Category: Porco, John

NIH Funds Porco Group to Synthesize Bioactive Natural Products

February 16th, 2012 in Award, Faculty, NIH, Porco, John, Research

Professor John Porco

Professor John Porco

The Porco Research Group has received a 4-year, $1.2 million award from the National Institutes of Health for their proposal, Chemical Synthesis of Bioactive Flavonoid and Xanthone-Derived Natural Products.

Undertaken in conjunction with biological collaborators, including Professor Tom Gilmore (BU Biology) and Dr. John Beutler of the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research, the goal of the research is to develop new chemical methodologies to enable the synthesis of bioactive flavonoid and xanthone-derived natural products that could lead to biologically active antitumor and anti-infective agents. Specifically, such agents will be useful as novel pharmacological therapies and as cytotoxic agents against both human cancers and malaria.

Their aims include total syntheses of anticancer agents such as the kuwanons and related prenylflavonoid Diels-Alder natural products as well as the bioactive tetrahydroxanthones blennolides A and B.

The award enables an exciting new research direction for Professor Porco and his collaborators involving the use of nanoparticles in organic reactions, asymmetric catalysis, and novel cycloaddition strategies.

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CMLD Researchers Publish Paper on “Remodeling” Natural Products in Nature Chemistry

November 7th, 2011 in Beeler, Aaron, CMLD, Front Page, Porco, John, Publications, Snyder, John

CMLD-BU researchers Bradley Balthaser, Meghan Maloney, Aaron Beeler, John Porco & John Snyder, in a paper published in the journal Nature Chemistry [23 OCTOBER 2011 | DOI: 10.1038/NCHEM.1178], present a new approach to accessing new, biorelevant structures by “remodeling” natural products. In this case, they demonstrate how the natural product derivative fumagillol can been remodeled to access a collection of new molecules using highly efficient chemical reactions.

a, Selective formation of perhydroisoindoles, perhydroisoquinolines or morpholinones with phenylalanine as a reaction partner: (i) phenylalanine (2.0 equiv.), M(OTf)n (50 mol%), DTBMP (1.5 equiv.), toluene, 60 °C; (ii) NaOH (2.0 M), tetrahydrofuran, room temperature, 6 h. DTBMP, 2,6-di-tert-butyl-4-methylpyridine; Phe, phenylalanine. b, Molecular models of phenylalanine-derived morpholinones 18 and 21.

a, Selective formation of perhydroisoindoles, perhydroisoquinolines or morpholinones with phenylalanine as a reaction partner: (i) phenylalanine (2.0 equiv.), M(OTf)n (50 mol%), DTBMP (1.5 equiv.), toluene, 60 °C; (ii) NaOH (2.0 M), tetrahydrofuran, room temperature, 6 h. DTBMP, 2,6-di-tert-butyl-4-methylpyridine; Phe, phenylalanine. b, Molecular models of phenylalanine-derived morpholinones 18 and 21.


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Tian Qin Named Vertex Scholar

September 2nd, 2011 in Award, Faculty, Front Page, Graduate, Porco, John, Students, Vertex Scholar Award

Vertex Scholar 2011: Tian Qin of the Porco Research Group

Vertex Scholar 2011: Tian Qin of the Porco Research Group

The recipient of this year’s Vertex Scholar Award is Tian Qin, a third year student in the Professor John Porco’s Research Group. His selection was based on his development of an extremely elegant and enabling synthetic methodology towards a very difficult series of natural product targets with anticancer and cytotoxic activity. This work was recently published as a Communication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. His contributions to student mentoring are also recognized by his selection for this award award. Tian came to BU in 2008 from the Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Science, where he majored in organic materials in chemistry.

The 2011 award is made possible by Vertex Pharmaceuticals who have provided this generous graduate fellowship in organic chemistry for an exceptional 2nd, 3rd or 4th year graduate student in our Ph.D. program. The BU-Vertex Educational Partnership Program, established in 2010, offers scholarships funded by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a biotechnology company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals

Vertex Pharmaceuticals

Each award funds a student’s stipend, fees, and research supplies for one year. The Vertex program is an important unencumbered gift to BU Chemistry. As part of its aim to promote cooperation between industry and academia, Vertex provides the Scholars with access to mentoring from their scientists. Vertex, with a market capitalization of more than $7.2 billion, is committed to the discovery and development of breakthrough small-molecule drugs for serious diseases.

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BU Postdoctoral Researcher Receives ACS Fellowship

December 10th, 2010 in Faculty, Front Page, Graduate, Porco, John

Christina Rodrigo Receives American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship.

The goal of the American Cancer Society (ACS) fellowships is to provide talented postdoctoral research associates funding that will lead to an independent career in cancer research. This Fall, Christina Rodrigo, a postdoctoral research associate in the Porco Group received one of these highly sought national awards for her proposed work on silvestrol, a rocaglate derivative isolated from the plant Aglaia foveolata. Silvestrol has been shown to have potency against breast, lung, and prostate cancer cell lines and chronic lymphocytic leukemia B cells but little is known about about its mechanism of action.

