Bioorganic and medicinal chemistry, broadly defined, are fields of biological chemistry in which organic chemistry plays a significant role. Bioorganic chemistry includes topics such as enzymic and enzyme-like catalysis, protein/enzyme structure-function relationships, enzyme cofactor chemistry and biochemistry, nucleic acid chemistry and biochemistry, bioconjugates, bioprobes, and molecular recognition. Research in medicinal chemistry focuses on designing new types of drug molecules utilizing cutting edge techniques such as combinatorial chemistry, computer-aided molecular design, and new types of highly sophisticated receptor-based and cell biological assays for drug activity. In addition, the more traditional areas of lead compound development through molecular modification and the use of quantitative structure activity relationships (QSAR) still play an important role in medicinal chemistry. Students in bioorganic/medicinal chemistry at Oregon develop a solid foundation in organic chemistry. In addition, they gain a strong biological perspective by being in a department with an outstanding biochemistry/molecular biology division.
Bioorganic research at Oregon involves work on new types of metal ion chelators with a focus on calcium binding (Doxsee); and work on the design of new types of high performance tips for atomic force microscopy (Keana). Medicinal chemistry research at Oregon has involved: the design and evaluation of inhibitors of phospholipase A2, an important enzyme in cellular signal transduction pathways and a possible target for anticancer drugs (Keana); and development of new drugs against stroke, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders (Keana, in collaboration with Acea-CoCensys, a drug discovery company).
*Professor Keana has retired from research and teaching activities but continues to serve as a medicinal chemistry/organic chemistry consultant for several small biopharmaceutical companies and several patent law firms.