Our Science – Schnermann Website
Martin J. Schnermann, Ph.D.
Dr. Schnermann attended Colby College and graduated in 2002 with degrees in Chemistry (honors with Prof. Dasan Thamattoor) and Physics. After a year at Pfizer Research and Development (Groton, CT) as an associate in the medicinal chemistry division, he moved to the Scripps Research Institute. During his graduate studies, he performed research on the total synthesis and biological evaluation of anticancer natural products with Prof. Dale Boger and obtained a Ph.D. in 2008. He then completed an NIH-postdoctoral fellowship with Prof. Larry Overman at the University of California, Irvine. At Irvine, he developed light-mediated reactions to enable the synthesis of complex natural products. In addition, in collaboration with Prof. Christine Suetterlin, he pursued chemical biology and imaging studies of organelle specific probes. In 2012, Dr. Schnermann joined the NCI where his research focuses on the synthesis and development of new small-molecule imaging agents for cancer treatment and diagnosis.
Harnessing the Chemistry of Photobleaching: Identification of Near-IR Photoremovable Groups
The identification of photoremovable groups activated by red and near-IR light is an important goal with implications in basic research and drug delivery. Our laboratory is approaching this challenge by deliberately applying reactions involved in the common experimental issue of fluorophore photobleaching. We have characterized a red light-initiated reaction sequence of dialkylamine-substituted Cy7s that releases secondary amine-, as well as phenol-, containing small molecules. The sequence occurs in the presence of complex biological mixtures and over a wide range of concentrations. Initial studies support a release mechanism involving singlet oxygen-mediated C-C cleavage, the inherent reactivity of Cy7s, followed by C-N bond hydrolysis. Efforts to apply this method in biological uncaging studies and drug-delivery approaches are ongoing.
Discovery of Near-IR Fluorophores
The discovery and implementation of molecularly targeted imaging modalities has progressed considerably in recent years. Our interest centers on near-IR fluorophores. These compounds are employed extensively in microscopy techniques and in in vivo optical imaging. One such agent, indocyanine green, is FDA approved and is currently involved in over 70 active clinical trials, including over 20 for cancer. Despite a central role in modern biology techniques, the compounds employed in near-IR fluorescence have changed little in recent decades. Using molecular design principles and techniques borrowed from related fields (e.g. medicinal chemistry and modern organic synthesis), we seek to develop new structures and structural classes with improved utility for cancer-related imaging. With synthetic access, these compounds will be applied to microscopy and in vivo imaging techniques and will enable improved readout of a range of biological processes.
This page was last updated on 12/6/2013.