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Genetics Faculty

Visit the Adams Lab Website

Drew Adams
Assistant Professor
Department of Genetics
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University
Biomedical Research Building 720
2109 Adelbert Road
Cleveland, Ohio 44106-4955
Tel: (216) 368-4922
Fax: (216) 368-3432

About Drew Adams

Drew graduated from Swarthmore College with Highest Honors and obtained his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry at Harvard University (Prof. David A. Evans). He then undertook postdoctoral studies with Prof. Stuart L. Schreiber at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT within the Center for the Science of Therapeutics. There he used high-throughput screening and chemical biology techniques to identify drug candidates that modulated cancer cell stress phenotypes and to elucidate these molecules' cellular mechanisms-of-action. Drew joined the Case Western Reserve University Genetics Department in 2015 as an Assistant Professor, and in July 2018 he was appointed as the Thomas F. Peterson, Jr. Professor of Cancer and Energy Research. Drew also serves as Director of the Small-Molecule Drug Development Core, a newly-built facility enabling high-throughput screening to accelerate academic drug discovery efforts.

The Adams Lab builds on Drew's unique interdisciplinary training, which spans organic chemistry, chemical biology, and drug discovery. Our specialized expertise and drug discovery instrumentation has led to productive collaborations with multiple researchers in neurodegenerative disease at Case Western Reserve University.


A central focus of the lab is currently to identify drug candidates that promote the formation of oligodendrocytes, the specialized cell that produces myelin in the brain. Loss of oligodendroctyes underlies many neurological diseases, including multiple sclerosis and pediatric leukodystrophies. Specialized brain stem cells ('oligodendrocyte progenitor cells') are known to have a limited capacity to replace lost oligodendrocytes, but this innate repair process can be overwhelmed in the context of disease. Future 'remyelinating therapeutics' that kickstart the formation of new oligodendrocytes represent a regenerative medicine approach that may accelerate the regeneration of functional myelin and have therapeutic impact in these debilitating diseases.

Our work, a close collaboration with Prof. Paul Tesar (Case Western Reserve University) as well as Prof. Robert Miller (George Washington University), provides a new understanding of how drug candidates impact brain stem cells to enhance myelin repair. Our landmark paper, published July 2018 in the leading scientific journal Nature, describes how more than two dozen drug candidates that enhance oligodendrocyte formation share a common ability to inhibit specific cellular enzymes that help make cholesterol. As a result, the sterol substrates of these enzymes accumulate and signal to promote the formation of new myelin. This new insight, which powerfully unifies and explains results obtained by labs across the globe, provides new drug targets, new potent drug leads, and new sterol biomarkers to guide the future development of remyelinating therapeutics.

Selected Publications

Accumulation of 8,9-unsaturated sterols drives oligodendrocyte formation and remyelination
Zita Hubler*, Dharmaraja Allimuthu*, Ilya Bederman, Matthew S. Elitt, Mayur Madhavan, Kevin C. Allan, H. Elizabeth Shick, Eric Garrison, Molly Karl, Daniel C. Factor, Zachary S. Nevin, Joel L. Sax, Matthew A. Thompson, Yuriy Fedorov, Jing Jin, William K. Wilson, Martin Giera, Franz Bracher, Robert H. Miller, Paul J. Tesar, Drew J. Adams
Nature (2018);

Melanoma Therapeutic Strategies that Select against Resistance by Exploiting MYC-Driven Evolutionary Convergence.
Singleton KR, Crawford L, Tsui E, Manchester HE, Maertens O, Liu X, Liberti MV, Magpusao AN, Stein EM, Tingley JP, Frederick DT, Boland GM, Flaherty KT, McCall SJ, Krepler C, Sproesser K, Herlyn M, Adams DJ, Locasale JW, Cichowski K, Mukherjee S, Wood KC
Cell Rep (2017);21(10):2796-2812
See PubMed abstract

2-Chloropropionamide As a Low-Reactivity Electrophile for Irreversible Small-Molecule Probe Identification.
Allimuthu D, Adams DJ
ACS Chem Biol (2017);12(8):2124-2131
See PubMed abstract

