School of Physical and Chemical Sciences Te Kura Matū Seminar Series

Taking the Lead from Nature: Designing small molecules to investigate biological problems


Jonathan C Morris


School of Chemistry, UNSW Sydney

Time & Place

Wed, 19 Sep 2018 12:00:00 NZST in Room 701, Level 7, WEST

All are welcome


Natural products have played an important role in the history of the biomedical sciences, especially with regard to the development of drugs for the treatment of a variety of important ailments. While technologies such as combinatorial chemistry and structure-based drug design have contributed to the development of therapeutic agents, natural products continue to deliver novel leads for pharmaceuticals in a diverse array of therapeutic areas and offer an excellent starting point for medicinal chemistry programs. However, in many cases work is stymied by the lack of access of material and for the field to progress, it is vital that efficient, modular syntheses of the target molecules are developed. Moreover, the development of synthetic routes allows us to design small molecules that have improved properties and potency over the natural products.

Against this backdrop, this talk will describe our efforts toward the synthesis of some natural products and how some of these syntheses has led to the development of molecules for biomedical applications. It will also detail our work on the development of potent, selective inhibitors of SRPK1 inhibitors which we are developing as topical therapeutics for aged macular degeneration.


Jonathan C. Morris obtained his B.Sc. (Hons) degree from the University of Western Australia.  He then completed his Ph.D. degree under the supervision of Prof. Lew Mander at the Research School of Chemistry, The Australian National University.  After a postdoctoral appointment with Phil Magnus at the University of Texas at Austin, he joined the faculty at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. In 2004, he moved to the University of Adelaide.  In late 2009, he moved to UNSW Sydney, where he is now a Professor.  His research interests focus around the synthesis of biologically active natural products and development of these molecules as potential therapeutics.