Dr. Rodrigo’s goal is to synthesize molecules similar to silvestrol with slight modifications, and to study and compare these molecules to silvestrol to learn more about how silvestrol works as a treatment for cancer. In addition to the excellence of her proposed research and demonstrated productivity, another contributing factor for her receipt of the ACS Fellowship is the quality of the training and mentoring that she receives from Professor Porco and his Group.



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Finding NEMO: Multidisciplinary Team Searches for the Drugs of the Future

July 14th, 2010 in Allen, Karen, Award, Beeler, Aaron, Faculty, Front Page, Grants & Funding, NIH, Porco, John, Whitty, Adrian

Professor Adrian Whitty

Professor Adrian Whitty

There are many medically important drug targets that current drug discovery technology is not able to address. Collaborative basic research in Chemistry, Biology, and Biochemistry is key to solving these intractable problems to enable the discovery of new classes of drugs. A multidisciplinary team at Boston University, led by Associate Professor of Chemistry Adrian Whitty, aims to develop new approaches for challenging molecular targets. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences awarded this team a 4-year, $1.6 million grant entitled Design of Macrocyclic Inhibitors of the NEMO/IKKα/β Protein-Protein Interaction.

Only about 10% of the potential drug targets in the human genome have been successfully targeted with marketed drugs. Of the remaining 90%, many are intracellular proteins whose function is critically dependent on their reversible interactions with other proteins. Despite decades of effort by the pharmaceutical industry, developing oral drugs that inhibit protein-protein interactions (PPIs) has rarely succeeded and has become recognized as a major scientific and technological challenge.

The primary goal of this project is to determine whether the use of a class of natural product-inspired compounds called macrocycles constitutes a broadly applicable method for developing oral drugs against PPI targets. As a first challenge, the team is attempting to develop macrocycles that block the activity of NEMO, a key component of the IKK complex that activates NF-κB signaling. Chronic hyperactivity of the NF-κB pathway is associated with many human inflammatory diseases and cancers. Thus, the development of drug-like inhibitors of this pathway is highly relevant to public health.

The work will determine whether appropriately designed synthetic macrocycles can inhibit PPI targets while maintaining good drug-like properties. In terms of NF-κB and disease, their work will provide a means for testing whether inhibiting the interaction of NEMO with IKK—as a more targeted alternative to completely ablating all IKK activity—represents a useful new approach for attenuating inflammation.

In addition to Professor Whitty (quantitative biochemistry and drug discovery), the multidisciplinary research team comprises Professors Sandor Vajda and Dima Kozakov (computational chemistry), John Porco and Aaron Beeler (macrocycle synthesis), Karen Allen (X-ray crystallography), and Tom Gilmore (NF-κB pathway biology).

Professor Sandor Vajda Professor Dima Kozakov John Porco Dr. Aaron Beeler Professor Karen Allen Professor Thomas Gilmore

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Chemistry Faculty Receive BU Ignition Awards to Develop Promising Cancer & Tuberculosis Drugs

July 12th, 2010 in Award, Faculty, Front Page, Ignition Award, Porco, John, Snyder, John

The Ignition Award Program provides funds to evolve BU research to the stage where it can be licensed, form the basis of a new company, or be used to create a new, non-profit social enterprise. In June 2010, two Chemistry faculty, John Porco and John Snyder, received these highly competitive awards for their respective commercially promising projects.

Professor Porco’s research is the “Development of Novel Protein Synthesis Inhibitors as Chemotherapeutic Agents.” The work will involve synthesis of novel silvestrol (rocaglate) derivatives and their evaluation as protein translation inhibitors in the Pelletier laboratory at McGill University. Promising derivatives will be tested in the National Cancer Institute’s 60 cancer cell line panel and then advanced to animal models for B-cell leukemias and other cancers that are highly susceptible to translational control.

Professor Snyder’s research focuses on the “Development of New Anti-Tuberculosis Agents.” Three synthetic compounds from the Center for Chemical Methodology and Library Development (CMLD-BU) were determined to be “hits” against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the tuberculosis-inducing microorganism. The preliminary biological activity data against M. tuberculosis, coupled with the unique structures of the lead compounds have justified advancing these compounds toward commercialization through the biological assays needed to establish the scope of activity and bioavailability.

