Our research involves the use of synthetic organic chemistry to shed light on questions in biology and medicine. In each research area the goal is to understand or manipulate a biological system, but the tools that we use are small to medium sized organic molecules designed for that purpose. We perform the syntheses of the needed molecular tools in our lab and often the preliminary biological experiments, although we also collaborate with people around the world who are experts in the biological systems.

Some projects of current interest in the group are listed below. Please click on a title for a more complete description.

Fluorinated cells for cancer therapy and diagnostics

cartoon of fluorinated cellWe have been working to develop a new strategy for inhibiting tumor metastasis. The concept is to use a glycoengineering approach to coat tumor cells selectively in vivo with fluorinated carbohydrates thereby diminishing their adhesion to extracellular proteins required for metastasis. Furthermore, since fluorine is scarce in soft tissues, this method may afford a means to visualize tumor cells via 19F MRI.

Inositol glycans (IGs) and diabetes

IG1IGs have been suggested as possible second messengers of insulin action. We are interested in understanding how they work, determining which structures are most active, and evaluating the prospects for using IGs or their analogues for treatment of type II diabetes.

Electrochemically degradable polymers

electrochemically degradable polymersWe are developing new polymer cross-linking agents that are electrochemically degradable. Polymers cross-linked by these compounds should be degradable upon electrical stimulation and thereby have broad applicability in a number of fields including drug delivery, microfluidics, and surgical materials.

Inositol glycans (IGs) and cancer

IG signalingThis project is aimed at exploring a new strategy for the treatment of cancer based on stimulating aerobic metabolism in tumor cells and inducing programmed cell death.

Flavonoids and cancer

quercetinFlavonoids are polyphenolic natural products found in a wide variety of plants prevalent in the human diet ranging from fruits and berries to cocoa and tea. These compounds are believed to be healthful, in part because they have been reported to selectively kill cancer cells. This project is aimed at discerning the chemical and biological mechanisms behind the bioactivities of the flavonoids.