Michigan Drug Discovery, the university-spanning collaboration to support and accelerate drug discovery projects, is getting a new director — and he has big plans for how the initiative can continue to impact the university and the regional economy.
Peter Toogood, an experienced research manager, drug discovery scientist and American Chemical Society Heroes of Chemistry awardee, will join U-M as MDD director in January 2020. He succeeds Vince Groppi, who has led the initiative since 2015.
MDD provides funding, guidance, strategy and coordination of the university’s wide-ranging drug discovery resources — from target validation to clinical trials. Since its formation by several university units in 2012, MDD has invested more than $2.6 million in university projects addressing a broad swath of disease areas.
“It’s very clear that U-M has made a huge commitment in the drug discovery arena,” Toogood said. “I look forward to building upon the excellent work already done by Vince and other university leaders, and using my experience to help advance the superb science happening at the university toward the ultimate goal of new medicines.”
One of Toogood’s goals as MDD director will be to work with the U-M Office of Technology Transfer to grow the university’s impact on the local and state economy, by identifying opportunities and partners for licensing U-M discoveries and forming startup companies that can advance these discoveries through clinical development.
Toogood’s experience spans biotech companies, large pharmaceutical companies and academia.
He comes to U-M from Lycera, a biopharmaceutical company specializing in the discovery and development of small molecule medicines to treat autoimmune diseases and cancer. He joined Lycera when the company formed in 2007 and most recently held the position of senior vice president for chemistry and chemical biology. Previously, he also led research programs at Parke-Davis and Pfizer.
Toogood was on the U-M Department of Chemistry faculty before transitioning to industry, and has continued teaching as an adjunct professor of medicinal chemistry in the College of Pharmacy, where he will now hold a joint appointment and pursue his own research program, in addition to leading MDD.
“Peter is bringing to the university a variety of skills and experience that will enable MDD to continue advancing the university’s drug discovery program and help bring new medicines to the public,” said Jim Dalton, dean and professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the College of Pharmacy and chair of the MDD executive committee.
“His unique set of perspectives can help U-M researchers connect their drug discovery projects to industry partners and funding opportunities in ways that can maximize U-M’s impact on human health.”
Originally called the Center for the Discovery of New Medicines, the center transitioned under Groppi’s leadership to Michigan Drug Discovery in 2018 to better reflect its broadening scope and emphasis.
“Over the past five years, we have been able to advance over 50 academic drug discovery projects, all of which are built from basic science roots and represent needed new approaches to improving the standard of care of patients,” Groppi said.
“And I am certain that Peter’s broad experience in drug discovery and his commitment to excellence will make MDD even stronger and more effective in the years to come.”