Chemistry and Pharmacology Branch (CP)

What We Do:

The Chemistry and Pharmacology Branch (CP) supports research on all aspects of chemistry and pharmacology affected by drugs of abuse. The CP Branch maintains, develops, and oversees a portfolio encompassing research, such as:

  1. Elucidating mechanisms  of action, structure-activity relationships, understanding of basic principles involved with biological activity, pharmacology and toxicity,
  2. Developing new receptor  type and subtype specific agents and,
  3. Supporting research on the pre-clinical development of new pharmacotherapies  for the treatment  of drug abuse disorders emphasizing the pre-clinical stages of target identification through hit-to-lead.

Research Interests/Goals:

This branch supports research programs on

  • Elucidate effects of drugs on all the physiological systems including the central nervous system and the other physiological systems such as the cardiovascular, pulmonary, and immune.
  • Using synthetic, medicinal, Structure-activity studies (SAR) and pharmacological approaches, develops probes for basic research and potential drug leads to treat addictive disorders; Elucidates the chemical mechanism for drug addiction,
  • The discovery of endogenous ligands, and the role of endogenous ligands and systems relevant to drug action, and addiction
  • The studies of absorption, metabolism, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, elimination, transport and delivery
  • Investigations on analytical methods development, proteomics, protein folding and related functional genomics and structural biology
  • Synthesis, structure-function relationships, conformational studies, structural biology, ligand design of all drugs abuse; synthesis of affinity reagents, chemical probes, drug-receptor interaction model to elucidate drug action
  • Pharmacological approaches to understand perinatal drug exposure and the effects of confounding factors, such as, maternal and environmental stress, nutrition etc., on neural systems and other organs utero.

Research Interests and Biographies


Dr. Subramaniam (Sam) Ananthan

Subramaniam Ananthan, Ph.D. - Chief
(301) 443-1887
Dr. Subramaniam (Sam) Ananthan, is the Chief of the Chemistry, Pharmacology, Physiology Branch.  Dr. Ananthan is a medicinal chemist with more than 30 years of experience in the discovery and development of new therapeutics for the treatment of pain, addiction, and other central nervous system disorders. Following his postdoctoral research with Professor Donald T. Witiak at The Ohio State University, he joined Southern Research Institute in 1987 where he held various positions from a research chemist to a Fellow. He also served as an Adjunct Professor of chemistry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). He has been a Principal Investigator on multiple grants and contracts and a recipient of continuous funding from NIDA for more than 25 years. His NIDA-funded research has focused on the development of opioids possessing mixed functional activity, D3 receptor antagonists for treatment of substance use disorders, and allosteric regulators of the dopamine transporter for treatment of substance use disorders. He has published over 85 peer-reviewed papers in the areas of medicinal chemistry and structure-based drug design. He is an inventor on 21 U.S. patents and has been inducted as a Fellow of National Academy of Inventors (NAI). He has been an active member of the American Chemical Society and has served as a Long Range Planning Committee member in the Division of Medicinal Chemistry.  and expertise, we look forward to seeing how his leadership will shape the field.

Dr. Kiran Vemuri

Kiran Vemuri, Ph.D. - Program Officer
(301) 443-1887
Dr. Kiran Vemuri’s career in science spans over two decades across both industry and academia of which, he spent 15 years developing research tools and studying novel treatments for substance-use disorders. His research interests broadly include chemical synthesis, route selection and optimization, in vitro and in vivo pharmacology, and the therapeutic assessment of biologically active compounds. After receiving his Ph.D in chemistry from Osmania University, India, Dr. Vemuri worked at Northeastern University, Boston, as faculty, ultimately taking on the role as Deputy Director at the University’s Center for Drug Discovery. Notably, Dr. Vemuri’s research on pseudo-irreversible tight binding ligands led to determining the crystal structures of both the human CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. Dr. Vemuri is known for his research on CB1 neutral antagonists that are devoid of CNS liabilities and their positive effects on metabolic profiles. Beyond addiction science research, he actively worked on the early- and late-stage discovery, and the development of therapeutics for treating diabetic nephropathy, pulmonary inflammation and fibrosis, and liver complications involving steatohepatitis and fibrosis. Dr Vemuri  holds 20 issued patents, and has contributed to more than 65 peer-reviewed papers.

Paul S. Hillery, Ph.D. - Health Scientist Administrator
(301) 435-1306
Supports research in organic & medicinal chemistry, structural biology.
Paul. S. Hillery, Ph.D. Health Science Administrator, has a background in organic and medicinal chemistry, based on NIH intramural research and review of drug design/manufacturing in INDs and NDAs for the FDA.  Since 1996, Paul Hillery has served as an administrator of assigned NIDA grants in the areas of cannabinoid, nicotinic, and opioid research, pertaining to receptors and transporters having relevance to drug abuse.  The grant portfolio has been quite varied, but focused mostly on probes, leads, and methods from a basic research perspective.