Medicinal & Biological Chemistry

Speakers and Panelists

Keynote Speaker

Dr. GoPhoto David Newman NIHrdon Cragg, NIH Special Volunteer, Natural Products Branch
Gordon Cragg completed high school at Kingswood College, Grahamstown, South Africa, obtained his undergraduate training in chemistry at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, and his D. Phil. (organic chemistry) from Oxford University in 1963. After two years of postdoctoral research at the University of California, Los Angeles, he returned to S. Africa to join the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. In 1966, he joined Chemistry Department at the University of South Africa, and transferred to the University of Cape Town in 1972. In 1979, he returned to the US to join the Cancer Research Institute at Arizona State University working with Professor G. R. Pettit. In 1985, he moved to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, and was appointed Chief of the NCI Natural Products Branch in 1989. He retired in December, 2004, and is currently serving as an NIH Special Volunteer.

His major interests lie in the discovery of novel natural product agents for the treatment of cancer and AIDS, with an emphasis on multidisciplinary and international collaboration. He has given well over 100 invited talks at conferences and universities in many countries worldwide, and has been awarded NIH Merit Awards for his contributions to the development of the anticancer drug, Taxol® (1991), inspirational leadership in establishing international collaborative research in biodiversity and natural products drug discovery (2004), contributions to developing and teaching NIH technology transfer courses (2004), and dedicated service to the NCI in developing and maintaining evidence-based PDQ cancer information summaries for health professionals and the public (2010).

In 1998-1999 he was President of the American Society of Pharmacognosy and was elected to Honorary Membership of the Society in 2003; he was named as a Fellow of the Society in 2008. In November, 2006, he was awarded the “William L. Brown Award for Contributions to Genetic Resources Conservation and Use” by Missouri Botanical Garden which also named a recently discovered Madagascar plant in his honor, Ludia craggiana. In April, 2010, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science by his South African alma mater, Rhodes University, and in March, 2012, a special issue of the Journal of Natural Products was published in his honor. In February, 2014, he was recognized by the American Botanical Council as the recipient of the Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award for 2013. He has established collaborations between the NCI and organizations in many countries promoting drug discovery from natural resources. He has published over 170 chapters and papers related to these interests.

Guest Speaker and Panelist

Dr. Wendy Young, Director of Medicinal Chemistry, Genentech; Vice Chair, ACS Medicinal Chemistry Division
Photo of Wendy Young GenentechWendy B. Young has twenty years of drug discovery experience, having led discovery efforts at both small biotech firms (Axys/Celera and Scios: 1995-2006) and larger companies (Genentech/Roche: 2006-present). Wendy is currently Director of Medicinal Chemistry at Genentech, where she is a leader of project teams and directs a large group of medicinal chemists. These teams have produced multiple clinical candidates, from a variety of target classes, currently under clinical evaluation in a range of indications. Wendy received her Ph.D. from Princeton University in chemistry under the direction of E.C. Taylor and was an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center with Professor Samuel Danishefsky. Wendy is listed as an inventor or author on over 65 patent and research publications and has given presentations at many national and international meetings. Wendy was recently elected as Vice Chair of the ACS Medicinal Chemistry (ACS MEDI) Division which will culminate in her being Chair of the Division in 2017.

Institutional Speaker

Dr. Donald Ronning, Associate Professor of Chemistry, University of Toledo
Photo Dr. Donald Ronning ChemistryDr. Donald Ronning is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at the University of Toledo. He obtained his B.S in Biochemistry from the University of Minnesota, and his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the Texas A&M University. His Ph.D. research dealt with studying the structural complexities of proteins in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. For his post-doctoral work, he was a research fellow at the National Institute of Health where his research focused on characterizing proteins encoded by the E. coli Tn7 transposon as well as elucidating the mechanisms of a novel class of DNA transposons. He joined the University of Toledo as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry in 2005. His current research interests are in the study of proteins involved in cell-wall biosynthesis and gene expression of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. He also works on the Helicobacter pylori Mta Nucleosidase and has begun applying his post-doctoral experience to the study of Vaccinia virus telomere-binding and genome replication proteins. He has expertise in X-ray and neutron crystallography of proteins, enzyme assay development, and their eventual validation for drug discovery. His work has been consistently funded by the NIH.
He has authored/co-authored 26 peer-reviewed publications and has served as a grant reviewer for the NSF and the NIH study section on Drug Discovery and Mechanisms of Resistance. He is also a peer reviewer for some of the most reputable journals in his field including Journal of Biological Chemistry and Biochemistry. A prolific speaker, he has given talks in various regional and national meetings.


Dr. Christopher Lipinski, Scientific Advisor, Melior Discovery; Author of the “rule of five”
Photo Dr. Chris Lipinski rule of fiveDr. Christopher Lipinski learned his medicinal chemistry skills in a 32-year career at Pfizer in Groton, CT where he retired in 2002 at the most senior scientific position. currently a Scientific Advisor to Melior Discovery a drug repurposing startup located in Exton, PA and carries out his medicinal chemistry consulting through Christopher A. Lipinski, Ph.D., LLC located in Waterford CT. Chris served on the scientific advisory board for academic drug discovery efforts at the Center for Drug Discovery and Development at the K. U. Leuven, Belgium. He has been a conference committee member for the annual MIPTEC meeting in Basel Switzerland which is now the largest early drug discovery meeting in Europe. He is a member of the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the American Association of Pharmaceutical Sciences (AAPS). He is the author of the “rule of five” a widely used filter to select for acceptable drug oral absorption which now with over 6,000 citations is the most highly cited paper in medicinal chemistry drug discovery. Chris is a member of the ACS “Medicinal Chemistry Hall of Fame”. In 2006 he received an honorary law degree from the University of Dundee and won the Society of Biomolecular Sciences Achievement Award. In 2005 he won the ACS E. B. Hershberg Award for Important Discoveries in Medicinally Active Substances and in 2004 won the ACS Division of Medicinal Chemistry Award. An adjunct faculty member in Biochemistry at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Chris has over 285 publications and invited presentations and 19 issued US patents. He can be contacted at

