Chemistry for a Healthy World Event

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Chemistry for a Healthy World speakers

On April 24, 2024, faculty, students, alumni, and visitors gathered for the inaugural UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry’s “Chemistry for a Healthy World” event, featuring brief research talks by Professors Michael Jung, Heather Maynard, Ellen Sletten, and Stuart Conway.

The purpose of the event, held at the UCLA California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) auditorium, was to reveal the current trends, recent advances, and new approaches in Medicinal Chemistry and Biochemistry related to human health. Attendees learned about research being conducted by UCLA’s leading experts and participated in discussions about new advances and innovations in the field. Before the presentations, a reception was held in the CNSI lobby.

A photo gallery from the event can be viewed here and select photos can be viewed below.

(Left to right) Professors Michael Jung, Heather Maynard, Ellen Sletten, and Stuart Conway.

In his lecture titled “Drug Discovery in Academia:  Some Success Stories,” Distinguished Professor Michael E. Jung, the Walter and Shirley Wang Endowed Chair in Medicinal Drug Discovery, discussed his successful drug discoveries in academia, highlighting drugs like Xtandi and Erleada for late stage prostate cancer, ongoing trials for glioblastoma, solid tumors, multiple sclerosis, treatments for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, and remarkably a small molecule, applied topically, which grows hair! He also outlined future research on spinal fusion, breast, prostate, and several other cancers, and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, metabolic syndrome, and Rett syndrome, emphasizing the broad impact of his group’s work.

Professor Heather Maynard, the Dr. Myung Ki Hong Endowed Chair in Polymer Science, gave a talk titled “Responsive Medicines for Diabetes and Pain.” Specifically, Professor Maynard discussed her research on medicines for hypoglycemia that sense if glucose levels are too low and automatically release the drug glucagon. Diabetics often experience hypoglycemia, so this approach could be important to help manage the disease. At the end of her talk, Maynard also presented her research on opioid formulations that lower abuse potential of the drug.

In Professor Ellen Sletten‘s lecture, “Illuminating the Body,” she highlighted her UCLA research in developing molecules for visualizing biological processes through the skin. By utilizing near-infrared and shortwave infrared fluorophores, her team overcomes challenges like low light penetration. Their innovative techniques enable non-invasive, real-time imaging in mice, promising applications in image-guided surgery and clinical diagnostics.

In his talk on “Using Chemistry to Target Cancer,” Professor Stuart Conway, the Michael and Alice Jung Endowed Chair in Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Discovery, discussed his group’s research on using chemistry to target cancer.

Jung group alum Professor Jennifer Murphy, supporter Bruce Weiller, and Prof. Ken Houk.
Kita Shahab and Manoush Shahab, a former lecture demonstrator in the department.
Alumni and supporters Nancy and Larry Davis, Dean of Physical Sciences Prof. Miguel Garcia-Garibay, and Prof. Stuart Conway.
Supporters Walt and Priscila Kasha with Department Chair Prof. Alex Spokoyny.
Alumni and supporters Karen Timberlake, Mel Sahyun, and Bill Timberlake.
Prof. Abby Kavner and Teacher-Scholar Dr. Huiling Shao.
Alumnus and supporter Howard Preston, Prof. Mike Jung, Susan Rosenthal, and Tom Rosenthal.
Prof. Ellen Sletten, undergraduate researcher Silvi Lybbert, Alan Wagner, and graduate student Laura Wagner.

Photos and article by Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry,