2019 Honors Chemistry Poster Session

Posted on

Honors19 small

Students from Professor Craig Merlic’s Chemistry 89 Honors Seminar held a poster session focused on medicines recently approved for a variety of diseases.

On June 7, 2019, in the UCLA Court of Sciences, 31 undergraduate students from the Chemistry and Biochemistry Honors Seminar class presented 15 posters on drugs recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) within the last few years. Select photos from the event can be viewed below and an online gallery of all photos from the event can be viewed here.  

The students’ posters presented drug information including disease biology and biochemistry, drug discovery and development, mechanism of drug action, clinical studies, drug synthesis, major side effects and drug resistance, and marketing information. The drugs covered a wide variety of diseases including cancer, diabetes, infections, inflammatory diseases, and mental health. The event was organized by Merlic and graduate teaching assistants Paul Balzer and Andrew Teuthorn. 

Honors19 8

Left: The poster session was held in the Court of Sciences outside lecture hall CS76 on a sunny June afternoon. 


Professor Michael Jung shares his wisdom with Devon Jordan who prepared a poster with Ana Schueler on Aemcolo (Rifamycin SV) which was approved for treatment of travelers’ diarrhea in 2018. The rifamycins are a group of antibiotics first discovered in the 1950’s that function by inhibiting bacterial RNA synthesis due to their high affinity for prokaryotic RNA polymerase.
Professor Michael Jung, Associate Dean for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and professor of organic chemistry, who holds the UC Presidential Chair in Medicinal Chemistry, was on hand to speak with the students about their posters. Jung was part of the team that developed the anti-androgen drug enzalutamide (Xtandi), which has been found to be very effective in slowing or stopping the progression of prostate cancer and received FDA approval in 2012. He also helped develop Erleada, which was recently approved by the FDA for treating an especially lethal form of prostate cancer.

Other guests at the event were Dr. Imke Schroeder, Adjunct Associate Professor MIMG and UC Center for Laboratory Safety, and Dr. Fernando Gomez (Ph.D. ‘12, Catherine Clarke), UCLA Undergraduate Research Center – Sciences. 

Honors19 10

Left: Kathleen Goodwin explains to Professor Craig Merlic her poster that she made with Laurel Kemp on Lucemyra (Lofexidine). This drug was previously used for high blood pressure, but was approved in 2018 to treat the symptoms of opioid withdrawal by functioning as an α2A adrenergic receptor agonist. Right: Michelle Chiang and Rita Ngaka show off their poster on Vizimpro (Dacomitinib) which was developed by Pfizer and approved in 2018 for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer. It is a selective and irreversible inhibitor of epidermal growth factor receptor. 
Honors19 9

Left: Stacy Hernandez and Cecilia Nguyen proudly display their poster on Uptravi (Selexipag) which is an agonist of the prostacyclin receptor leading to vasodilation for treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension. Right: Brandon Dashtizad explains to Dr. Fernando Gomez his poster on Crisaborole (Eucrisa) that he prepared with Jean-Claude Kiarash. Crisaborole is a novel non-steroidal boron-containing drug used to treat eczema (atopic dermatitis) which functions by inhibiting phosphodiesterase-4 and was approved in 2016.
Honors19 1

Left: Jean-Claude Kiarash takes a turn presenting his poster made with Brandon Dashtizad on Crisaborole to Professor Jung. Right: Emily Dong points out to Dr. Imke Schroeder a key issue on her poster that she prepared with Christina Read on Olumiant (baricitinib). The FDA approved Olumiant in 2018 for treatment of moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis and it functions by inhibiting Janus kinases thus blocking the cytokine signaling involved in inflammation.
Honors19 11

Left: Ziyan Wu and Leo Hernandez share their poster on Welchol (Colesevelam) which is used to treat Type 2 diabetes. The drug is actually an amine polymer which is not absorbed within the digestive tract and serves to sequester bile acid, but it is not known how that works to control blood sugar. Right: Carson Cornett explains his poster prepared with Vladimir Musatov on Entresto (Sacubitril/valsartan). Entresto is a combination drug, developed by Novartis and approved in 2015, consisting of a 1:1 mixture of Sacubitril and Valsartan that is used to treat heart failure due to a reduced left ventricular ejection fraction. 

Chemistry 89, the Chemistry and Biochemistry Honors Seminar, was designed by Professor Merlic as an adjunct to the lower division lecture course 30C that is the third and final course introducing organic chemistry and focuses on reactivity, synthesis, and biomolecules. The seminar class centers on the organic chemistry of pharmaceutical agents and begins with the students exploring how humans have utilized chemicals from nature to treat disease over the last 5000 years. They then learn the complete drug discovery process from target validation and lead identification, through drug optimization and development, and finally clinical trials and FDA review. Students even examine the molecular mechanisms of drug action and there is an emphasis on the chemistry involved at each stage of the drug development process.

Merlic offers this course every time he teaches Chemistry 30C as a way of introducing students to the myriad ways in which organic chemistry applies to the development of new pharmaceutical agents. He says “As the students complete their year-long course in organic chemistry, I think that this is a great way to introduce them to medicinal chemistry which is one of the most important applications of what they have been learning.” This Honors Seminar is so popular that 25-35% of the Chemistry 30C class typically enroll in it.

Poster printing for the event was paid for by an instructional mini-grant from the UCLA Center for Advancement of Teaching, which was formerly known as the UCLA Office of Instructional Development. 

Photos and article by Penny Jennings – UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu..