Honors Chemistry Poster Session

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On June 9, students from Professor Craig Merlic’s Honors Seminar for Chemistry 89 held a poster session focused on new medicines.

At the event held in UCLA’s Court of Sciences patio, 44 students from the Honors Seminar for Chemistry and Biochemistry class presented 22 posters on drugs recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The students’ posters covered a wide variety of diseases including cancer, diabetes, infections, inflammatory diseases, and mental health. The event was organized by Professor Craig Merlic, and graduate teaching assistants Byron Boon, Haatveit Caddell, and Robert Jordan. 


(Left) Anna Fuchs discusses with Prof. Merlic her poster on the drug Dexlansoprazole used to treat acid reflux disease. (Right) Prof. Jung shares his insights on Nusinersen, an antisense drug used in treating spinal muscular atrophy that he consulted on for Isis Pharmaceuticals, with students Anthony Santiago and Kevin Ly.

Professor Michael Jung, Associate Dean for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and professor of organic chemistry, was on hand to speak with the students about their posters. Prof. 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. 

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(Left) Ramtin Vafamansouri explains his poster on the drug Lifitegrast, used to treat dry eye syndrome, to Prof. Merlic.

(Right) David Kim discusses with Suhasini Gupta and Prof. Jung the drug Dalfampridine used to manage some of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis by blocking potassium channels and thus increasing neurotransmitter release at neuromuscular junctions.

Chemistry 89, the Honors Seminar for Chemistry and Biochemistry, 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 last 5000 years. They then learn the complete drug discovery process from target validation and lead identification, through drug optimization and development, and clinical trials and FDA review. Students also examine the molecular mechanisms of drug action and there is an emphasis on the chemistry involved at each stage of drug development.

Prof. 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.”

Poster printing for the event was paid for by an instructional mini-grant from the UCLA Office of Instructional Development.

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(Left) Caden Horgan and Kayla Frank present their poster on the restless legs syndrome drug gabapentin enacarbil to graduate student Byron Boon. (Right) Angela Li discusses with Alexis Rojas Lurasidone, an atypical antipsychotic acting as an antagonist of adrenergic receptors for the treatment of schizophrenia.  

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(Left) Sarah Go and Prof. Jung discuss her poster on the drug Bridion, an agent for the reversal of general anaesthesia that binds Rocuronium preventing its interaction with the acetylcholine receptor. (Right) Omar Arafat presents Regorafenib, an oral kinase inhibitor with anti-angiogenic activity for the treatment of several advanced cancers.

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(Left) Selena Hernandez talks with classmate Miles Savage about her poster on the drug Tafamidis, a drug for the amelioration of hereditary amyloidosis that is a rare but deadly neurodegenerative disease. (Right) Vineet Mathew discusses his project on Diquafosol, a drug for the treatment of dry eye disease. 

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(Left) Ivette Frutos-Ortiz fields a question about Degarelix used as a hormonal therapy to suppress testosterone release for the treatment of prostate cancer. (Right) Kayla Frank presents her poster on gabapentin enacarbil, a drug for the treatment of restless legs syndrome, to classmate Jiawei Zhang.

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(Left) Jeannette Fields discusses her poster on the erectile dysfunction drug Avanafil.  (Right) Wenchy Siu gestures to information on Empagliflozin, a drug to treat type 2 diabetes by inhibiting the sodium glucose co-transporter-2. 

Photos by Penny Jennings – UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry