Chemistry Department to Host Lectures by Scripps Research Institute Professor Dr. Matthew Disney

Dr. Matthew Disney

MACON – Mercer University’s Chemistry Department will host a special lecture series by Dr. Matthew Disney, professor of chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute, April 15-16, sponsored by the Jean Dreyfus Lectureship for Undergraduate Institutions.

The Jean Dreyfus Lectureship, provided by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, provides an $18,500 grant to bring a leading researcher to a primarily undergraduate institution to give lectures in the chemical sciences and to interact with students and faculty. Dr. Emilianne Limbrick, assistant professor of chemistry, and Dr. Kevin Bucholtz, associate professor of chemistry and director of undergraduate research, applied for and received the grant, which also supports two undergraduate summer research students.

Dr. Disney will give his first lecture, titled “Designing Drugs for You,” April 15 at 6 p.m. in Medical School Auditorium. He will give a second, more technical lecture, titled “Design of Lead Medicines from Genomic RNA Sequence,” April 16 at 2 p.m. in Godsey Science Center, Room 203. Both lectures are free and open to the public.

“We are excited to welcome Dr. Disney, a leading researcher in drug design, to our campus,” said Dr. Limbrick. “His unique perspective and approach to drug design by examining RNA sequences will be interesting to our entire community and will also encourage us to approach our research in unique ways. We are grateful to the Dreyfus Foundation for providing the funding for this wonderful opportunity.”

Dr. Disney has spent the past 12 years focusing his research efforts exclusively on developing approaches to drug RNA with small molecules. Towards this end, he has pioneered synergistic computational and experimental approaches to tackle this difficult molecular recognition problem by developing Inforna, an approach that identifies druggable RNAs and small molecules to target them via sequence-based design. He has also developed target validation approaches that allow the identification of target RNAs and binding sites within them by crosslinking small molecule RNAs in cells. These approaches have been broadly leveraged to target RNAs in many disease settings.

Dr. Disney’s work has garnered many awards, including the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, the Tetrahedron Young Investigator Award, and the Raymond and Beverly Sackler International Prize in Chemistry, among others.

He earned his B.S. at the University of Maryland and both his M.S. and Ph.D. at the University of Rochester, before completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland.

As a graduate student, he helped develop approaches to accurately determine RNA structure by using chemical modification agents in cells in conjunction with computation. As a postdoctoral fellow, his work focused on the development and applications of carbohydrate microarrays.

Dr. Disney is a full professor in the bi-coastal Department of Chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) with laboratories on the Florida campus of TSRI.