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Cold Spring Harbor Opens First Ever Chemistry Lab

The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Laurel Hollow is opening its first-ever stand-alone chemistry lab. The Laboratory announced that organic chemist Dr. John Moses will head the Chemistry Lab. He joined Cold Spring Harbor Labs as its first chemistry professor in September, and his research interests include click chemistry, anti-cancer drug discovery and chemical biology.

"This is a very bold move by CSH, and is a big thumbs up in recognition of chemistry, and especially click chemistry," stated Moses, who moved here from Melbourne, Australia.

Some of the new equipment and facilities in the new Chemistry Lab include a new 400MHz Bruker nuclear magnetic resonance (“NMR”) machine, small molecule purification systems, photochemical and electrochemical reactors, and high performance liquid chromatography machines. The new chemistry lab will coordinate and collaborate with the Chemistry Department at SUNY Stony Brook.

The Chemistry Lab plans to establish a novel click chemistry compound collection and storage facility at CSH Labs. “ We will build capacity, and there will be 10 double-sided fume hoods so we will be limited initially by space, but we are click chemistry and don’t need huge amounts of research to create lots of diverse molecules.” noted Moses.

The new Chemistry Lab is being built in the historic Demerec building, which was built in 1953.

Moses added that it might be a challenge to recruit staff and students to the new Chemistry Lab, because CSH is not yet a recognized chemistry facility. “We already have people who are interested, and I think once we launch formally then probably we will get more interest and will welcome applicants.”

Cold Spring Harbor Labs is also developing a “chemistry-for-biology” program that will train biologists in chemistry skills, and a “biology-for-chemistry” program to train chemists in biology” according to Moses. “They won’t necessarily be chemists and biologists when they graduate, but if they are a biologist and they need to be able to use click chemistry for their research, for example, then we can train them up to do that.”

The new Chemistry Lab is the brainchild of Barry Sharpless of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. Barry Tuveson, the head of CSH Labs cancer research center, and one of Sharpless’ chemistry students from the 1980's at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, put him in touch with Moses. “Barry invited me to help out with that from Australia, and that is how I got to know Dave” Moses stated.

“It is a terrific opportunity if a student in molecular biology who is really deep into a problem gets a chance to spend six months coming to John’s lab or an associated lab and makes things … and sees how you can just pop things together and make, for example, peptides or DNA,’ Sharpless said. “Students will learn how easy it is to get compounds, if you choose the right technology.’

Sharpless noted that chemistry is critical to biology because it makes and breaks bonds. “In order to get a new material, new product or new drug, somebody has to make and break bonds. I read such great papers in biology, and they don’t have one structure. They are doing good science and have great conclusions … but no structure – it is just sad, very sad."

The future, Sharpless says, is to develop really reliable one- or two-step syntheses that scientists can screen at Cold Spring Harbor Labs or elsewhere.

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