My laboratory focuses on the discovery, biosynthesis, and structural/functional characterization of novel natural products. Through a combination biosynthetic knowledge and genomics analysis, pathways that are most likely to produce chemically and biologically interesting molecules can be prioritized. Our lab also develops methods to predict organic functional groups within natural products to facilitate their discovery by a reactivity-based screening approach. These methods circumvent many of the difficulties encountered during traditional bioassay-guided assays, such as the rediscovery of known compounds and the inability to find low abundance metabolites. As novel natural products are discovered, unusual chemical linkages within the molecule are commonly encountered. In evaluating the mechanistic enzymology underlying such linkages, we continue to discover new enzyme chemistry that challenges existing biochemical paradigms.

Awards and Achievements

  • NIH Director’s New Innovator Award ( 2011-2016)
  • Tomorrow’s PI, Genome Technology magazine ( 2012)
  • Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering ( 2015)
  • Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry, American Chemical Society ( 2015)
  • Helen Corley Petit Scholar, College of Liberal Arts and Science, Univ. of Illinois ( 2015-2016)

In the News

  • ACS Press Pac - February 25, 2015: Could an HIV drug beat strep throat, flesh-eating bacteria?
  • Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, July - 2014: Innovative Technique May Transform the Hunt for New Antibiotics and Cancer Therapies
  • News and Views: Kelly, W.L., "Biosynthesis: Ringing in a new view" Nat. Chem. Biol., 8:505 (2012)
  • ACS Chemical Biology podcast on the discovery of a novel narrow-spectrum antibiotic, December, 2011
  • Schmidt, E.W.; "The hidden diversity of ribosomal peptide natural products" BMC Biol., 8:83 (2010)
  • Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, September, 2009: Removing Bacteria from Between Rock and Hard Place: A Different Approach to Fighting Harmful Bacteria.