Medicinal Chemistry

The department of medicinal chemistry is located in the University of Florida College of Pharmacy and is an integral part of UF Health. The department has excellent research facilities dedicated to major areas of medicinal chemistry research, and faculty in the department have been highly successful in attracting extramural research support. UF’s Preeminence initiative in drug discovery and development has supported an expansion of the department in focus research areas such as natural products, cancer, anti-infectives, drug abuse and pain research.

The mission of the department of Medicinal Chemistry is to conduct basic research in chemistry and biochemistry as it relates to drug discovery, to teach these principles in the professional and graduate programs and provide service to the scientific community.The department focuses on all aspects of drug design, discovery and development with a unique blend of the physical and biological sciences. The depth and scope of the field offers entering graduate students with many different science backgrounds a rewarding and challenging program of study.

Education and Training

Graduates of the program earn a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences, with a major in Medicinal Chemistry. Recent graduates have secured postdoctoral fellowships and landed faculty positions at major research universities, and they have acquired positions in government agencies and at biotech companies. Several departmental faculty are leading UF Master of Science in Pharmacy online degree programs, including graduate programs in forensic science, pharmaceutical chemistry and clinical toxicology.

Drug Discovery and Development

Departmental faculty have been co-founding startup companies based on UF intellectual property generated in their academic labs. Other preclinical and clinical candidates have been licensed to pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

Faculty Spotlight

Yousong Ding, Ph.D.Assistant Professor

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Student Profile: Marci Smeltz

Meet Our Faculty

The Department of Medicinal Chemistry features many internationally recognized faculty who excel at research and teaching.

Potential Graduate Student Awards

Graduate students in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry have the opportunity to earn many graduate student awards.

Faculty Search

The Department of Medicinal Chemistry in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Florida invites applications for a tenure-track faculty position at the assistant or associate professor level. Candidates should have a record of a strong independent research program in drug discovery and development or demonstrate outstanding potential to build such a program. Faculty hires will also participate in professional and graduate instructional efforts of the college. Area of specialization within medicinal chemistry is open, but should complement the interests of the department and the Center for Natural Products, Drug Discovery and Development and agree with institutional strategies adopted by the University of Florida to foster interdisciplinary research in cancer, infectious diseases, neuroscience and diabetes.

News

Common, edible mushroom has potential to kill one type of leukemia cell, UF Health researchers find

Yousong Ding, Ph.D., an assistant professor of medicinal chemistry in the University of Florida College of Pharmacy

An edible, shaggy-looking mushroom contains a protein that is a potent killer of a certain leukemia cell, a group of University of Florida researchers has found.

The Coprinus comatus mushroom, commonly known as the lawyer’s wig or shaggy mane, killed human T-cell leukemia cells during laboratory tests, the researchers found. Its potency and ability to selectively target leukemia cells makes it a promising candidate for cancer treatment, researchers said. The group’s findings were published Aug. 7 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The shaggy mane mushroom has an annual global production of 400,000 tons and is known to have a variety of medicinal properties — such as antitumor and antiviral characteristics as well as the ability to modulate immune system activity. Until now, little was known about its active ingredients, said Yousong Ding, Ph.D., an assistant professor of medicinal chemistry in the University of Florida College of Pharmacy, part of UF Health, the university’s academic health center.

The shaggy main mushroom reaches 2 to 6 inches in height and is typically found along road sides and in woodpiles and meadows throughout North America and parts of Europe.

To establish their findings, the researchers studied how a small protein, known as Y3, interacts with a particular sugar molecule called LDNF using a unique 3-D mode. LDNF is commonly found in insects and parasites but is rare in humans. The interaction triggers a cell-signaling pathway that activates a “cascading” trio of enzymes. Those enzymes then kill off the leukemia cells, researchers found.

The Y3 protein killed more than 90 percent of the leukemia cells during laboratory testing, leading researchers to conclude that it was both potent and rapidly effective. That is significant, the researchers noted, because T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia is an aggressive blood disorder that is known to recur and offers a poor long-term prognosis for most patients.

The findings provide a strategy for characterizing the functions of small proteins that are encoded in the mushroom’s genome and demonstrate specific interactions with diseased cells, Ding said. More broadly, the research suggests that the shaggy mane and other mushrooms are an untapped source of drug discovery and development, he added.

Now, Ding and his collaborators are investigating similar disease-fighting proteins in other edible mushrooms and trying to further understand how the shaggy mane’s Y3 protein binds to other proteins on the surface of leukemia cells. Testing in animal models could begin within a year, Ding said. Ultimately, he hopes that research will show how mushroom proteins can be used as therapeutic agents for leukemia and perhaps other diseases.

“In addition to their dietary value, these proteins can be important to health improvement and disease prevention,” Ding said.

Steven D. Bruner, Ph.D., an associate professor in the UF department of chemistry, is the other senior author of the study. Other researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Florida plant pathology department and the University of Florida College of Medicine’s department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine collaborated on the study. It was funded in part by UF and the UF College of Pharmacy.

Photo Credit: The shaggy mane mushroom (Coprinus comatus) is an edible mushroom that has a variety of medicinal properties. It is found throughout North America and parts of Europe. (Photo by Bigredwine1 – Own work, Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0)

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