The chemistry of symbiosis

Animals live in close partnership with symbiotic bacteria that are critical for their survival. These interactions are mediated by chemistry. We seek to understand the chemical interactions underlying symbiosis and to use them to discover, create, and deliver pharmaceuticals for human health.  At our lab at the University of Utah Department of Medicinal Chemistry, we use an interdisciplinary toolset including natural products chemistry, metagenome sequencing, synthetic biology, biochemistry, and more.

Marine animals. We have longstanding projects in marine symbiosis, focusing on tunicates and mollusks from the coral reef.

RiPP biosynthesis. The RiPPs are among the most common bioactive natural products on Earth. We study how they are made and how they can be designed to produce new drug-like compounds.

Discovering bioactive natural products. Our work focuses on neuroactive compounds and infectious diseases. We partner with a variety of labs around the world to find the best hit compounds.

Natural product biosynthesis. We examine how compounds are made in animals, bacteria, fungi, and other organisms.

The ICBG. We have a longstanding project within Margo Haygood's International Cooperative Biodiversity Group (ICBG) program. This program involves collaborators from many universities, including outstanding leadership from Professor Gisela Concepcion from the University of the Philippines.

Pain. Untreated pain is one of the major factors affecting human health and well being. We work with Baldomero Olivera, Michael McIntosh, Alan Light, Russ Teichert, Chris Reilly, and others to design and discover new therapies for pain treatment, and to learn about the function of sensory neurons.
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