9/13/17 We welcome postdoc Joe Salamoun! He comes from the Wipf group at Pitt.

9/11/17 Russell's trans silaboration of triple bonds is published in Chem. Eur. J. Fantastic work!

7/20/17 Our collaboration with the Ratajczak Lab has provided a role for Sphingosine kinase inhibitors in the egress of stem cells--oncogene.

7/12/17 Jessica's paper in using branched peptides as antimicrobials is accepted in ACS Med. Chem. Lett. Awesome job!

7/1/17 Congrats to Ashley Peralta for winning an ACS BIOL travel award.

6/22/17 Kuddos to Dr. Childress for successfully defending her dissertation. She is off to the Lindsley Lab at Vanderbilt University.

5/1/17 Congrats to Beth Childress for winning the dept of chemistry graduate research award!

4/14/17 Beth Childress's work on developing sphingosine kinase inhibitors is accepted in J. Med. Chem. Congrats!

4/5/17 Our twins (Eric Medici & Chris Sibley) passed their prelims. Woohoo!

3/14/17 Laura Wonilowicz was selected as an Amgen Scholar in UC Berkeley's Summer Research Program. Best of luck Laura!

3/6/17 Russell Fritzemeier and Ashley Gates passed their prelims. Well done!

3/2/17 Astha and Russell's work on transition metal-free diboration is published in Angew. Chemie. Congrats!

12/12/16 Congrats to the Santos lab! A seed grant to study sphingosine kinase inhibitors and multiple sclerosis was recently funded.

11/15/16 Congrats to Beth Childress for winning a student travel award from the lipids conference at SERCL.

11/9/16 Congratulations to Ashley Peralta and Yumin Dai for winning best poster at the VT Center for Drug Discovery Poster session.

10/27/16 Our latest PhD from the Santos Lab: Dr. Amanda Nelson. Congrats!!!

9/1/16 Jessica accepted a position at Merck Inc.

8/23/16 Molly Congdon accepted a postdoc position at NIH/NCI with Jeff Gildersleeve. Good luck!

8/19/16 Congrats to Cheryl Peck for receiving a College of Science Doctoral assistantship award!

8/19/16 Dr. Srinath Pashikanti moves to Idaho State University as an assistant professor. Best of luck Sri!

8/17/16 Cheryl's paper is highlighted in organic chemistry portal.

8/17/16 Thanks to NIH/NIGMS for funding our RO1 grant! Cheers to the Santos lab.

8/16/16 Our expert opinion on sphingosine kinase therapeutics is accepted for publication.

7/19/2016 Molly successfully defended her Ph.D. Congrats Dr. Congdon!!!

7/15/2016 Congratulations to Dr. Jessica Wynn for passing her Ph.D. defense with flying colors!

6/2/2016 Jessica's paper on inhibiting HIV-1 replication in cells is accepted in MedChemComm. Fantastic work Jess!

5/25/2016 Astha's chapter on copper-catalyzed organoboron cross-coupling has been accepted. Great job, Astha!

5/3/2016 Congrats to Sri, Joe, Chris, and Matt. Their hydrosilylation of allenes work in water is accepted by Org. Lett.

4/23/2016 Molly received a travel award from the ACS Med Chem division to attend the ACS meeting in Philly this fall. Awesome Molly!

4/22/2016 Amanda and Cheryl's borylation of alkynoates and alkynamides in water is accepted in JOC. Great job to both!

4/22/2016 Congrats to Molly Congdon for winning an outstanding graduate research award!

4/5/16 Undergrad Laura Wonilowicz won a Fralin Summer Fellowship to work in our lab this summer. Well done Laura!

4/4/16 Jessica's paper regarding branched peptide boronic acids is accepted at Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry. Great Job!

3/22/16 Beth Childress was selected for a prestigious P.E.O. Scholar Award. Congrats and well done!

3/14/16 Congratulations to Molly! Her sphingosine kinase work is featured on the front cover of ACS. Med. Chem. Lett.

3/1/16 Dr. Astha Verma leaves the lab for a job at KBI Biopharma. Best of luck!

2/15/16 We welcome two first year students: Chris Sibley and Eric Medici.

2/3/16 Molly's naphthalene-based Sphingosine Kinase inhibitors is available online at ACS Med. Chem. Lett. Congrats Molly!

12/7/15 Beth Childress won a CCG Research Excellence Student Travel Award from the Division of Medicinal Chemistry-ACS. Congrats!

11/6/15 Congratulations to Beth Childress and Jessica Wynn for winning awards during VT's Center for Drug Discovery Poster Session!

10/01/15 Prof. Santos is now a fellow of the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT).

8/26/15 Congrats to Beth Childress for receiving a College of Science Doctoral assistantship award!

8/4/15 Congrats to Emily, Molly, and team sphingosine kinase for their hard work. The in vivo effects of inhibitors is published in JPET.

7/24/15 Emily Morris recently accepted a teaching position at Manassas Park High School. Woohoo!

7/15/15 Alumni Matthew Nguyen will be attending VCU Medical School this fall. Congrats Matt!

7/1/15 Thanks to ARDRAF for funding our work with sphingosine kinase and Alzheimer's Disease.

