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UNF chemistry professor awarded US patent to fight cancer tumors using synthetic curcumin analogs

March 3, 2021

Headshot of Dr. Kenneth LaaliDr. Kenneth Laali, University of North Florida Presidential Professor of Chemistry, has recently been awarded a US patent for his research on the synthesis of novel curcumin analogs (curcuminoids) to fight cancer tumors.

The compounds that Laali has developed provide novel therapeutic opportunities for specific cancers and may also aid in the discovery of therapeutics for multiple diseases.

His patent on “Novel ‘Curcuminoid-Inspired’ Synthetic Compounds as Anti-tumor Agents” discloses the synthesis and characterization of structurally diverse libraries of “curcumin-inspired” compounds (CURs), and reports on their anti-tumor activity against a host of cancer cell lines. Through these studies, he and his research group synthesized and characterized over 120 new compounds, and in the process discovered a number of “hit-compounds” that are effective not only in stopping cancer cell growth but also killing cancer cells and are therefore suitable for pre-clinical development.

This new patent is the culmination of over five years of Laali’s research at UNF with contributions by UNF undergraduates, master’s level research interns, and visiting scientists. His work has provided prominent research opportunities for UNF students, several of whom went on to pursue doctoral degrees at R1 Institutions. To date, seven peer-reviewed publications have resulted from this work and one made the cover of the journal ChemMedChem.

Laali hopes this patent, along with another one that is pending, could attract a pharmaceutical company for development of new anti-cancer compounds and therapeutics.

Laali is the inventor of two other UNF patents. He has authored and coauthored over 220 peer-reviewed publications, several books and monographs. Laali has been at UNF since 2009 and was the founding chair of the chemistry department. His research focuses on organic chemistry utilizing multifaceted projects that combine synthetic, structural/mechanistic, spectroscopic, and theoretical approaches to solving diverse problems in biological chemistry, green chemistry, and materials chemistry.

Prior to coming to UNF, Laali began his academic career at Kent State University in 1985 and rose through the ranks becoming full professor in 1996. He earned his doctoral degree from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom and completed postdoctoral appointments at King’s College London, University of Strasbourg, University of Amsterdam, ETH-Zurich and University of Southern California.