Bill Zuercher, Ph.D., is a principal investigator for target validation at the SGC-UNC and research associate professor in the Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. He is interested in using chemistry to elucidate biology, particularly through the design, synthesis, and utilization of chemical probes. As a First Mover Fellow of the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program, Zuercher continues to advocate for expanding open, precompetitive discovery space as a means to strengthen the foundation, and ultimately the success of, drug discovery. He attended Grinnell College (Grinnell, IA) and then earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, CA) under the direction of Robert Grubbs. After postdoctoral study with Michael Crimmins at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Zuercher joined the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at GlaxoWellcome (Research Triangle Park, NC). During his 15 years at GW/GSK, Zuercher led multiple programs within the hit to candidate continuum.
Nearly two decades after the initial draft of the human genome, the preponderance of academic and industrial research remains focused on protein targets from the pre-genomic era. To seed research into less studied proteins, we develop chemical probes as enabling reagents and make them available to the research community. In particular, we focus on the kinase superfamily. Although several kinases are validated drug targets (there are over three dozen approved medicines targeting kinases), we have yet to see the results of selective pharmacologic inhibition of the majority of kinases. Our research program applies medicinal chemistry approaches to the generation of potent and selective kinase probes. We then engage collaborators in the application of these probe compounds to understanding the biology of the target kinases in a wide variety of contexts.