Thomas P. Burris, PhD

Pharmacology and chemical biology of nuclear receptors.

Adjunct Professor


Neurosciences Program
Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Structural Biology Program
Immunology Program


My laboratory focuses on the pharmacology and chemical biology of nuclear receptors (NRs). Given the number of NRs that play a role in regulation of metabolic pathway, it is natural that my lab has been drawn to focus a number of projects in the area of diabetes and metabolic disease. I spent a decade working in the private pharmaceutical industry in drug discovery focused on NR targets and I brought this experience with me back to academia where I collaborate heavily with medicinal chemists and structural biologist to develop novel ligands for NRs that may hold utility in the treatment of diabetes/obesity. We developed the first synthetic ligands targeting REV-ERB that could be used in vivo and discovered that activation of this receptor led to substantially improved metabolic function via increased oxidative function in the skeletal muscle. We continue to examine these compounds as well as to improve their function toward a potential novel treatment for type 2 diabetes. We have developed high affinity agonists targeting the ERRs, which play a very important role in regulation of oxidative metabolism and mitochondrial biogenesis. Such compounds may have use in treatment of diseases such as diabetes and muscular dystrophy. My lab also developed the first RORgt targeted drugs that are now being used to target autoimmunity. Our work in regulation of the circadian rhythm and inflammation (REV-ERB, ROR and LXR) has led us to examined the potential utility of drugs we have developed for targeting Alzheimer`s disease. Finally, we continue to identify natural ligands for orphan nuclear receptors as well as develop synthetic ligands for such receptors that may have utility in treatment of human disease.