Daniel Nomura

Research Expertise and Interest

chemistry, molecular and cell biology, chemical biology, cancer, drug discovery, chemoproteomics, undruggable

Research Description

Dan Nomura is a Professor of Chemical Biology and Molecular Therapeutics in the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology in the Division of Molecular Therapeutics at the University of California, Berkeley and an Investigator at the Innovative Genomics Institute. He is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at UCSF. Since 2017, he has been the Director of the Novartis-Berkeley Translational Chemical Biology Institute focused on using chemoproteomic platforms to tackle the undruggable proteome. He is Co-Founder of Frontier Medicines, a start-up company focused on using chemoproteomics and machine learning approaches to tackle the undruggable proteome. He is also the Founder of Vicinitas Therapeutics based on his group’s discovery of the Deubiquitinase Targeting Chimera (DUBTAC) platform for targeted protein stabilization. He is on the Scientific Advisory Boards for Frontier Medicines, Vicinitas Therapeutics, Photys Therapeutics, Apertor Pharma, Ecto Therapeutics, and Oerth Bio. Nomura is also on the scientific advisory boards of The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research and the MD Anderson Cancer Center. He is also an Investment Advisory Partner at a16z Bio+Health, an Investment Advisory Board member at Droia Ventures, and an iPartner with The Column Group. He earned his B.A. in Molecular and Cell Biology in 2003 and Ph.D. in Molecular Toxicology in 2008 at UC Berkeley with Professor John Casida and was a postdoctoral fellow at Scripps Research with Professor Benjamin F. Cravatt before returning to Berkeley as a faculty member in 2011. Among his honors include the National Cancer Institute Outstanding Investigator Award, Searle Scholar, and the Mark Foundation for Cancer Research ASPIRE award.

The Nomura Research Group is focused on reimagining druggability using chemoproteomic platforms to develop transformative medicines. One of the greatest challenges that we face in discovering new disease therapies is that most proteins are considered “undruggable,” in that most proteins do not possess known binding pockets or “ligandable hotspots” that small-molecules can bind to modulate protein function. Our research group addresses this challenge by advancing and applying chemoproteomic platforms to discover and pharmacologically target unique and novel ligandable hotspots for disease therapy. We currently have three major research directions. Our first major focus is on developing and applying chemoproteomics-enabled covalent ligand discovery approaches to rapidly discover small-molecule therapeutic leads that target unique and novel ligandable hotspots for undruggable protein targets and pathways. Our second research area focuses on using chemoproteomic platforms to expand the scope of targeted protein degradation technologies. Our third research area focuses on using chemoproteomics-enabled covalent ligand discovery platforms to develop new induced proximity-based therapeutic modalities. Collectively, our lab is focused on developing next-generation transformative medicines through pioneering innovative chemical technologies to overcome challenges in drug discovery.

Major Research Directions

  1. Chemoproteomics-enabled covalent ligand discovery platforms to tackle the undruggable proteome
  2. Expanding the scope of targeted protein degradation using chemoproteomic platforms
  3. Discovering new induced proximity-based therapeutic modalities

In the News

An expert on 'undruggable' targets tackles the coronavirus

Throughout the grim reality of a global pandemic that has disrupted normal life for months, one persistent bright spot has been the robust response of the biomedical research community. The battle to develop vaccines and drugs to fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19, the disease which it causes, has highlighted the tremendous benefits of investing in science aimed at developing innovative research platforms and tools. When a new disease like COVID-19 arises, such platforms and tools developed for other purposes can be quickly pivoted to provide solutions to the emerging threat.

Nomura named Searle Scholar

Daniel Nomura, an assistant professor in nutritional sciences and toxicology, is one of 15 U.S. researchers in the chemical and biological sciences to be named a 2012 Searle Scholar.

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
May 4, 2020
Lisa M. Jarvis
Chemistry, molecular and cell biology, and nutritional sciences and toxicology professor Daniel Nomura, an investigator in the Berkeley-UCSF Innovative Genomics Institute, has been working with the pharmaceutical company Novartis on ways of developing drugs that harness proteins using cysteine-reactive probes. That work is now being adapted in efforts to fight COVID-19 by targeting the virus's proteins. Speaking of the main protease they're investigating, he says: "This enzyme is really well behaved and has at the center of it this amino acid -- a cysteine -- that coordinates the chemistry. ... We have this very large library of cysteine-targeting covalent ligands that we've been building out over many years. ... We thought that was a perfect way into targeting the catalytic cysteine of what I would consider a highly druggable protein."
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