Dmitri Ivanov, PhD

  • Recruited to: The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
  • Recruited from: Harvard Medical School
  • Award: First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty Member

Dr. Dmitri Ivanovis a structural biochemist whose work on physical interactions at protein interfaces has already had a significant influence on our thinking about therapeutic approaches to two of the deadliest problems facing the mankind -- AIDs and cancer. He was recruited from Harvard Medical School in February, 2010 to the Dept. of Biochemistry at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Dr. Ivanov, a native of Russia, began his undergraduate education in Physics at St. Petersburg State University. However, his strong affinity for understanding biological processes led him to complete his Bachelor's studies at Northeastern University in Boston, where he conducted research on carbon monoxide binding to myoglobin in the laboratory of Dr. Paul Champion. He subsequently earned his PhD at Brandeis University in the laboratory of one of the pioneers of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Alfred Redfield.

At Brandeis, Dmitri utilized his exceptional training in Physics to develop a novel "field-cycling" NMR method to study previously inaccessible quadrupolar nuclei (such as Zn, Mg, O and B) in biological macromolecules. He then built an instrument to use this technique to investigate the binding of a specific class of protease inhibitors containing boron, the birth of his ongoing interest in developing new drug therapies. As a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Gerhard Wagner at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Ivanov turned his attention to one of the pre-eminent health problems at the time - HIV infection and AIDs. His research shed light on the enigmatic function of the major homology region-the most conserved sequence element within the retroviral Gag polyprotein that forms the virus coat - and suggested a "domain swapping" model for coat assembly. Defining the structural basis of this assembly offers a unique avenue for the development of HIV therapies that may avoid the tendency of this virus to mutate. At Harvard, Dr. Ivanov's research achievements were recognized by a scholar award from the Harvard Center for AIDS Research and two individual grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Ivanov's research program at the The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio will use his expertise in protein-protein and protein-small molecule interactions to address one of the major challenges and opportunities of molecular pharmacology: inhibition of protein-protein interactions for therapeutic purposes. Particular emphasis will be on the identification, characterization, and targeting of critical macromolecular interactions involved in DNA damage sensing and repair. Inhibitors of DNA repair may expand the therapeutic window of very widely used anti-cancer drugs like cisplatin that work by causing DNA damage in rapidly dividing cells of tumors. The utility of these drugs is limited both by their toxicity to normal cells and by acquired resistance as cancer cells develop more effective DNA repair machinery. Targeting the assembly of the repair machinery at the outset should dramatically enhance the efficacy of these drugs. The structural and biophysical characterization of the key protein interactions in DNA repair in Dr. Ivanov's lab should identify how they could potentially be disrupted by pharmacological means.

Dr. Ivanov, who speaks not only Russian and English, but also Spanish and French, is accompanied to San Antonio by his wife, Maria-Luisa Gomez Ramirez, a native of Seville Span, and his two daughters.