The long term goals of our research are focused at the interface of chemistry and biology. We are interested in solving problems in biomedicine using the techniques and application of synthetic organic, medicinal and natural products chemistry. Toward our goals in biomedicine we concentrate our efforts in the following three areas of organic chemistry: (1) the development of new methods and strategy which are applicable to the synthesis of biologically active compounds; (2) the total synthesis of a wide range of complex molecules including natural products, pharmaceutical leads and their analogues; and (3) the isolation and discovery of biologically active compounds from natural sources. Within our objectives in item 1 (above), we have had a long-term collaboration with the Clinical Pharmacology Section of the National Cancer Institute in which we have synthesized metabolites and analogues of thalidomide, a small-molecule immunomodulator and angiogenesis inhibitor. The derivatives and analogues of thalidomide were stereospecifically synthesized in order to ascertain the mode of action and the molecular target of this small molecule. Ultimately, the synthetic studies are leading to analogues of thalidomide which are more potent, but which have less undesirable side effects than the parent compound. In the neurosciences area we have completed an enantioselective synthesis of both optical isomers of a key intermediate in preparing the histrionicotoxins, a group of compounds which are isolated for the neurotoxic Amazon “poison dart” frogs. One of our present natural products projects (under item 3,above) entails the isolation, neurotoxicity assays and synthesis of a series of naturally-occurring compounds called acetogenins from the North American paw paw tree Asimina triloba. The isolation, purification and structural confirmation of the natural products has been conducted in collaboration with the Neurosciences Department within the University of Louisville School of Medicine. In the area of anti-infectives (under 1), we are designing and synthesizing an array of nitrogen and nitrogen/oxygen heterocyclic scaffolds bearing acetylenic and azido groups for use in the so-called "click reaction." The multiply-connected scaffolds have proven to be effective for inhibiting micro-organisms working in tandem to produce biofilms necessary for their establishment and survival.
Executive Committee/Treasurer, International Society of Heterocyclic Chemistry HETCHEM@louisville.edu