Blake R. Peterson

School of Pharmacy - Medicinal Chemistry
Regents Distinguished Professor of Medicinal Chemistry
Primary office:
Shankel Structural Biology Center
Room 1045
University of Kansas
2034 Becker Drive
Lawrence, KS 66047


Expertise and Current Research Activity

Only about one in 10,000 drug candidates successfully makes the transition from a laboratory discovery to a marketed therapeutic. This low success rate is primarily a consequence of our limited understanding of how to design drugs capable of efficiently controlling specific target proteins in human patients.

To improve our ability to create small molecules that function effectively in biological systems, personnel in my laboratory pursue research in the fields of organic chemistry and chemical biology. We synthesize compounds designed to illuminate aspects of physiology, understand mechanisms of disease pathways, and discover new therapeutic agents. To gain greater access to targets involved in human disease, we are investigating a new delivery platform inspired by natural biological pathways that deliver the nutrient cholesterol to every cell of animals. This platform is based on our discovery that synthetic mimics of cholesterol can mimic the trafficking of receptors on cell surfaces and promote the cellular uptake of drugs and diagnostic probes.

Other projects currently underway include the synthesis of fluorescent molecular probes, phenotypic drug discovery, and the identification of targets of biologically active small molecules. Because our focus is on early drug discovery and delivery, we evaluate the biological activities of compounds against cells in culture and optically transparent model organisms to identify the most promising candidates for further development.


Ph.D., Chemistry, University of California, Los Angeles

B.S., Chemistry (with distinction), University of Nevada, Reno


The Peterson laboratory in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at The University of Kansas pursues interdisciplinary research in the fields of bioorganic / medicinal chemistry and chemical biology. We create and study anticancer agents, antiviral agents, molecular probes, tools for target identification, and systems for drug delivery. Expertise includes synthesis of steroids, lipids, nucleosides, peptides, heterocycles, fluorophores, and protein conjugates, and evaluation of these agents in biochemical assays, whole cells, and animal models.

Research Interests

  • Organic synthesis
  • Chemical biology
  • Anticancer agents
  • Drug delivery systems

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