About Us

The Center for Drug Discovery, formerly known as The Institute for Structural Biology, Drug Discovery and Development (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, Center 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

The Center is part of VCU’s research enterprise. The Center's goals include shaping the future of drug discovery and development; educating next-generation scientists and researchers; and supporting young entrepreneurs. Through multi-faculty and multi-investigator collaborations across diverse scientific fields, the Center realizes VCU’s vision of advancing novel disease treatments and improving health of the people of Virginia and the U.S. The Center 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 Center 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 Center 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 Center 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 the Center to directly be part of local scientific community and the economy. The Center 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 Center is composed of a diverse group of more than 25 investigators (faculty, industry scientists and physicians) from VCU and regional institutions. The Center 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 Center include Children’s Hospital of Richmond, Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center, Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center, and a biotech incubator (Illexcor Therapeutics).


Since 1997, the Center 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. The Center's 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, Center investigators have brought in $57 million in research funding; published 451 research articles; filed 55 patent applications; and trained 125 students and postdocs.