Daniel J. Blair, PhD

Dr. Blair [Illini 4000 Fellow] aims to address a key bottleneck in drug discovery by developing a generalizable strategy for synthesis of complex natural products to be used as therapeutics. Small molecules created by nature (natural products) often possess extraordinary functional potential and have led to many transformative human medicines.

Sarah Z. Tasker, PhD

Dr. Tasker is synthesizing a new set of small molecules based on natural products, designed to have structural features to allow them to cross the blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier protects the brain, but it also prevents most chemotherapeutic agents from reaching tumor cells in brain cancers, meaning prognoses for cancers such as glioblastoma multiforme and brain metastases are often poor. She will test these new compounds for anticancer activity, and will study whether active compounds cross the blood-brain barrier.