6/22/15 Jessica Wynn receives a travel award from the BIOL division of the ACS. Great job!

6/11/15 Joe Calderone's paper dealing with mitochondrial uncouplers for the treatment of diabetes is accepted in BMCL. Congrats!

6/11/15 Fulbright scholar, Amanda Nelson, is highlighed in VT news!

4/28/15 Jessica's review of branched peptide is published in Org. Biomol. Chem. Congrats!

4/25/15 Congratulations to Amanda Nelson for receiving a Fulbright Scholarship! She will be spending a year in Germany with Todd Marder.

3/16/15 Congratulations to Molly on her work with the SAR of sphingosine kinases, which is published in Bioorg. Med. Chem. Lett.!

3/12/15 Cheryl's paper on aqueous borylation of alkynoates is published in Synthesis. Congrats!

3/03/15 Xi and Amanda's paper regarding unsymmetrical diboration is published in ACS Catalysis. Well done!

2/04/15 Neeraj and Emily's selective inhibitors of SphKs is published in J. Med. Chem. Congrats!

1/08/15 Congratulations to Jessica Wynn for receiving a graduate school doctoral assistantship award.

11/20/14 Our review of sphingosine kinases appears in ACS Chemical Biology.

11/6/14 Congratulations to Dr. Xi Guo for passing her dissertation defense. Fantastic job!

10/15/14 Dr. Santos is a recipient of Fralin/ICTAS Innovator's Award from Virginia Tech.

9/30/14 Dr. Santos is named as Cliff and Agnes Faculty Fellow.

8/25/14 Dr. Santos presents at IME Boron Conference in Prague, Czech Republic.

7/16/14 Joe Calderone's Angewandte paper is highlighted in SynFacts. Great job Joe!

6/25/14 Ashley Peralta joins the Santos group.

6/20/14 Jessica Wynn won second prize oral presentation at BORAM XIV, an international meeting of boron chemists. Congrats!

5/17/14 Congratulations to our recent graduates. Dr. Wenyu Zhang will be a postdoc at NIH with Dr. Kuan Wang. Matt Nguyen will be a postbac researcher with Dr. Sidransky at NIH.

4/25/14 Congratulations to the Santos Lab. Award winners from the Chemistry Dept:

Outstanding graduate research: Wenyu Zhang

Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant: Molly Congdon

Second Place Poster Winner: Matthew Nguyen

Summer Research: Sean Rafferty

Schug Research Award: Webster Santos












We are interested in using chemistry to understand biological processes. Central to our theme is organic chemistry as a tool that intersects with molecular life sciences such as molecular and cell biology. Our primary focus is the development of chemical toolboxes to address problems in biology. Currently, our work is aimed at the following:

Development of novel diboron reagents for the mild and selective boration of activated carbon-carbon bonds

We recently reported the synthesis and characterization of a novel sp2-sp3 diboron reagent that allows the  b-boration of a,b-unsaturated conjugated compounds.  The reaction proceeds under mild conditions with various substrates, i.e., a,b-unsaturated esters, ketones, nitriles, ynones, amides, and aldehydes, in the absence of additives such as phosphine and sodium tert-butoxide. 

Development of medium-sized branched peptides to target RNA structures associated with HIV as the next generation anti-HIV therapeutics

It has been 27 years since HIV-1 (human immunodeficiency virus) was identified as the causative agent for AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). More than 60 million people worldwide have been infected with HIV-1, mostly in the developing world, and nearly half of these individuals have died.  An estimated 33 million people were living with HIV in 2007.  While the annual number of new HIV infection declined from 3 million in 2001 to 2.7 million in 2007, 2 million people died due to AIDS in 2007.  To date, the percentage of people living with HIV has steadily increased as new infections occur each year and as HIV treatments extend life.  Most of the current drugs in use for the treatment of AIDS work by combination targeting of the enzymatic activities of the HIV reverse transcriptase and/or protease (HAART, highly active anti-retroviral therapy) and/or gp41.   These treatments remain expensive and are often not well-tolerated by patients.  Presently, viral entry and integrase inhibitors offer promise as novel targets.   Because of the emergence of drug-resistant virus that commonly occurs as the result of classical HIV treatment, there remains a great need to continue the search for alternative therapies that target other essential viral activities.  Thus, the development of new drugs with novel mode of action is of utmost urgency. Our group is developing branched peptides that recognize conserved, structured RNA elements of the virus as the next generation anti-HIV therapeutics.

Defining the roles of sphingosine kinases in hyperproliferative diseases by developing cell permeable small molecule libraries as probes

Sphingosine kinases (SphKs) are the master regulator of the balance between the pro-survival sphingolipid, sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) and the pro-apoptotic sphingolipids, sphingosine (Sph) and ceramide.  SphKs, in particular SphK1, are overexpressed in a variety of tumor types including breast, prostate, ovary, liver, glioblastoma, etc.  Because of its key role in sphingolipid metabolism, SphK is an attractive target for anticancer drugs and has been suggested more recently to be a target for anti-inflammatory therapeutics.  However, the field has suffered from the paucity of SphK inhibitors with the selectivity and drug-like properties needed for testing such ideas.   Thus we are developing the compounds necessary to validate this enzyme as a therapeutic target.