Welcoming Professor Stuart J. Conway

Posted on

Prof. Stuart Conway

The department welcomes renowned chemist Professor Stuart J. Conway, who joins the UCLA faculty as the Michael and Alice Jung Chair in Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Discovery.

Currently 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, Prof. Conway will transition the Conway Group to UCLA in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, where his team will continue to focus on the use of synthetic organic chemistry to enable the study of biological problems at the interface of chemistry, biology, and medicine. His appointment is effective July 1st of this year.

“We are excited to welcome Stuart Conway to UCLA and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry,” said Professor Miguel García-Garibay, UCLA’s Dean of Physical Sciences. “As the inaugural Michael and Alice Jung Chair in Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Discovery, Stuart will lead research efforts in what has become one of the most successful Medicinal Chemistry research and educational programs in an academic institution.”

Professor Stuart Conway with his group members.

“Following the breakthrough discoveries of the drugs Xtandi and Erleada by Professor Jung and his coworkers, UCLA is uniquely poised to be the world leader in academic drug discovery,” said Distinguished Professor Neil Garg, the Kenneth N. Trueblood Endowed Chair in Chemistry and Biochemistry and Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “We are confident that Stuart will do amazing things at UCLA and eagerly await his arrival.”

“Stuart is an outstanding medicinal chemist and a great choice for the Jung Chair,” said Professor Michael Jung. “I am really looking forward to interacting with him as we both continue to try to develop new medicines for human diseases,” he said.

Prof. Jung and his wife Alice donated $1 million to UCLA to help establish the Michael and Alice Jung Endowed Chair in Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Discovery. The purpose of the endowed chair is to enable UCLA to hire a faculty member who will conduct drug discovery research with the goal of producing new, life-saving drugs well into the future.

Prof. Conway’s work is known for exceptional insight and creativity. His group’s current focus is the development of selective molecular probes to enable investigation of biological systems. This aim leads them to develop novel synthetic organic chemistry. Their research can be grouped into three main areas, (i) investigation of epigenetic processes in health and disease; (ii) development of new methods for targeting probes in a biological setting; and (iii) development of probes to image aspects of the cellular environment, including hypoxia (lower than normal oxygen). Work in the area of epigenetics has focused on the development of inhibitors for bromodomains, which are ‘readers’ of the epigenetic code. These protein modules play key roles in oncology and neglected diseases, and the Conway Group has developed highly effective probes that have enabled the validation of bromodomains as therapeutic targets. To target probes, the Conway Group has used both light and hypoxia to trigger the release of drugs with temporal, spatial, and contextual control. This technology is currently being applied to provide compounds with a wider therapeutic window. Prof. Conway has also recently reported new tools that allow imaging of cellular hypoxia levels with unprecedented detail. This work is part of a collaborative project to develop molecular tools that improve imaging of the tumor microenvironment in vivo. The Conway Group’s work has been recognized by the award of the 2012 Prize for a Young Medicinal Chemist in Academia by the European Federation for Medicinal Chemistry, and the 2016 Lectureship of the Biological and Medicinal Chemistry Section of the RSC.

J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2023, 145, 4, 2572-2583

Professor Patrick Harran, chair of the Jung Chair search committee, says “Stuart is a remarkable scientist, a great communicator and a dedicated teacher. His collaborative research should thrive at UCLA”.

Prof. Conway completed undergraduate studies in Chemistry with Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Warwick. He moved to the University of Bristol to undertake a Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry, with Professor David Jane and Professor Jeff Watkins FRS, focusing on the development of glutamate receptor antagonists. Prof. Conway completed post-doctoral studies with Professor Andrew Holmes FRS in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge working on the synthesis of inositol polyphosphates. In 2003, he was appointed as a Lecturer in Bioorganic Chemistry at the University of St. Andrews, in 2008 was appointed as an Associate Professor at Oxford, and in October 2014 he was promoted to Full Professor. Between March and August 2013 Prof. Conway was a Visiting Associate at the California Institute of Technology, hosted by Professor Bob Grubbs and Professor Dianne Newman. He is an Associate Editor for the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry and ACS Bio & Med Chem Au and is on the Editorial Advisory Board for Organic Chemistry Frontiers. Prof. Conway is the Immediate Past President of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) Organic Division.

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