|Grant ID: RR190025|
Recruitment of First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty Members
California Institute of Technology
February 21, 2019
Synthetic organic chemistry as a field of research may seem far removed from cancer treatment. But organic chemists like Rice University’s Julian West are constantly developing new tools to help precision-design new drugs for targeting cancer cells.
West was recruited to Rice’s department of chemistry in 2019 from the California Institute of Technology, where he was a postdoctoral fellow, with the help of a First-Time Tenure-Track Award from CPRIT.
West likens his trade to designing tools. “An effective and game-changing therapy is like a really well-built car,” he says. “Something that does exactly what you want it to do is precision-designed, but in order to get these sorts of molecules we need really precise tools to fine-tune and sculpt molecules so that they will be perfect for the job.”
Perhaps there is a therapy or drug that works reasonably well, but could be improved or made less toxic. But sometimes the ways in which scientists would like to alter the molecule just aren’t possible with known chemical reactions. West looks at these types of challenges and tries to see how he could gain a foothold, by making a molecular intermediate that’s more reactive, for example.