Yong-Mo Ahn is a research scientist in the Early Translation Branch within NCATS’ Division of Preclinical Innovation. As a member of the Discovery Biology Group within the Antiviral Program for Pandemics, he works on developing and optimizing biochemical and cell-based screening assays using diverse technologies for high-throughput screening and profiling small molecules against viral targets of pandemic potential.
Prior to joining NCATS, Ahn worked as a senior research scientist in the laboratory of Joel S. Freundlich, Ph.D., at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, where he was involved in assay development to monitor drug accumulation and metabolism in various cell types. Previously, he was a postdoctoral fellow in the Tuberculosis Research Section (TRS) at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, where he was mentored by Clifton E. Barry, III, Ph.D., and Helena I. Boshoff, Ph.D. In the TRS, he was involved in various projects related to drug discovery and assay development targeting essential enzymes, disease diagnostic tool development, and drug target identification and mechanism of action studies against M. tuberculosis.
Ahn earned his doctorate in chemistry from the University of Florida under the guidance of Nigel G. J. Richards, Ph.D., where he focused on the identification of potent small-molecule inhibitors against human asparagine synthetase with potential clinical application in treating acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Ahn earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where — under the tutelage of Rex F. Pratt, Ph.D. — he conducted research focused on synthesis and kinetic studies of novel β-lactamase substrates to study kinetic and structural consequences of the leaving group in the novel β-lactamase substrates.
Ahn’s research interest focuses on investigating xenobiotic metabolism at a cellular level, triggered by the interaction between protein targets and different ligands — the latter being the native substrates, inhibitors from drug development programs, or chemical probes. The goals of his research are to explain how small molecules affect cellular metabolism and homeostasis and to identify the roles that the protein targets play in physiological and pathological processes in response to their cellular effect. Ahn seeks to use this knowledge to identify and develop novel therapeutic targets and drugs for the treatment of various diseases.