Research

The Program in Chemical Biology Faculty at the University of Michigan are a diverse group of scholars, many of whom are the leading investigators in their field. The size and diversity of the faculty afford students a nearly unparalleled opportunity to undertake cutting-edge thesis research in the area of their choosing. Particular areas of expertise represented by the Program Faculty include metallo-biochemistry; biological catalysis; biomolecular structure, function, and recognition; chemical genetics and bioorganic chemistry.

Biological Catalysis

Understanding how nature catalyzes the innumerable chemical reactions that occur in living organisms is a problem central to the field of chemical biology. Several research groups are using combinations of physical, chemical and genetic approaches to investigate the reaction mechanisms of both protein and RNA enzymes. Members of the Program are studying a wide range of biologically important chemical reactions, including the modification of proteins by lipid and carbohydrate groups, redox chemistry, the generation of free radicals by enzymes and how RNA molecules are specifically cleaved and processed in the cell.

Biomolecular Structure, Function, & Recognition

Biological macromolecules, such as proteins and nucleic acids, have precise three-dimensional structures that are essential determinants of their function. The exploration of the relationship between structure and function is key to understanding the chemical reactivity and molecular recognition properties of biological molecules. Several of the Program Faculty are engaged in a diverse group of studies exploring biological structure and function. Some of these include: determination of the high resolution structure of macromolecules using NMR; other spectroscopic and crystallographic methods; investigation of the molecular determinants of catalytic activity and molecular recognition; experimental studies of the folding of macromolecules into functional structures; and exploitation of macromolecules for the development of therapeutic agents, biomaterials, and biosensors.

Chemical Genetics & Bioorganic Chemistry

Several Program Faculty are involved in research centered on the design and synthesis of cell permeable small molecules using both traditional and combinatorial methods. These compounds are being used as molecular probes to study intracellular processes, as reagents to identify new therapeutic targets and as drug candidates. Natural products often provide lead structures as the starting points for these agents. Several Program Faculty are engaged in the synthesis of natural products with biological activity while others are exploring the biochemical pathways of marine microorganisms, with a goal of finding new drug candidates for a range of disorders.