to see the breadth and depth of expertise, experience and technology reach its full potential,” Groppi said. Groppi is also the director of the Center for Chemical Genomics, the high-throughput screening center located in the Life Sciences Institute.

Most recently, Groppi was the vice president and chief scientific officer of Essen BioScience, an integrated bioscience company that developed technologies to solve therapeutically important problems in cancer and neuroscience. Previously, he held positions at Upjohn, Pharmacia and Pfizer leading discovery, development and strategy teams. During the course of his career, he advanced six compounds into clinical development.

“Vince brings to the CDNM a deep background in drug discovery, with formidable industry knowledge as well as academic experience,” said Alan Saltiel, Mary Sue Coleman Director of the Life Sciences Institute. “He understands that labs in universities, rather than drug companies, are discovering more and more of the truly innovative new medicines that will transform human health.”

Groppi holds a doctorate from the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and was a postdoc and assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco. He currently serves as a drug discovery consultant for the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and is a standing member of an NIH/NINDS translational study section. Groppi has taught translational pharmacology at U-M and serves on the university's Protein Folding Disease Initiative. He also co-founded Oricula Therapeutics, a biotechnology company that is advancing a clinical candidate to treat hearing loss. 

Groppi's expertise includes target identification and validation, assay development, knowledge-based and broad-screening strategies, driving lead optimization, establishing in vivo efficacy, defining pharmacokinetics, efficient use of regulatory toxicology and identifying translational biomarkers for preclinical and clinical decision making. Early in his career, Groppi co-invented an instrument for cell-based drug screening and mechanistic assays called Fluorescent Imaging Plate Reader, or FLIPR, which has become an important technology in high-throughput screening and lead optimization.

“I’m eager to help academic researchers bridge the gap between their labs and the commercial world in order to bring new drugs to market—and to patients who need them,” Groppi said. “We’ll be working hard to connect the bench and the bedside." 

The CDNM is a virtual organization devoted to identifying, funding and mentoring projects in drug discovery across the U-M campus. This mission and scope is made possible by funding from the Office of the Provost, the College of Pharmacy, the Life Sciences Institute, the Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Department of Internal Medicine, the Department of Pathology, and the Endowment for the Basic Sciences in the Medical School. 

“The Center for the Discovery of New Medicines will continue to jump-start early-stage projects and help to train the next generation of researchers in drug discovery and development,” Groppi said. “At the same time, we’ll be strengthening the commercialization possibilities that are critical to moving discoveries to the market.”

In collaboration with the Vahlteich Medicinal Chemistry Core and Pharmacokinetics Core residing in the College of Pharmacy, the Center for the Discovery of New Medicines brings together U-M expertise in all areas of the drug discovery enterprise, uniting investigators with interests in disease pathology with medicinal chemists, structural biologists, pharmacologists, pharmaceutics and drug metabolism researchers. This collective venture makes it possible for the university to better exploit existing investments in informatics, robotics and high-throughput screening, including unique collections of natural product extract libraries.

“Clearly there are outstanding efforts and opportunities in drug discovery research across campus,” said Jim Dalton, dean of U-M’s College of Pharmacy. “We look forward to working with Groppi and the CDNM to leverage the work being done in different units and labs to achieve our research, educational and translation missions in drug discovery.”

The center issues requests for applications for funding twice a year. The next call for proposals will be in spring 2015.


Media Contact: Ian Demsky, 734-647-9837,

Monday, February 23, 2015