News & Events

BU-CMD  17th Annual Symposium

“Molecular Discovery: From Chemical Synthesis to Biological Applications”

Friday, June 7, 2019

We are pleased to welcome the following speakers to the 2019 BU-CMD symposium:

  • Professor David R. Liu, The Broad Institute and Harvard University

  • Professor Jin-Quan Yu, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla

  • Professor Kim Orth, UT Southwestern Medical Center

  • Professor Kevan Shokat, University of California, San Francisco

For more information please see our CMD Symposium site.

CMD Welcomes Two New Members in October

By Lisa M Holik
September 11th, 2016 in Uncategorized.

CMD wishes to Welcome two new members to the team:

David Huang  - postdoc

Wenhan Zhang - postdoc


Both will be joining the team in October.


Lauren Brown and Mikayo Hayashi: Communication in the European Journal of Organic Chemistry

By Lisa M Holik
August 31st, 2016 in Uncategorized.

Congratulations to Lauren Brown,  Mikayo Hayashi and Professor John Porco on their recent Communication in the European Journal of Organic Chemistry entitled "Asymmetric Dearomatization/ Cyclization Enables Access to Novel Chemotypes."

Abstract: Enantioenriched, polycyclic compounds were obtained from a simple acylphloroglucinol scaffold. Highly enantioselective dearomatization was accomplished using a Trost ligand palladium(0) complex. A computational DFT model was developed to rationalize observed enantioselectivities and revealed a key reactant-ligand hydrogen bonding interaction. Dearomatized products were used in visible light-mediated photocycloadditions and oxidative free radical cyclizations to obtain novel polycyclic chemotypes including tricyclo[,4]decan-10-ones, bicyclo[3.2.1]octan-8-ones and highly-substituted cycloheptanones.

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NIH Funds BU-CMD to Develop New Antifungal Compounds

By Lisa M Holik
June 29th, 2016 in Uncategorized.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a four-year grant to Center for Molecular Discovery researcher Lauren Brown and collaborators Leah Cowen (University of Toronto) and Luke Whitesell (Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT) on "Targeting Hsp90 in crytococcal fungal pathogenesis." The assembled team combines expertise in fungal biology (Cowen), medicinal chemistry (Brown) and pharmacology/experimental therapeutics (Whitesell) with the goal of developing drug-like small-molecule probes for use in studying disease mechanisms of the fungus Cryptococcus.

Invasive Cryptococcus infections pose a grave threat to human health and have enormous economic consequences. Cryptococcal meningitis, the major clinical manifestation of the disease, has a 100% mortatlity rate if left untreated. Even with the best available therapies, mortality rates remain high at 35-40% due to a limited number of drug classes available, and compromised usefulness of these drugs caused by both dose-limiting toxicity and the emergence of high-grade antifungal drug resistance.

In this project, the team will collaborate to develop small molecule chemical compounds to study a critical molecular mechanism that supports both fungal virulence and the onset of drug-resistance. These compounds will also impact clinical care by serving as promising leads for the future development of new, more effective antifungal drugs.

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NIGMS Awards a MIRA (R35) Grant to the Porco Research Group 

By Lisa M Holik
June 29th, 2016 in Uncategorized.

The National Institutes of Health, Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), has awarded Professor John Porco and coworkers a five year MIRA (R35) grant entitled “Chemical Synthesis of Complex Natural Products for Translational Science.”  The Maximizing Investigators' Research Award (MIRA-R35), an Outstanding Investigator Award, is a grant that provides support for all of the research in an investigator's laboratory that falls within the mission of NIGMS. Within these bounds, investigators have the freedom to explore new avenues of inquiry that arise during the course of their research. The goals of the MIRA (R35) research program are to continue chemical syntheses of bioactive molecules and expand efforts and capabilities in translational science. The MIRA effort effectively replaces two previous NIGMS-funded RO1 grants (Biomimetic Synthesis of Complex Natural Products (GM-073855) and Chemical Synthesis of Bioactive Flavonoid and Xanthone-Derived Natural Products (GM-099920) which were highly productive and led to 41 publications from 2010 – 2015. As part of the MIRA project, the Porco group will continue development of novel synthetic methodologies for concise entry to bioactive classes of natural products including oxaphenalenones, meroterpenoids, polyprenylated acylphloroglucinols, tetrahydroxanthones, and dimeric chromones. The project will also continue major emphasis on collaborations to study biological properties and mode of action (MoA) of target molecules for ultimate use as pharmacological therapies for human cancers as well as viral and bacterial illnesses.

