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Last Updated: 05/06/21

PTGB Staff Profiles and Focus Areas

Weiwei Chen, Ph.D.

Dr. Weiwei Chen is a Program Director in PTGB. She obtained her Ph.D. in Molecular Pharmacology from the New York University, where she studied the molecular mechanisms regulating glucocorticoid receptor transcriptional activities. After graduation, she joined Genentech, Inc. to discover molecular targets important in promoting tumor angiogenesis and studied paracrine mechanism of hedgehog signaling in ligand-dependent tumor types. Dr. Chen served as Program Manager at the NCI Experimental Therapeutics Program, a cancer drug discovery and development initiative before joining PTGB. Dr. Chen's areas of interest reside in discovery and preclinical development of pharmacologic interventions to overcome cancer drug resistance and metastasis, with focus on transcriptional regulation, microenvironment components modulation and tumor stroma interaction, cancer cell organ tropism and dissemination, cancer metabolism, novel target validation, inhibitor mechanism of action study, in vivo model establishment and proof-of-concept efficacy testing, and in vivo pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics characterization.

Weiwei Chen, Ph.D.
Program Director
chenw6@mail.nih.gov

Suzanne L. Forry, Ph.D.

Dr. Suzanne Forry attained her Ph.D. in Anatomy and Cell Biology from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. She joined NIH in 2004 as a Scientific Review Official in the Center for Scientific Review. Prior to joining NIH, Dr. Forry directed the gene therapy oncology programs at Genetic Therapy, Incorporated where her laboratory focused on cancer immunotherapy. Dr. Forry directs a portfolio of research grants spanning from drug discovery through pre-clinical studies supporting future clinical trials. She is the point person for several trans-NIH funding opportunities on drug screening, as well as a funding opportunity for therapeutic development and mechanisms of resistance in small-cell lung cancer (a component of the NCI Small-Cell Lung Cancer Consortium). Particular areas of focus in Dr. Forry's portfolio are strategies to inhibit mutant KRAS, mechanisms of action and resistance of targeted therapies, and combinations of immunotherapies and small molecule (standard-of-care) therapies. Dr. Forry's portfolio spans all cancer types.

Suzanne L. Forry, Ph.D.
Program Director
forryscs@mail.nih.gov

Yali Fu, Ph.D.

Dr. Fu received her Ph.D. at Cornell University. She has more than 30 years of experience in natural products drug discovery in cancer, HIV, malaria, TB and tropical diseases. Her areas of expertise include natural products drug discovery (marine and terrestrial microbes, plants and animals) and mechanism of action, biosynthesis/bioengineering, genetically engineered organisms for production, herbal and traditional medicines, drug formulations, drug delivery, antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs), nanotechnology in drug delivery (nanoparticles), liposomes, controlled release, targeted therapies, and preclinical pharmacology.

Yali Fu, Ph.D.
Program Director
fuyali@mail.nih.gov

Sudhir B. Kondapaka, Ph. D.

Dr. Sudhir Kondapaka serves as a Program Director in PTGB and has 20 years of experience in preclinical cancer research. He joined NCI in 2001 as a Senior Scientist at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research where he was involved in the development of novel drug screening platforms relevant to cancer. Before joining NCI, Dr. Kondapaka, served as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Texas Medical Branch, where he studied the role of receptor activity modifying proteins (RAMPs 1-3) in altering association of the calcitonin receptor like receptor (CRLR) with its ligand. As a Research Scientist at MD Anderson Cancer Center, he studied the role of p21-activated kinase in tumor invasion and metastasis. Dr. Kondapaka's programmatic research interests include: preclinical cancer research involving siRNA/shRNA and/or small molecules; signal transduction; epigenetic alterations; DNA damage/repair; apoptosis; autophagy; human microbiome and cancer; target identification and validation; drug screening and development; mechanism of action of anticancer agents; biochemical and molecular assays; protein and antibody arrays; and drug resistance; fusion oncoproteins.

Sudhir B. Kondapaka, Ph. D.
Program Director
kondapas@mail.nih.gov

Morgan O'Hayre, Ph.D.

Dr. Morgan O'Hayre received her PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where she investigated the role of chemokines and chemokine receptors in cancer cell survival and metastasis. After graduation, Dr. O'Hayre conducted post-doctoral research in the intramural research program at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), NIH. During her postdoctoral training, Dr. O'Hayre characterized G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) cell signaling pathways in the context of normal cell function and disease states including cancer. Prior to joining PTGB, Dr. O'Hayre was a health policy analyst and special assistant to the NIDCR director and performed a program detail with the Translational Genomics Research Branch in NIDCR's Division of Extramural Research. Her programmatic interests include preclinical cancer research involving GPCRs and downstream signaling targets, stem cells, head and neck cancers, ovarian cancers, and leukemias and lymphomas.

Morgan O'Hayre, Ph.D.
Program Director
ohayrem@mail.nih.gov

Sharad K. Verma, Ph.D.

Sharad received his PhD in Chemistry from the University of California, Irvine, where he developed novel synthetic chemistry methods for the synthesis of terpenoid based natural products, having applications in cancer. As an NIH postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, he worked on the development of enantio-controlled methods for the synthesis of chiral heterocycles derived from amino acids, for applications in cancer, inflammation, and infectious disease. Prior to joining PTGB, Sharad was at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine where he had a joint appointment as Director of R&D of the Neurofibromatosis Program, and as Assistant professor in the Department of Neurology, Neurooncology, and Neurosurgery. Prior to that, he was in the pharmaceutical industry for nearly 15 years working at GlaxoSmithKline and Bayer, holding various leadership roles (lab head, project team leader, project manager, global early medicines development leader) in oncology R&D for pre-clinical (and clinical) programs targeting signal transduction, epigenetics, and immuno-oncology. He was also a NIH study section reviewer for the drug discovery for the nervous system (DDNS) and chemical molecular probes (CMP) sections. His programmatic interests with respect to pre-clinical cancer research include the design, synthesis, and biopharmaceutical optimization of small molecules, medicinal chemistry, structure-based drug design, combination based approaches, and tumor microenvironment.

Sharad K. Verma, Ph.D.
Acting Deputy Associate Director
sharad.verma@nih.gov

About the Branch Chief

Dr. Sundar Venkatachalam Dr. Sundar Venkatachalam serves as the chief of PTGB. Sundar earned his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the Ohio State University, where he studied the molecular mechanisms of DNA damage and repair responses induced by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Baylor College of Medicine, he analyzed the role of the p53 haploinsufficiency in tumor susceptibility and aging using genetically engineered mouse models. More…