The ISB3D came into being in 1997 with a mission to advance knowledge about human health and diseases, while designing and developing therapeutic agents and technologies to help treat and prevent them. With focuses ranging from viral and bacterial diseases to cancer, cardiovascular and cognitive diseases, ISB3D investigators drive drug discovery and development through preclinical studies and clinical development at a fraction of the costs. This combination makes discovery and development of new chemical entities more affordable and quicker, while affording longer intellectual property protection.

Specific Goals of ISB3D

The institute is part of VCU’s research enterprise. ISB3D’s goals include shaping the future of drug discovery and development; educating next-generation scientists and researchers; and supporting young entrepreneurs. Through multifaculty and multi-investigator collaborations across diverse scientific fields, the institute realizes VCU’s vision of advancing novel disease treatments and improving health of the people of Virginia and the U.S. The ISB3D operates state-of-the-art research facilities that are accessible to researchers from around the country with the goal of advancing science and technology. Through interdisciplinary health science-focused courses in undergraduate (B.S.), graduate (Ph.D., M.S.) and postdoctoral programs, the institute contributes to a key mission of VCU, which is to train the workforce of the future. Lastly, by pairing its novel inventions and patents with licensing agreements, the ISB3D plays a key role in driving technological innovation as well as providing a platform for young entrepreneurs to succeed early.

Contributing to Richmond's Infrastructure and Economy

The institute is located in the Virginia Biotechnology Research Park, which provides an excellent place for academia-to-industry translation of knowledge and technology. This also enables ISB3D to directly be part of local scientific community and the economy. The institute brings several million dollars to fund its research, directly impacting Richmond's economy. In addition, our scientists give educational lectures and presentations at local high schools and other institutions, while also hosting students, helping them to achieve their educational goals and promoting the value of science to society.


The institute is composed of a diverse group of more than 25 investigators (faculty, industry scientists and physicians) from VCU and regional institutions. The institute has faculty members from the schools of Pharmacy, Medicine, Dentistry and Life Sciences as well as the College of Humanities and Sciences. Other institutions represented in the institute include Children’s Hospital of Richmond, Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center, Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center, and a biotech incubator (Illexcor Therapeutics). Professor Umesh Desai (; (804) 828-7575) is the director of the institute.


Since 1997, the ISB3D has developed several molecules and treatments that have been pursued for clinical development. One of our paradigm-shifting anti-sickling drug candidate, 5-HMF (or Aes103) was developed through the NIH Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases program, and progressed to Phase I/II Clinical Trials. An advanced version of 5-HMF, named VZHE-039 with a unique mechanism of action, is rapidly advancing towards a Phase I/II Human Clinical Trial. ISB3D investigators also developed an ELISA test kit for detection of equine infectious anemia virus in the serum of horses, which is currently marketed as a kit. Several other molecules, especially anticancer, antithrombosis, and anti-infective, are being pursued in pre-clinical development studies. Overall, ISB3D investigators have brought in $57 million in research funding; published 451 research articles; filed 55 patent applications; and trained 125 students and postdocs.