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John D. Roberts Lecture

Wednesday, November 20, 2019
4:00pm to 5:00pm
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Gates Annex B122
A Personal Perspective on Chemical Biology: Before the Beginning
Peter Dervan, Bren Professor of Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, Caltech,

This lecture will present a brief personal account of days before "chemical biology" emerged as a field of inquiry. Imagine a time when oligomers of DNA could not be synthesized and the order of the TACG letters in DNA could not be sequenced. Even the high resolution structure of the DNA double helix was not yet determined. 1975 was a time when there was a deep chasm between chemistry and biology. Chemists with precise knowledge of all the atoms in natural product architectures looked with dismay at the imprecise messy world of biology. My view was that the power of synthetic organic chemistry should be used to create function, synthesis with a purpose. Our organic group at Caltech would embrace molecular recognition of biologics in water as a frontier for chemistry. We dreamed of inventing small molecules that would control the activity of macromolecules such as DNA, proteins and carbohydrates in living cells.

For more information, please contact Rena Becerra Rasti / Linda Syme by phone at 6151 / 6068 or by email at rasti@caltech.edu / lclark@caltech.edu.