Arkin receives Ono Pharma Foundation Breakthrough Science Initiative Award

Michelle Arkin, PhD, has received the 2018 Breakthrough Science Initiative Award from the Ono Pharma Foundation to study a class of proteins, called 14-3-3 proteins, known to be involved in various cancers, with the ultimate goal of enabling discoveries that lead to new ways to treat cancer.

The award, which was announced on July 31, supports researchers “with creative ideas in selected scientific research fields with the mission of seeking discoveries/solutions and [the] development of high impact science.”

Arkin is a faculty member in the UCSF School of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, and co-director of the department’s Small Molecule Discovery Center. She is also UCSF’s representative for Project ATOM (Accelerating Therapeutics for Opportunities in Medicine), a partnership of research institutes and the pharmaceutical company GSK, which aims to speed the pace of cancer drug discovery.

Arkin’s lab studies how interactions between proteins maintain cellular health and how they can go wrong, leading to disease. The lab tries to perturb these interactions using small molecules, providing clues that may lead to the development of new drugs for fighting conditions like cancers and neurodegeneration.

Arkin intends to use the Breakthrough Science Initiative Award to study the 14-3-3 proteins that play important roles in a variety of cancers, including breast cancer.

“The 14-3-3 proteins bind to a variety of signaling proteins inside the cell,” said Arkin. “We intend to develop a toolkit of small molecules that enhance 14-3-3 binding to cancer-related signals, which we hope will enable the discoveries that lead to the next generation of cancer therapeutics.”

The award provides $1 million in funding, over three years. Arkin is collaborating on this project with Adam Renslo, PhD, a fellow faculty member in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, as well as with Christian Ottman, PhD, a faculty member at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands.

Jack Taunton, PhD, a faculty member in the School of Medicine’s Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, was also a recipient of this year’s Breakthrough Science Initiative Award.


School of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, PharmD Degree Program

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.