Dr. Liotta obtained his PhD degree at City University of New York and carried out postdoctoral research at Ohio State University, after which he joined the Emory faculty in 1976. He was promoted to full professor in 1988 and currently holds the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professorship at Emory. To date, he has supervised over 150 graduate and post-graduate students. In 2011 he was honored with the Thomas Jefferson Award, Emory University’s highest service award. Earlier he served as the chair of the chemistry department and as Emory’s vice president for research. He has published approximately 290 peer-reviewed research publications and holds over 90 issued US patents as of November 2019.
He is most noted for his invention of emtricitabine, along with Drs. Raymond F. Schinazi and Woo-Baeg Choi. This breakthrough HIV drug, currently marketed under the name Emtriva, is a component of a number of combination therapies used to treat HIV, including Truvada, Atripla, Complera, Stribild, Genvoya, Odefesey, Biktarvy and Descovy. Truvada is the only combination therapy approved for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). Drs. Liotta, Schinazi and Choi also co-invented Epivir (lamivudine), which is a component of multiple combination therapies such as Combivir, Trizivir, Epzicom, Triumeq, Dutrebis and Delstrigo. It is estimated that >90% of HIV infected patients in the US take or have taken drug combinations that include either Emtriva or Epivir.
Other inventions by Dr. Liotta include Epivir-HBV, the first drug approved to treat hepatitis B infections; elvucitabine, an HIV treatment which is currently in Phase 2 clinical trials; Q-122, for treating hot flashes in post-menopausal women and women with breast cancer, currently in Phase 2 clinical trials; and CT7001, a CDK7 inhibitor for treating various cancers, which has successfully completed a Phase 1 clinical trial.
In addition to these academic achievements, he was one of the founders of Pharmasset, Inc., which developed the breakthrough anti-hepatitis C drug, Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) and was subsequently acquired by Gilead Sciences. Currently, he is the director of the Emory Institute for Drug Development and co-founder of DRIVE (Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory) and the founding editor-in-chief of the American Chemical Society journal, ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters.
He is passionate about saving and improving the lives of others, particularly in the less developed countries of the world and has been involved in outreach efforts in Africa for over twenty years. To this end, he initiated AHIA (Advancing Health Innovations in Africa), an annual workshop aimed at providing the next generation of African scientists with the business and legal skills needed to address their own healthcare issues.