Alumni News

October 20, 2019 at 5:06 pm

Notable Alumni | Dennis Wright Seeks New Pathways to Drug Discovery

Graphic for College of Arts & Sciences Notable Alumni Award

Editor’s Note: The College of Arts & Sciences Notable Alumni Awards honor alumni for broad career accomplishments, commitment to community service, and valuable contributions to Ohio University and the College of Arts & Sciences.

Dennis Wright ’96 Ph.D. Chemistry

Dr. Dennis L. Wright has made significant contributions to science and medicine by exploring both new pharmaceutical drugs as well as the potential of natural products. And he’s not afraid to spend time looking for solutions to problems where others have given up.

He is the Chief Strategy Officer at Quercus Molecular Design, where he manages the company’s research portfolio, and Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Connecticut, where his research interests include “development of small-molecule therapeutics based on complex natural products and therapeutic development for infectious disease, cancer and neurodegenerative disorders.”

Some of his work involves new antibacterial and antifungal agents, “an unrelenting problem owing to the onset of resistance,” he says, and one where traditional pharmaceutical companies don’t always invest.

Wright also is taking a new approach to Tubercolusis, the leading deadly infectious disease in the world, “developing drugs that target the bacteria in different ways from previous classes of drugs,” UConn writes in “Promising New Drugs for Old Pathogen TB.”

Dennis Wright , portrait

Dr. Dennis Wright

“Dr. Wright’s research program lies at the interface of organic structure and biological function, and is grounded in a strong synthetic organic core that also includes many important aspects of modern medicinal chemistry, including structure-based drug design, drug disposition/metabolism, and high-throughput screening. He leads a successful research group at the UConn School of Pharmacy, with 18 years continuous research support, including over $10 million in funding, six awarded patents and over 100 peer-reviewed publications, and has trained over 20 doctoral students and several post-doctoral fellows,” says his Quercus profile. “His research has benefited greatly from strong collaborations, allowing him to expand drug design work into new areas.”

“The development of anti-microbial agents is arguably one of the most important areas of academic drug discovery as the need for new agents is unrelenting owing to the onset of resistance. The problem is magnified as many traditional pharmaceutical companies have largely divested from the area due to poor underlying economic assumptions,” he says on his Quercus profile.

He also has had “a long-standing interest in the potential of natural products as new therapeutic agents, an interest that ranges from the development of new methodology to total synthesis to analog design and evaluation. My group has always been interested in utilizing the unique reactivity of the aromatic heterocycle furan in the construction of architecturally complex terpenoids.”

Wright is a member of the Institute for Drug Resistance.

Wright earned a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the College of Arts & Sciences at Ohio University.

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