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CMD Nature Scientific Reports Paper

By Lisa M Holik
April 21st, 2016 in Uncategorized.

Congratulations to Dr. William Devine and Professors Aaron Beeler and John Porco on their paper “Fine-tuning of macrophage activation using synthetic rocaglate derivatives” in Nature Scientific Reports, published April, 2016. This work, on novel activity identified for the rocaglates, was done in collaboration with the Beeler group, the CMD and with our collaborator Igor Kramnik, and coworkers, at the BU NEIDL.


Abstract: Drug-resistant bacteria represent a significant global threat. Given the dearth of new antibiotics, host-directed therapies (HDTs) are especially desirable. As IFN-gamma (IFNγ) plays a central role in host resistance to intracellular bacteria, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis, we searched for small molecules to augment the IFNγ response in macrophages. Using an interferon-inducible nuclear protein Ipr1 as a biomarker of macrophage activation, we performed a high-throughput screen and identified molecules that synergized with low concentration of IFNγ. Several active compounds belonged to the flavagline (rocaglate) family. In primary macrophages a subset of rocaglates 1) synergized with low concentrations of IFNγ in stimulating expression of a subset of IFN-inducible genes, including a key regulator of the IFNγ network, Irf1; 2) suppressed the expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase and type I IFN and 3) induced autophagy. These compounds may represent a basis for acrophage-directed therapies that fine-tune macrophage effector functions to combat intracellular pathogens and reduce inflammatory tissue damage. These therapies would be especially relevant to fighting drug-resistant pathogens, where improving host immunity may prove to be the ultimate resource.

(CMD Publications #90)

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Professor Porco speaks at The 33rd Herbert C. Brown Lectures in Organic Chemistry, Purdue University

By Lisa M Holik
April 21st, 2016 in Uncategorized.

Professor Porco spoke at The 33rd Herbert C. Brown Lectures in Organic Chemistry, Purdue University, on April 15, 2016. His talk was entitled “Chemical Synthesis and Biological Studies of the Rocaglates and Derivatives.”

Abstract:  The plant genus Aglaia produces a number of secondary metabolites including the cyclopenta[b]benzofuran silvestrol. Cyclopenta[b]benzofuran natural products possess potent anticancer properties due to modulation of the activity of the RNA helicase eukaryotic initiation factor 4A (eIF4A), which is involved in loading ribosomes onto mRNA templates during translation initiation, a step frequently deregulated in cancer. In this presentation, we will describe our efforts to synthesize silvestrol and rocaglate analogues using photocycloaddition of 3-hydroxyflavones with various dipolarophiles, and evaluation of the rocaglates produced as inhibitors of eukaryotic protein translation.

Porco - Brown Lect Fig

hcbrown2016b (1)

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CMD Welcomes Three New Members

By Lisa M Holik
April 7th, 2016 in Uncategorized.

CMD wishes to Welcome three new members to the team:

Ravi Chetree - Analytical Core Manager

Nandini Vallavoju - Postdoc

Wenqing Xu - Postdoc


CMD Bids Farewell to Mikayo Hayashi

By Lisa M Holik
April 7th, 2016 in Uncategorized.

After 2 years as a Visiting Researcher in our lab Mikayo is returning home to Japan to be a Team Leader at Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.  We thank her for her great research here in the CMD and wish her the best in her future endeavours.


Speakers Announced – 2017 BU-CMD Symposium “Molecular Discovery: From Chemical Synthesis to Biological Applications”

By Lisa M Holik
March 3rd, 2016 in Uncategorized.

The biennial BU-CMD Symposium "Molecular Discovery: From Chemical Synthesis to Biological Applications" will be held on June 23, 2017.

We are pleased to welcome the following speakers to the 2017 BU-CMD symposium:

  • Professor Robert Langer (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
  • Professor Frances H. Arnold (California Institute of Technology)
  • Professor Benjamin List (Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung)
  • Professor Dirk Trauner (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)

Please register at Eventbrite if you plan to attend - registration is free.

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BU-CMD Highlighted in Bostonia

By Lauren E Brown
February 24th, 2016 in Uncategorized.


Our Center was recently profiled on the BU Research website and Bostonia magazine. The article, "Molecule Makers," gives an overview of our small molecule screening collection and some of our most exciting projects in medicinal chemistry and drug discovery.

Download PDF version of article

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