Thomas Martínez Joins UC Irvine as an Assistant Professor

Thomas Martinez

The UC Irvine School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences has announced Thomas Martínez, PhD, as an assistant professor for pharmaceutical sciences, effective Sept. 1. 

“We are pleased to continue Pharmaceutical Sciences’ strong record of successfully recruiting the most productive and creative new Assistant Professors to UCI,” said Richard Chamberlin, department chair of Pharmaceutical Sciences. “Thomas is becoming a leader in the emerging field of microprotein proteomics, and he has chosen initially to focus his UCI research specifically on cancer applications, in collaboration with the UCI Cancer Center and Cancer Research Institute.” 

According to the CDC, even with advancements in research and treatments, cancer is the second leading cause of all deaths in the U.S. Martínez’s research hopes to address the gaps— specifically the microproteins. A recently uncovered class of small proteins, microproteins represent a new and largely unexplored frontier in cancer research similar to long, non-coding RNAs and microRNAs before. Through genome-wide screens of essential microproteins and focused mechanistic studies, Martínez hopes to identify, characterize and examine the therapeutic potential of microproteins involved in cancer initiation and progression. He believes these studies will improve our overall understanding of cancer and enable the development of new therapeutics. 

“I am really looking forward to forming collaborations with my new faculty colleagues in the Pharmaceutical Sciences department and the Cancer Research Institute,” said Martínez. “I am excited to meet the students and share some insights both on science and building a career.”

Before joining UCI, Martínez worked as an NIH NRSA postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. In the lab, he developed an integrative platform combining ribosome profiling, de novo transcriptome assembly, mass spectrometry and bioinformatics to discover functional smORF encoded microproteins in the human genome. 

Previously, Martínez earned his PhD in Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics from Caltech as an NIH NRSA predoctoral fellow under the mentorship of Professor Peter Dervan. His thesis work focused primarily on characterizing the effects of DNA binding pyrrole-imidazole polyamides on DNA replication in prostate cancer cells. He received his bachelor’s degree in Biological Engineering from MIT and trained in Professor JoAnne Stubbe’s laboratory, where he studied the mechanism of ribonucleotide reductase.  

Martínez is an associate for Intersections Science Fellows Symposium, a postdoc-driven, faculty-advised, multi-institutional initiative. He is also a consultant for The Column Group. This science-driven venture capital firm makes significant financial and operational commitments to build early-stage drug discovery companies based on their unique scientific platforms and potential to deliver multiple breakthrough therapeutics. 

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