Medicinal and Synthetic Chemistry

Research in medicinal chemistry at Florida Tech includes molecular syntheisis and natural product isolation to find biomolecules with a wide range of functions including anti-inflamitory, antitumor, antioxidant, antiviral and antibacterial.

Molecular synthesis for inflammation and Alzheimer’s disease: Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia in the elderly and may have a long stage of neuropathological changes and cognitive decline before it is diagnosed. Alzheimer’s Disease is associated with an unusual form of inflammation produced by deposition of β-amyloid plaque in the memory center. Isoprostanes are the chemically stable oxygenation products formed by free radical peroxidation of poly unsaturated fatty acids. Dr. Rokach's group has shown that isoprostanes are useful biomarkers of oxidative damage in Alzheimer’s Disease. In order to develop a more specific method to evaluate Alzheimer’s Disease severity, Dr. Rokach's long-term goal is to provide a sensitive, selective, and reliable index the disease, which will detect it long before symptoms are obvious and allow early treatment.

Artificial Enzymes: Drug therapy is among the most successful and reliable treatments for various health issues. However, it is impeded by limitations in chemists’ ability to make the absolutely “correct” drug molecule in a timely and cost-effective manner. The development of artificial enzymes is a new approach in medicinal chemistry dedicated to the preparation of molecules with defined 3-D structure (molecular shape), and is of paramount importance to the drug discovery and development because the function of a drug is determined by its overall shape. Dr. Takenaka's group is developing a new class of artificial enzymes that shape-selectively synthesize molecules with the desired 3-D structure from easily available chemicals. Such technology will provide scientists ready access to precious medicinally active agents, and thus will not only accelerate the drug discovery process, but also lower costs of prescription drugs.

Antitumor and antioxidant agents: To generate new pharmaceutical lead compounds, it is important to have convenient access to new classes of core molecular structures. Sulfur and nitrogen heterocycles are attractive targets in medicinal chemistry because of the wide variety of bioactivities displayed by these compounds. Dr. Brown's group is involved In the search for of new antitumor and antioxidant agents by studying a large series of new cycloadditions, mostly involving thiones and thioureas as electron-rich partners, interacting with π-deficient multiple bonds. 

Bioinorganic pharmaceuticals, antivirals and antibacterials: The lack of effective therapies for important biothreat agents including the Ebola virus and Fransicella has prompted a search for new approaches for the treatment of viral and bacterial diseases. While most therapies rely in organic molecule design, only a handful of examples of the use of inorganic compounds have been effective. Dr. Knight's group is developing a new inorganic approach in medicinal chemistry byt studying antibacterial and antiviral drugs based on small metal complexes and complex-protein conjugates. 

Natural product isolation and characterization: Medicinal chemistry, the use of molecules to treat various diseases, has been largely inspired by Mother Nature’s creativity in synthesizing complex organic structures. The natural products chemists’ role is critical in the identification of key compounds from various living organisms ranging from simple plants to complex marine organisms. Various medicinal plants have been explored for their medicinal properties, including anti-cancer potential, by isolating the active molecules and characterizing them using several analytical tools, including mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Dr. Nesnas's group studies biologically active compounds with the aim of improving their efficacy through late stage chemical modifications. 

Molecular analysis of pharmaceutical candidates: Many pharmaceuticals rely on molcular interactions with DNA. Dr. Baum and Dr. Olson are developing new techniques to determine electrostatic potential maps that enable the use of docking programs to select optimal molecular candidates for the design of new pharmaceuticals. This approach has the potential to increase the rate of innovation in medicinal chemistry research.