From Fall 2012: Dr. Virgil L. Woods, Jr., professor of medicine at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, is just one example of the many clinician-scientists who have helped propel the University into the top ranks of academic medicine. In his clinical practice, Woods specialized in the management of complex rheumatic diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. To better explain the dysfunction that leads to these diseases, he also performed advanced research studies of the structure and function of proteins that are likely central to the cause and perpetuation of such diseases, including adhesion and cytokine receptors, autoantibodies, and their protein targets.

Woods’ pioneering research developed specialized technology designed to advance the knowledge of protein structures. The examination of proteins plays a vital role in analyzing and understanding many diseases, including Tay- Sachs, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. As the inventor of Deuterium Exchange Mass Spectrometry (DXMS), Woods served as the director of the UCSD DXMS Proteomics Resource. DXMS can be used to rapidly determine the high-resolution structural dynamics of proteins, alone or in combination with other proteins, DNA, or small-molecule ligands. The impact of DXMS on the study of proteins goes beyond the university. Academic researchers around the globe have used the DXMS method to study proteins, especially those implicated in many diseases. As a result, this technology has been cited more than 500 times and Woods has been cited nearly 200 times in other publications.

According to Woods “DXMS is designed to work well with large proteins and when only small amounts of material are available for study. Studies can be performed upon a receptor-ligand pair as they exist on, or within, a living cell (in vivo) without prior purification, allowing effective in situ study of integral membrane protein receptors.” DXMS is available both for basic academic research studies and commercial drug discovery efforts.

An innovator and entrepreneur, Woods is an inventor on several US patents describing the DXMS method, which include US Patent No. 7,280,923. “Methods for crystallographic structure determination employing hydrogen exchange analysis.” In 1997, he was the scientific co-founder of a start-up company dedicated to identifying, developing, and commercializing small molecule therapeutics for protein misfolding diseases and the company in-licensed Woods’ inventions.

Dr. Virgil L. Woods, Jr. received his MD from the University of California, San Francisco in 1974, and began his career at UCSD as a Rheumatology Fellow in 1979. He contributed to over 70 publications. In recent years, he was awarded more than $2.7 million in research funding.

For more information on Dr. Woods’ work or any UC San Diego invention, please contact the UC San Diego Office of Technology Transfer at invent@ucsd.edu.