Chemistry Section

Chemistry Section Member Spotlight: New Investigator Awardee

  • 1.  Chemistry Section Member Spotlight: New Investigator Awardee

    Posted 02-24-2019 18:37
    Edited by Patrice Jackson-Ayotunde 02-24-2019 18:44
     The Chemistry Section Communication Committee will highlight the 2019 NIA Awardees over the next two months. For this month Member Spotlight, we feature Dr. Sherif Elshahawi, Assistant Professor of Natural Products and Alternative Medicine, Chapman University School of Pharmacy. We asked Dr. Elshahawi a few questions about his professional journey in pharmaceutical chemistry, his current research, and how having the NIA will help influence others.
    1. Tell us briefly about your personal and educational history (From undergrad forward).
    I earned my undergraduate degree in Pharmacy from Cairo University in 2000 and worked as a Teaching Assistant for four years where I taught Pharmacy students. To pursue my graduate degree, I joined the School of Pharmacy at the University of Mississippi to pursue a Master's in Pharmacognosy (2004-2006) followed by the School of Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University to earn a PhD degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2012 with Professor Margo Haygood. I worked as a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy and Center for Pharmaceutical Research and Innovation (CPRI). My work during my Master's, PhD and Postdoctoral work involved the isolation, biosynthesis and biocatalysis of bioactive natural products from terrestrial and marine samples. I am currently an Assistant Professor of Natural Products and Alternative Medicine at Chapman University School of Pharmacy (CUSP).
    1. Where did your interest in pharmaceutical chemistry start?
    My interest in Pharmaceutical Chemistry is what actually attracted me to join Pharmacy School as an undergrad. Since I was in high school, it was fascinating to me how minor modification within small molecules can specifically turn on or off certain biological activities or bind to macromolecular targets. It was and still is interesting to see how to design the perfect molecule that would dock into specific protein targets.
    1. Tell us briefly about your research.
    My research combines biochemistry with medicinal and natural products chemistry to exploit new strategies to explore and expand the chemical diversity of drug entities with the ultimate goal to discover and develop new drug leads. I have two main ongoing projects:
    (1) Enzymatic diversification of current drugs. The goal of this project is to modify currently used drugs and drug leads using wild type and engineered enzymes to develop small molecules with improved biological activities and/or pharmacokinetic properties.
    (2) Discovery of bioactive microbial natural products. We cultivate microorganisms isolated from unique environments for the discovery of new biologically active molecules and new chemical entities. We also study the genes that encode the enzymes responsible for the biosynthesis of these molecules. This paves the way to the genetic modification of the producing organisms in order to create analogs with enhanced activities.
    1. How does your research impact the field of pharmacy?
    Unfortunately, the drug discovery pipeline is waning with the increasing number of untreatable diseases and the rise of antibiotic-resistant microbial strains and refractory cancers. Our ultimate goal is to tackle this rising problem by providing desperately needed new drug leads either through the discovery of new chemical entities or through the modification of current drugs using chemical and enzymatic methods.
    1. How would you use being a recipient of the AACP New Investigator Award help to influence others (e.g. students, postdocs, peers, etc.)?
    The AACP New Investigator Award is a great opportunity to establish my career as a new investigator through supporting one of my research projects. This will inspire emerging scientists to follow a similar career path. Moreover, the award will be used to help two PharmD students have hands-on bench experience and be involved in pharmaceutical research, which can encourage them to pursue a career in drug development. 
    Dr. Elshahawi received his Bachelors in Pharmacy from Cairo University in Egypt and spent four years teaching Pharmacy students in the areas of Pharmacognosy, Phytochemistry and Herbal medicine.  He received his master's degree from the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, and his PhD from Oregon Health & Science University. After completing his postdoctoral training in 2017, from the Center for Pharmaceutical Research and Innovation at the University of Kentucky, he joined Chapman University School of Pharmacy. Dr. Elshahawi has authored 19 peer-reviewed articles in high impacted journals. In addition to AACP, Dr. Elshahawi holds professional membership with the American Chemical Society, American Society of Pharmacognosy, Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology, and Society for Medicinal Plant and Natural Product Research.

    Patrice Jackson-Ayotunde, PhD
    Associate Professor of Medicinal Chemistry
    University of Maryland Eastern Shore
    School of Pharmacy and Health Profession
    Princess Anne MD