Director, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Southern Research Institute
2000 Ninth Avenue South
Birmingham, AL 35205
Dr. Parker is an expert in the evaluation of the effect of purine and pyrimidine antimetabolites on enzymes involved in nucleic acid synthesis in humans and pathogenic organisms. These compounds are an important class of drugs used in the treatment of cancers and viral infections. Biochemical studies are conducted in cell-free assays, intact cells, and animals in order to gain a complete understanding of the mechanism of action of these agents.
Dr. Parker obtained a Ph.D. in Pharmacology in 1984 from George Washington University and received further post-doctoral research training at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with Dr. Yung-chi Cheng. He joined Southern Research in 1988 and is currently a Senior Research Scientist and Director of the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department. Since 1989, Dr. Parker's research has been funded by twelve investigator-initiated research grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense. This work has led to a total of 81 publications in peer-reviewed journals, 11 book chapters/reviews, and 11 patents. Under Dr. Parker's direction, Southern Research is currently conducting three research projects to develop new drugs for the treatment of cancer and bacterial infections.
In addition to grant-based research, Dr. Parker contracts with pharmaceutical companies to assist them in their research efforts. He is frequently asked to serve on peer review panels for various journals and the National Institutes of Health to review manuscripts and grant applications that involve research into the development of new anti-AIDS and anticancer drugs. Through these efforts, Dr. Parker has gained worldwide recognition as an expert in the development of nucleoside analogs for the treatment of cancer and viral infections.
Anticancer drug discovery. Dr. Parker is a member of a research team at Southern Research that designs, synthesizes, and evaluates nucleoside analogs in an effort to create new anticancer compounds. A new drug resulting from these efforts, clofarabine, was approved by the FDA in 2004 for the treatment of childhood acute lymphocytic leukemia. Another agent, 4'-thio-arabinofuranosyl cytosine, is currently being evaluated in clinical trials for antitumor activity.
Gene therapy of cancer. Dr. Parker is involved in the development of a gene therapy strategy to treat solid tumors. Specifically, this strategy exploits the substrate differences between human and E. coli purine nucleoside phosphorylase to selectively generate toxic purine analogs in tumor cells. This approach to the treatment of solid tumors has led to the creation of PNP Therapeutics, Inc. An IND was approved by the FDA in March of 2010, and a Phase I clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of this strategy in head and neck cancer patients was initiated in 2011.
Purine metabolism in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Currently, little is known about purine metabolism in mycobacteria. It is hoped that further study will lead to the discovery of differences in utilization of substrates by the enzymes involved in purine salvage. This information could lead to the creation of new agents to selectively treat Mycobacterium tuberculosis infections.