Inside My Lab: Derek Tan

The identification of small-molecule probes and therapeutic lead compounds to address novel biological targets is a significant current challenge in chemical biology and drug discovery. We are engaged in a two-pronged approach to this problem involving diversity-oriented synthesis and rational design as complementary approaches to ligand discovery. Our work in both of these areas is influenced at multiple levels by insights from natural products. At the core of these efforts is the development of new chemical methodologies to provide flexible, efficient, systematic access to these structures. We leverage multidisciplinary collaborations with biologists to evaluate these molecules to probe key biological processes and to explore new therapeutic opportunities in cancer and infectious diseases.

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Derek Tan, research lab head

Derek Tan, PhD

Chairman and Member, Chemical Biology Program, SKI; Tri-Institutional Professor


Research Focus

Derek Tan’s lab studies diversity-oriented synthesis and rational drug design of probes and lead compounds for chemical biology and drug discovery.


  • BS, Stanford University
  • PhD, Harvard University

Lab Members

  • Total synthesis of the bacterial diisonitrile chalkophore SF2768.
    Xu, Y.; Tan, D. S. Org. Lett. 2019, 8731–8735.
    Abstract | PubMed ]
  • Structural basis for adenylation and thioester bond formation in the ubiquitin E1.
    Hann, Z. S.; Ji, C.; Olsen, S. K.; Lu, X.; Lux, M. C.; Tan, D. S. *; Lima, C. D.* Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2019, 15475–15484.
    Abstract | PubMed | PMC ]
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Selected Achievements
  • Development of salicyl-AMS, a novel antibacterial agent to treat tuberculosis and other infections
  • Louise and Allston Boyer Young Investigator Award for Basic Research, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (2010)
  • Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring, Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences (2013)