Skip to Main Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Footer Navigation
Give Now

Make a Difference

print this page email this page
In the race to cure cancer, computer modeling is accelerating drug design

Fast-tracking chemistry

There’s not a test tube in sight. But the work of Yu-Shan Lin and her chemistry department team holds tremendous promise for treating disease. Her strategy? Using “virtual screening” technology to accelerate the discovery and development of novel anticancer and antiviral drugs.

Lin generates simulated computer models of small protein chains called peptides and evaluates their likelihood of being a successful drug.

Her extraordinary expertise is sought after both within and beyond the chemistry department; she has established collaborations with scientists at Tufts University School of Medicine and MIT.

Why? A compelling advantage of computational work over traditional chemistry (think labs and test tubes) is the sheer speed of analysis. “I can generate models for hundreds and thousands of diverse compounds and evaluate how likely they are going to be an effective drug,” says Lin. “Pharmaceutical companies are interested in such an approach. If you give me 1,000 compounds to try, I can tell you the top 20 that I think will work for your disease target—and I can do that in a fraction of the time required by scientific experiments.”

Lin developed a passion for looking deeply into atomic structures in her native Taiwan. She earned a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin−Madison, where she won an Excellence in Research Award for Physical Chemistry. After postdoctoral studies as a Bio-X fellow at Stanford, she joined Tufts in 2012. One of the first things she did was spend some of her start-up funds to double Tufts’ computational capacity—a match with her vision for building this new academic area.

Lin is a perfect fit for Tufts, says Krishna Kumar, chair of the Department of Chemistry. “We’re very lucky to have recruited her,” he says. “She represents a future direction in the field—and in the sciences more generally—in which we are wise to invest. She’s a ‘live wire,’ bringing great energy and enthusiasm to the job. She is a wonderful addition to the Tufts community.”