Dr. Ben Shen in the lab.

Natural Product Biosynthesis, Engineering, and Drug Discovery

Microorganisms produce a large variety of biologically active substances representing a vast diversity of fascinating molecular architecture not available in any other systems. Our research centers on the chemistry, biochemistry, and genetics of the biosynthesis of these natural products. Blending organic chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular biology, we take a multidisciplinary approach to study the secondary metabolism by asking the following questions: what reactions are available in nature, what are the enzymatic mechanisms of these reactions, how are these reactions linked to produce complex structures, what are the regulatory mechanisms of these pathways, ultimately, how can we leverage the large actinobacterial strain collection and develop enabling genome mining and synthetic biology technologies for natural product discovery and production, and manipulate nature’s biosynthetic machinery for the discovery and development of new drugs. Members of our group gain broad training spanning organic chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology and molecular biology, a qualification that is becoming essential for the modern bioorganic chemists who seek career opportunity in both academia and pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry.

Current research projects:

Enediyne Family of Natural Products

Leinamycin Family of Natural Products

Bacterial Diterpenoids and Thiocarboxylic Acid-Containing/Derived Natural Products

Leveraging the Actinobacterial Strain Collection at NPDC for Natural Product and Drug Discovery