Burke Laboratories @ UIUC

Human diseases caused by an excess of protein function can often be treated effectively using small molecules that bind to the offending proteins and turn them off. In contrast, diseases caused by protein deficiencies are generally refractory to this approach, and thus most of these diseases remain incurable with modern medicine. The Burke group therefore aims to advance the frontiers of pharmacology towards molecular prosthetics, i.e., functional small molecules that serve as substitutes for missing or dysfunctional proteins that underlie currently incurable human diseases. In this context, our research focuses on the synthesis and study of small molecules with protein-like functions. To enable these studies, we are developing new strategies and methods with the goal of making the process of complex small molecule synthesis as simple, efficient, and flexible as possible. We further aim to harness the power of this chemistry to illuminate the fundamental underpinnings of higher-order small molecule function in atomistic detail. Collectively, these efforts seek to make possible the development of molecular prosthetics as a general strategy for the understanding and betterment of human health.

Here are some YouTube videos of Marty describing our research:


Check out this highlight in Science, on our automated platform for small molecule synthesis.

Listen to a Science Update podcast on our molecule-making machine:




Listen to a podcast conducted with Marty by the National Institutes of Health, "On Being a Chemist":




The discovery engine in our group is organic synthesis, and individual projects generally fall within the following key areas.

Creating new strategies and methods for small molecule synthesis

Synthesizing small molecules with the capacity for higher-order, protein-like functions

Harnessing the power of synthesis to illuminate the atomistic underpinnings of small molecule function