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Chemical Biology Program Overview

  • At Dana-Farber's Chemical Biology Program, we perform basic research in cancer chemical biology and develop new chemical probes and therapeutic strategies based on structural and mechanistic insights. We find inspiration in both unanswered biological questions and unmet clinical needs.

    The Chemical Biology Program is internationally recognized as a center of excellence in the field. Our chemical biology investigators have made important contributions to advancing targeted cancer therapy, and some of the compounds developed in the program are now benefiting patients. What makes our program an exceptional place to do science are extraordinary and energetic graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, staff scientists, and technicians, who work relentlessly to provide chemistry-inspired solutions targeting cancer, as well as infectious, neurodegenerative, and autoimmune diseases.

    Our faculty members hold academic appointments at Dana-Farber's Department of Cancer Biology and Department of Pediatric Oncology, as well as at Harvard Medical School. Our trainees come from a range of Harvard Medical School graduate programs, as well as Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

    Learn more about our mission and emphasis

    Learn about career opportunities in the Chemical Biology Program

    Learn about postdoctoral training opportunities in our Program

  • Our Research Focus

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    Small Molecule Probes, Inhibitors, and Degraders

    Our chemical biology efforts focus on developing new classes of small molecule modulators, like allosteric and covalent inhibitors and the degrader molecules, for challenging targets. We customize our chemical solutions to fit the biological and/or clinical questions being asked.

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    Protein-Protein Interactions

    Protein-protein interactions (PPIs) mediate many of the cellular processes that are misfiring in cancer and other diseases. Yet, PPIs are notoriously difficult to target with small molecules. Our researchers are developing stapled peptides and other innovative strategies to better understand, control, and target PPIs.

    proteomics equipment

    Structural Biology, Protein Engineering and Design, and Proteomics

    Our structural biology and proteomics faculty solve structures of key molecular players that drive cancer and map their interactions. We use structural and proteomics information to frame and assist small molecule development and design, and as a window into selectivity, specificity, and the mechanism of action. Our program houses the Structural Biology Core, the NMR Spectroscopy Core, and the Blais Proteomics Center.

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    Medicinal Chemistry

    Development of new pharmacologic agents requires extensive exploration of the chemical space to optimize the drug-like properties. Our medicinal chemistry faculty and the Medicinal Chemistry Core have expertise in transforming tool compounds into preclinical candidates.

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    Basic Chemistry and Chemical Biology

    Our faculty is developing new organic and analytical methodologies, as well as investigating basic principles of chemical and biological mechanisms, which serve as an essential fuel for our translational efforts.

    Chemical Biology team

    Chemical Biology Interest Group

    At monthly faculty meetings, chemical biologists and their guests discuss ongoing research in their labs to foster collaboration and translation of chemical biology principles into basic and clinical advancements.

  • Featured Videos: Our researchers describe their work

  • Chemical Biology: Small Molecules Making a Big Impact
    A look inside the growing Chemical Biology program at Dana-Farber: Program Director Milka Kostic, PhD, takes you into the labs where chemists and biologists work side-by-side, making and testing small molecules. They're seeking out what might be driving a cancer tumor, and the hope is that these molecules might someday be powerful cancer-fighting drugs.

  • Physician-scientist fighting pediatric cancers
    Loren Walensky, MD, PhD, of Dana-Farber's Department of Pediatric Oncology and the Chemical Biology Program, speaks about the collaborative drug discovery happening in the Longwood Center at Dana-Farber.

  • Medicinal chemist making new drugs
    Sara Buhrlage, PhD, of Dana-Farber's Department of Cancer Biology and the Chemical Biology Program, explains the collaborative process of creating first-in-class drugs at Dana-Farber.

  • Support Our Cancer Research

    To learn more about the many ways you can support Dana-Farber's research initiatives with a philanthropic gift, please contact Rebecca Shortle at 617-632-4215 or

    Contact Us

    If you are interested in collaborating with our Chemical Biology Program investigators or in learning more about our research, please email our Program Director, Milka Kostic, PhD, or follow us on Twitter.