A genetic basis for the variation in the vulnerability of cancer to DNA damage.
Yard BD, Adams DJ, Chie EK, Tamayo P, Battaglia JS, Gopal P, Rogacki K, Pearson BE, Phillips J, Raymond DP, Pennell NA, Almeida F, Cheah JH, Clemons PA, Shamji A, Peacock CD, Schreiber SL, Hammerman PS, Abazeed ME
Nat Commun (2016);7:11428
See PubMed abstract

Correlating chemical sensitivity and basal gene expression reveals mechanism of action.
Rees MG, Seashore-Ludlow B, Cheah JH, Adams DJ, Price EV, Gill S, Javaid S, Coletti ME, Jones VL, Bodycombe NE, Soule CK, Alexander B, Li A, Montgomery P, Kotz JD, Hon CS, Munoz B, Liefeld T, Dančík V, Haber DA, Clish CB, Bittker JA, Palmer M, Wagner BK, Clemons PA, Shamji AF, Schreiber SL
Nat Chem Biol (2016);12(2):109-16
See PubMed abstract

Radiotherapy in the era of precision medicine
Yard, B.; Chie, E. K.; Adams, D. J.; Peacock, C.; Abazeed, M. E.
Seminars in Radiation Oncology (2015);25, 227-236

NAMPT is the Cellular Target of STF-31-Like Small Molecule Probes
Adams, D. J.; Ito, D.; Rees, M. G.; Seashore-Ludlow, B.; Puyang, X.; Ramos, A. H.; Cheah, J. H.; Clemons, P. A.; Warmuth, M.; Zhu, P.; Shamji, A. F.; Schreiber, S. L.
ACS Chem. Biol. (2014);
See PubMed abstract

Integrative radiogenomic profiling of squamous cell lung cancer.
Abazeed ME, Adams DJ, Hurov KE, Tamayo P, Creighton CJ, Sonkin D, Giacomelli AO, Du C, Fries DF, Wong KK, Mesirov JP, Loeffler JS, Schreiber SL, Hammerman PS, Meyerson M
Cancer Res (2013);73(20):6289-98
See PubMed abstract

Synthesis of piperlogs and analysis of their effects on cells.
Boskovic ZV, Hussain MM, Adams DJ, Dai M, Schreiber SL
Tetrahedron (2013);69(36):
See PubMed abstract

Discovery of small-molecule enhancers of reactive oxygen species that are nontoxic or cause genotype-selective cell death.
Adams DJ, Boskovic ZV, Theriault JR, Wang AJ, Stern AM, Wagner BK, Shamji AF, Schreiber SL
ACS Chem Biol (2013);8(5):923-9
See PubMed abstract

Synthesis, cellular evaluation, and mechanism of action of piperlongumine analogs.
Adams DJ, Dai M, Pellegrino G, Wagner BK, Stern AM, Shamji AF, Schreiber SL
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A (2012);109(38):15115-20
See PubMed abstract

A small-molecule probe of the histone methyltransferase G9a induces cellular senescence in pancreatic adenocarcinoma.
Yuan Y, Wang Q, Paulk J, Kubicek S, Kemp MM, Adams DJ, Shamji AF, Wagner BK, Schreiber SL
ACS Chem Biol (2012);7(7):1152-7
See PubMed abstract

Progress Toward the Syntheses of (+)-GB 13, (+)-Himgaline, and Himandridine. New Insights Into Imine/Enamine Aldol Cyclizations
Evans, D. A.; Adams, D. J.; Kwan, E. E.
J. Am. Chem. Soc. (2012);134, 8162-8170

Total Synthesis of (+)-Galbulimima Alkaloid 13 and (+)-Himgaline
Evans, D. A.; Adams, D. J.
J. Am. Chem. Soc. (2007);129, 1048-1049

Simultaneous and stereoselective formation of planar and axial chiralities in enantiopure sulfinyl iron diene complexes.
Paley RS, Liu JM, Lichtenstein BR, Knoedler VL, Sanan TT, Adams DJ, Fernández J, Rablen PR
Org Lett (2003);5(3):309-12
See PubMed abstract