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Porco Group Awarded $1.6 million to Investigate Biomimetic Synthesis of Complex Natural Products

May 21st, 2010 in Front Page, Grants & Funding, Porco, John

John Porco

Professor John Porco

Professor John Porco and his group have received a 4-year, $1.6 million award (2010 to 2014) to develop and refine biomimetic syntheses using copper-mediated enantioselective oxidation processes; photochemical cycloaddition employing excited state intramolecular proton transfer (ESIPT); and asymmetric reactions of acylphloroglucinols. Professor Porco and colleagues are applying these methodologies to synthesize complex natural products, including bisorbicillinol, sorbicillactone A, aglaiastatin, ponapensin, and myrtucommulones A and B. Collaborating with the Porco Group is Prof. Linda Doerrer who is performing mechanistic investigations to understand copper-mediated enantioselective oxygenase and oxidase processes and also develops catalytic, asymmetric oxidation processes. Likewise, a continuing collaboration with Professor Eric N. Jacobsen and coworkers (Harvard University) seeks to identify chiral thiourea photocatalysts for asymmetric photocycloadditions. More


NIGMS Renews Funding for the CMLD-BU

October 1st, 2008 in CMLD, NIH, Panek, James, Porco, John, Schaus, Scott, Smith, Kevin, Snyder, John, Stephenson, Corey

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) is continuing its support of the CMLD-BU as one of five Centers of Excellence addressing the problem of how to develop small molecule libraries and techniques for making them that meet all the needs of pharmaceutical and biomedical scientists.

The CMLD-BU was originally established in 2002. The renewal is for another 5 years (through 2013) and is worth more than $11.5 million. The first year’s funding, $2.6 million, will be used to develop microfluidics and other strategies to synthesize small molecules for application by the biological community. The program is highly collaborative. Professor John A. Porco, Jr., who is the Director and Principal Investigator, is joined by Co-PI’s Professors Jim Panek, Scott Schaus, John Snyder, and Corey Stephenson, who are leaders in the field of organic chemistry.

The goal of the Center is to develop cutting-edge technologies to generate, analyze, and optimize chemical libraries and synthesize thousands of novel chemical entities using high-throughput techniques. It is also making these methods and libraries broadly available for biomedical research and drug discovery. The CMLD’s PI’s are collaborating with biologist, Professor Tom Gilmore, to determine the physiological activities of new molecules.

John A. Porco, Jr. Receives 2009 Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award

September 1st, 2008 in Award, Faculty, Porco, John

Professor John Porco

Professor John Porco

John Porco, Professor and Director of the CMLD-BU, has received a 2009 Cope Scholar Award from the American Chemical Society. He joins Professor Jim Panek, a 2002 awardee, as our department’s second recipient of this prestigious award. The Cope Scholar Award is given to recognize and encourage excellence in organic chemistry, and consists of $5,000, a certificate, and a $40,000 unrestricted research grant. The names of the winners for 2009 were announced by the American Chemical Society. Each of the 10 Cope scholars is invited to address the Arthur C. Cope Symposium, to be held next August at the society’s national meeting in Washington, D.C.

John’s scientific interests lie in the development of synthetic methodologies for efficient chemical synthesis of complex molecules and in the use of parallel synthesis techniques to synthesize complex chemical libraries. The creativity of his approach is exhibited in the design and execution of experiments that address important problems in contemporary synthetic chemistry. John’s work has been widely supported by awards from Bristol-Myers Squibb, the American Cancer Society, and peer-reviewed grant proposals from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which validate his contributions to the field.

To view photos of celebrations honoring Professor Porco, please click here.

CMLD-BU Scientists Awarded National Institutes of Health Grant in Pilot-Scale Libraries for High-Throughput Screening Program

December 15th, 2005 in CMLD, Faculty, Panek, James, Porco, John, Schaus, Scott, Snyder, John

Co-investigators of the Boston University Chemical Methodology and Library Development Center (CMLD-BU) ( have been awarded a three-year grant for their joint proposal “Generation of Stereochemically and Structurally Complex Chemical Libraries.” The goal of the work by Professors Porco, and co-Principal Investigators Panek, Schaus, and Snyder, is to generate a number of stereochemically and structurally complex chemical libraries for inclusion in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Molecular Repository ( They will develop five library projects that are distinct from ongoing and planned CMLD-BU library projects, but which utilize novel chemistries previously developed in their laboratories. Target pilot libraries include complex dihydropyrimidones, azaphilone-derived libraries, tetracyclic alkaloid-type libraries, exo-methylene scaffolds and derived spirocycles, and macrocyclic lactams. In addition, all planned libraries have been designed to include unique structures that do not overlap in chemical space with molecules currently in the PubChem database. Data will be shared using an internet-based structure-searchable database of synthesis protocols.

The Molecular Libraries and Imaging Initiative is a component of the “New Pathways to Discovery” theme of the NIH Roadmap, which seeks to enable the rapid transformation of new scientific knowledge into tangible benefits for public health. While high-throughput screening (HTS) of small-molecule libraries is widespread in the pharmaceutical industry, the goal of the Molecular Libraries (ML) Roadmap Initiative is to facilitate the use of HTS and chemical libraries within the academic community. It is anticipated that the ML initiative will produce research tools (including novel small-molecule modulators of cellular function and phenotypic assays) to facilitate studies of biology and physiology ( It is anticipated that the initiative will complement private sector drug development efforts by contributing to the identification and validation of novel drug targets, as well as molecular structure classes with potential for development into therapeutics. The initiative promises benefits to public health, especially for rare or marginalized disorders.

John PorcoProfessor James PanekScott SchausProfessor John Snyder