Maresh Plant Natural Products Lab

My research is focused on harnessing the power of biosynthesis to synthesize novel compounds not found in nature. Plants produce numerous complex natural products that are used clinically, examples include taxol, vinblastine, and morphine. Although these compounds are successful as medicinal agents, for most isolated natural products, medicinal chemists must synthesize structural analogs to optimize a desired activity and minimize adverse effects. Despite continuing advances, synthesizing complex natural product analogs remains challenging.

Precursor directed biosynthesis in plants

An alternative to synthetic modification of isolated natural products is "precursor-directed biosynthesis." By this approach, unnatural chemical precursors are supplied to living plant cells which convert these chemicals into novel (un)natural products as shown in the scheme below when X, Y, and Z represent introduced functional groups.

A major focus in our group is to use synthetic molecules and plant cell culture to generate novel alkaloids. It is our hope that we will increase the availability of new compounds for evaluation as useful drug candidates.

Please see my publications for more details.

Members of the Maresh Lab, Summer 2010.

From left to right: Mark Aparece, Erin Terranova, Eleazar Lumbreras, Tom Speltz, Justin Maresh, Mark Krzeszowiec, Adil Mohyuddin (top), Reid Gustafson (below), Samantha Sasnow.