Dr. Paul Erhardt, Director, Center for Drug Design and Development (CD3); Distinguished University Professor of Medicinal & Biological Chemistry, University of Toledo
Photo of Dr. Paul Erhardt drug discoveryRecently selected to be a Distinguished University Professor of Medicinal and Biological Chemistry within the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Dr. Paul Erhardt also holds the position of Joint Professor of Biochemistry and Cancer Biology within the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, as well serving as Director for the University of Toledo’s Center for Drug Design and Development (CD3). Paul earned a BA in Chemistry and a PhD in Medicinal Chemistry from the University of Minnesota before completing a postdoctoral position involving Bioanalytical Chemistry and Drug Metabolism at the University of Texas at Austin. His discovery and chemical development of esmolol (Brevibloc(R)), an emergency cardiovascular drug still marketed and saving lives today, earned him the company’s Presidential Award for Scientific and Technical Excellence.
Paul joined UT in 1994 as a Professor and Director of the CD3. During this time he became active in the IUPAC and in 2002 was elected President of Division VII Chemistry and Human Health which encompasses the disciplines of medicinal, bioanalytical and toxicological chemistry. In 2007 he was awarded the IUPAC Appreciation of Service Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Advancement of Worldwide Chemistry. Because of his international leadership and numerous presentations emphasizing new ideas and influencing future directions, his innovation in medicinal chemistry was recognized by his award of a gold medal by the Indian Society of Chemists and Biologists at the 2011 International Conference on Chemistry for Mankind.
His present research interests encompass medicinal chemistry pertaining to oncology, drug metabolism, prodrug and soft drug technologies; ADMET-related SAR and synergy; and chiral auxiliary synthetic reagents amenable to practical, drug-related process chemistry. He has authored nearly 150 technical articles and issued patents, as well as contributing a book and significant chapters to several books in the medicinal chemistry and ADMET arena. His annual extramural research budget has repeatedly surpassed the $1M level and has funded a cadre of visiting/sabbatical scientists, postdocs, technicians and a robust population of graduate and undergraduate students.

Dr. Gunda Georg, Professor and Head, Department of Medicinal Chemistry; Director, The Institute for Therapeutics Discovery and Development (ITDD), University of Minnesota
Photo of Dr. Gunda Georg therapeuticsDr. Georg is Professor and Head of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and the founding Director of the Institute for Therapeutics Discovery and Development (ITDD) at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy. She holds the Robert Vince Endowed Chair and the McKnight Presidential Chair in Medicinal Chemistry. She is the Co-Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, the most cited journal in the field. She has received the Ernest H. Volwiler Research Achievement Award of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, the Sato Memorial International Award of the Pharmaceutical Society of Japan, the University of Minnesota Academy for Excellence in Health Research, and others.
Dr. Georg received a BS in pharmacy (1975) and a PhD degree in medicinal chemistry (1980) from Philipps University in Marburg, Germany. She was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Ottawa in Canada. After 22 years as a faculty member at the University of Kansas she joined the University of Minnesota in 2007. Her current major therapeutic areas of research are focused on cancer and male contraception. She has published more than 195 papers and book chapters on various aspects of synthetic medicinal chemistry. She is a co-inventor of the drug, Lusedra@, a water-soluble analogue of the anesthetic propofol that was marketed by Esai Pharmaceuticals in 2009. She is also the co-inventor of Minnelide an anticancer agent that has been licensed to a company and that is in phase I clinical trial (since 2013). Gamendazole, a male contraceptive agent, discovered by Dr. Georg and collaborators, is in preclinical development and expected to enter clinical trial in 2014. Dr. Georg’s research has been funded mainly by the National Institutes of Health. She is the leader of a group of Minnesota faculty that was selected for a leading role in the National Cancer Institute’s Chemical Biology Consortium, a collaborative drug discovery partnership focused on discovering and developing new drugs to fight cancer. She also leads a NIH-supported UO1 research program (2012-2017) and a major NIH Research contract (2013-2018) to discover non-hormonal contraceptive agents.
Dr. Georg has trained more than 100 PhD and post-doctoral students, most of whom have pursued careers in the pharmaceutical industry. She is actively involved in professional organizations including the American Chemical Society. She has served for many years as grant reviewer on NIH study sections, for the NSF, AAAS, foundations and universities.

Dr. Ben Travis, President & CEO, Anatrace Products, LLC.
Photo of Dr. Ben Travis AnatraceBen Travis, Ph. D. graduated from North Carolina State University in 1997 with a Bachelors of Science in chemistry. Upon completion of his Bachelors, Ben took a job at GlaxoWellcome as a research associate. After spending almost two years there, he enrolled at Michigan State University to obtain his Ph. D. in Organic Chemistry. After graduating, he accepted an adjunct professor position at Lansing Community College teaching organic chemistry. In August of 2005, Ben accepted a position at Affymetrix as Life Science Reagents R&D Director. In this role he assumed duties of overseeing the Anatrace branded product line. Anatrace is a highly specialized developer, manufacturer and global distributor of unique, high purity detergents and synthetic lipids for use in membrane protein studies.  In October of 2013, Anatrace was successfully divestitured from Affymetrix, in which Ben was promoted to President and CEO of Anatrace Products, LLC.
Last Updated: 3/22/15