2024 Robert M. Scarborough Award

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Prof. Stuart Conway

The Division of Medicinal Chemistry (MEDI) of the American Chemical Society (ACS) has named Professor Stuart Conway, Michael and Alice Jung Endowed Chair of Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Discovery, as the winner of the 2024 Robert M. Scarborough Award.

Conway will present an award address at the ACS 2024 Fall National Meeting in August as a part of Division of Medicinal Chemistry Awards Session, and will receive a commemorative plaque and an honorarium of $8,000 at the symposium.

“Stuart has made a sustained and significant impact on at least two key areas of medicinal chemistry,” said nominator Michael Jung, Distinguished Professor and the Walter and Shirley Wang Chair in Medicinal Drug Discovery.  “He is a recognized expert in epigenetic medicinal chemistry and the application of hypoxia-activated pro-drugs. He has also made a positive contribution to the international medicinal chemistry community in a number of significant roles.”

Prior to joining the UCLA faculty in 2023, Conway was a Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Oxford, and the E. P. Abraham Cephalosporin Fellow in Organic Chemistry at St Hugh’s College, Oxford.  His research team’s interests are at the interface of chemistry and biology and focus on the use of synthetic organic chemistry to enable the study of biological problems. 

Conway has made significant contributions to two key areas of medicinal chemistry: the development of bromodomain inhibitors and hypoxia-activated pro-drugs (HAPs).

In the realm of bromodomain inhibitors, Conway’s research group has made notable strides, particularly in the development of BET bromodomain inhibitors, which have shown promise in cancer treatment. His work has led to the development of key compounds including OXFBD04, which forms the basis of Alobresib, a Gilead BET bromodomain inhibitor that was involved in several oncology clinical trials. Additionally, Conway’s group has made advancements in understanding and targeting the bromodomains of transcription factors CREBBP and P300, underpinning the development of Inobrodib, currently in Phase 2 clinical trials for cancers including multiple myeloma and acute myeloid leukemia.

In the field of hypoxia-activated pro-drugs (HAPs), Conway, in collaboration with Prof. Ester Hammond at the University of Oxford, has pioneered the development of compounds that selectively release drugs in hypoxic tumor environments. His work includes the development of novel HAPs such as the nitroimidazole-based pro-drug of panobinostat, NI-Pano, which has shown promising results in reducing tumor volume and increasing survival rates in animal models.

Beyond his research contributions, Conway has been actively involved in promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion in academia, particularly in post-graduate admissions, demonstrating his commitment to fostering a more equitable academic environment.

Conway recently received the 2024 UCB-Ehrlich Award for Excellence in Medicinal Chemistry from the European Federation for Medicinal Chemistry for his groundbreaking work on the development of therapeutically relevant bromodomain inhibitors.

Founded in 1909, the ACS MEDI Division covers all aspects of drug discovery, chemical biology and medicinal chemistry. The Robert M. Scarborough Award for Excellence in Medicinal Chemistry, given in even-numbered years, is intended recognize individuals who have had primary, leading roles in the discovery of novel therapeutic agents or who have otherwise made significant scientific discoveries that enhance the field of medicinal chemistry. This award is in memory of Robert M. Scarborough, an accomplished medicinal chemist and inventor of drugs such as Natrecor® and Integrilin®. The award is sponsored by Portola Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a cardiovascular company founded by Dr. Scarborough.

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.