Martin J. Schnermann, Ph.D.

Martin J. Schnermann, Ph.D.

  • Center for Cancer Research
  • National Cancer Institute
Chemical Biology Laboratory


The Schnermann lab uses the tools and concepts of modern organic chemistry to discover new molecules for cancer drug delivery and imaging. In the context of drug delivery, we develop innovative chemical strategies to deliver bioactive payloads with high precision. In the area of imaging, we create novel fluorescent molecules with improved properties for in vivo optical imaging and microscopy. While our studies are enabled by core expertise in organic synthesis and molecular design, trainees in the lab are engaged in highly interdisciplinary research using techniques that range from in vitro characterization to in vivo imaging. We embrace a highly collaborative approach with extensive interactions with both intramural and extramural investigators.

Areas of Expertise

Complex Molecule Synthesis
Synthetic Methodology
Near-IR Fluorescence
Natural Product Chemistry


Selected Key Publications

Harnessing Cyanine Reactivity for Optical Imaging and Drug Delivery

Gorka AP, Nani RR, Schnermann MJ.
Acc Chem Res. 51(12): 3226-35, 2018. [ Journal Article ]

Norcyanine-Carbamates Are Versatile Near-Infrared Fluorogenic Probes

Usama, SM, Inagaki, F, Kobayashi, H, Schnermann, MJ
J Am Chem Soc. 143/15: 5674-5679, 2021. [ Journal Article ]

In vivo activation of duocarmycin–antibody conjugates by near-infrared light

Nani RR, Gorka AP, Nagaya T, Yamamoto T, Ivanic J, Kobayashi H, Schnermann MJ
ACS Central Science. 3: 329–337, 2017. [ Journal Article ]

Cyanine conformational restraint in the far-red range

Michie MS, Götz R, Franke C, Bowler M, Kumari N, Magidson V, Levitus M, Loncarek J, Sauer M, Schnermann MJ
J Am Chem Soc. 139: 12406-12409, 2017. [ Journal Article ]

Targeted multicolor in vivo imaging over 1,000 nm enabled by nonamethine cyanines

Bandi V, Luciano M P, Saccomano M, Patel N P, Bischof T S, Lingg J, Tsrunchev P, Nix M, Ruehle B, Sanders C, Riffle L, Robinson C, Difilippantonio S, Kalen J, Resch-Genger U, Ivanic J, Bruns O, Schnermann M
Nature Methods. 19: 353-358, 2022.
Full-Text Article
[ Journal Article ]

Job Vacancies

We have no open positions in our group at this time, please check back later.

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Oluwatosin Ayinde, Ph.D.
Shivaji Edupuganti, PhD
Xiaoyi Li, Ph.D.
Melissa Lucero, PhD
Chathuranga Rathnamalala, Ph.D.
Pradeep Shrestha, PhD
Ebaston Thankarajan Mini Mablet, Ph.D.
Ammar Masood, B.S.
Connor Wang, B.S.


A funded postdoctoral position is available within the Chemical Biology Laboratory at the National Cancer Institute, Frederick, Maryland. Research projects center on the development of new approaches for cancer imaging and drug delivery. The lab is focused on the synthesis and development of small molecules, with a specific interest on methods that function in complex organisms. The NCI is an excellent environment for postdoctoral study. Postdoctoral scholars will have access to first-rate scientific resources, strong training opportunities, and a close community of researchers working on critical problems that link chemistry to cancer biology. Prospective candidates should have a strong background in synthetic organic chemistry, photochemistry, and/or chemical biology and be motivated to actively contribute to interdisciplinary projects. Potential applicants should contact Dr. Martin Schnermann ( to express interest (please enclose a C.V. and a letter of support).


Core remodeling leads to long wavelength fluoro-coumarins

Core remodeling leads to long wavelength fluoro-coumarins

Published Date

Low molecular weight, uncharged far-red and NIR dyes would be enabling for a range of imaging applications. Rational redesign of the coumarin scaffold leads to Fluoro-Coumarins (FCs), the lowest molecular weight dyes with emission maxima beyond 700, 800, and 900 nm. FCs display large Stokes shifts and high environmental sensitivity, with a 40-fold increase in emission intensity in hydrophobic solvents. Untargeted variants exhibit selective lipid droplet and nuclear staining in live cells. Furthermore, sulfo-lipid derivatization enables active targeting to the plasma membrane. Overall, these studies report a promising platform for the development of biocompatible, context-responsive imaging agents.


See: Core remodeling leads to long wavelength fluoro-coumarins by Siddharth S. Matikonda, Joseph Ivanic, Miguel Gomez, Gabrielle Hammersley and  Martin J. Schnermann in Chemical Science, 202011, 7302-7307.

Cyanine polyene reactivity: scope and biomedical applications

Cyanine polyene reactivity: scope and biomedical applications

Published Date

Cyanines are indispensable fluorophores that form the chemical basis of many fluorescence-based applications. A feature that distinguishes cyanines from other common fluorophores is an exposed polyene linker that is both crucial to absorption and emission and subject to covalent reactions that dramatically alter these optical properties. Over the past decade, reactions involving the cyanine polyene have been used as foundational elements for a range of biomedical techniques. These include the optical sensing of biological analytes, super-resolution imaging, and near-IR light-initiated uncaging. This review surveys the chemical reactivity of the cyanine polyene and the biomedical methods enabled by these reactions. The overarching goal is to highlight the multifaceted nature of cyanine chemistry and biology, as well as to point out the key role of reactivity-based insights in this promising area.


 See: Cyanine polyene reactivity: scope and biomedical applications by Alexander P. Gorka, Roger R. Nani and Martin J. Schnermann in Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry201513, 7584-7598.