RELATED STORY: Peter Kim: Sizing Up Structures and Subverting Disease
Peter Kim earned his A.B. in chemistry from Cornell University and his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the Stanford University School of Medicine. He was a Fellow at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and joined the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. From 2003 to 2013, he served as president of Merck Research Laboratories. In 2014, he joined the faculty at Stanford Medicine, where he also serves as a member of Stanford Bio-X, an interdisciplinary research effort; a member of the Child Research Institute; a faculty fellow of Stanford ChEM-H (Chemistry, Engineering & Medicine for Human Health); and a member of the Stanford Neurosciences Institute. He is a fellow of numerous professional organizations and a member of the Presidents’ Circle of the National Academies. He also serves on several boards, including the Medical Advisory Board of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Council of the National Academy of Sciences.
Kim is studying the mechanism of viral membrane fusion and its inhibition by drugs and antibodies. His lab uses the HIV envelope protein (gp120/gp41) as a model system. Some of their studies are aimed at creating an HIV vaccine that elicits antibodies against a transient, but vulnerable, intermediate in the membrane-fusion process, called the pre-hairpin intermediate. They are also interested in protein surfaces that are referred to as “non-druggable.” These surfaces are defined empirically based on failure to identify small, drug-like molecules that bind to them with high affinity and specificity. Some of their efforts are aimed at characterizing select non-druggable targets. They are also developing methods to identify ligands for non-druggable protein surfaces.