College of Pharmacy Appoints New Co-Director of Arizona Center for Drug Discovery

Celina Zerbinatti, PhD, has joined the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology as the co-director for the Arizona Center for Drug Discovery (ACDD) and an associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology.

Dr. Zerbinatti will be co-directing and advancing the ACDD, a collaborative center based in the College of Pharmacy that creates the infrastructure to bring University of Arizona researchers from diverse fields together to accelerate drug discovery efforts. Working with fellow co-director, Wei Wang, PhD, she will provide strategic leadership for a wide research portfolio across biological targets, therapeutic areas and modalities in drug discovery from early state research to phase 2 clinical trials. Dr. Zerbinatti will also be responsible for identifying novel opportunities for new grant applications, start-up companies, intellectual property, and partnerships.

In February, the ACDD gained a permanent, physical home at the College through the renovation and expansion of the Skaggs Pharmaceutical Sciences Center. The building renovation added 20,000 sq. feet of laboratory space with an emphasis on providing more chemistry equipment for medicinal chemists and drug discovery researchers. Laboratory space has been designated for ACDD efforts and includes state of the art equipment such as Nuclear Magnetic Resonance instruments, Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (analytical and prep), ISCO purification system, UV-Visible Spectroscopy, fluorometer, and fluorescence plate readers.

“Her comprehensive experience and past success in drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry will enhance the ACDD’s ability to facilitate the translation of the research findings of our members,” said Rick G. Schnellmann, PhD, College of Pharmacy Endowed Dean and the Howard J. Schaeffer Endowed Chair in Pharmaceutical Sciences at UArizona. “This is an incredibly exciting time for the College of Pharmacy, and we are thrilled to have Dr. Zerbinatti bring her talents to the University of Arizona.”

Dr. Zerbinatti is an accomplished senior leader from the pharmaceutical industry. She gained extensive drug discovery experience at Merck research laboratories, where she led program teams in the area of neuroscience for almost 10 years. She then joined Evotec A.G. as the scientific and operational head of a broad drug discovery alliance on Huntington's disease with the CHDI Foundation. Expanding into the biotech sector, Dr. Zerbinatti was a senior consultant for the Dementia Discovery Fund at SV Health Investors and, most recently, the head of biology at ESCAPE Bio, a clinical stage biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of small molecule drugs to treat genetically-defined neurodegenerative diseases.

“I am incredibly thrilled with the opportunity to work with the creative and talented UA faculty, and to help advance their promising biomedical discoveries and assets into the market,” shared Dr. Zerbinatti.

Dr. Zerbinatti obtained her BS, MS and PhD degrees from the University of São Paulo, Brazil, and completed her postdoctoral training at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, MO.