Graduate School of Medical Sciences
A partnership with the Sloan Kettering Institute

Derek Tan

The Tan Lab develops new chemical probes to investigate fundamental biological processes and to explore new therapeutic opportunities in cancer and infectious diseases.


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. 

Figure 1

 Dr.Tan Figure 

Current Projects:

  • Synthesis of Natural Products and Analogues 
  • Adenylate-Forming Enzyme Inhibitors as Antibiotics and Probes 
  • SEAKER Cells that Activate Small-Molecule Drugs Locally at Tumors 
  • SPEAR-GN Platform to Predict Small-Molecule Permeability in Bacteria 
  • Chemistry and Biology of Bacterial Diisonitrile Chalkophores 


Derek S. Tan received his BS in Chemistry from Stanford University in 1995, working with Prof. Dale G. DrueckhammerHe went onto graduate studies with Prof. Stuart L. Schreiber at Harvard University and received his PhD in Chemistry in 2000He then joined the laboratory of Prof. Samuel J. Danishefsky at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) for his postdoctoral trainingHe began his independent career in 2002 in the Sloan Kettering Institute of MSK, where he is now a tenured Member and Chair of the Chemical Biology ProgramHe is also the incumbent of the Eugene W. Kettering Chair and a Tri-Institutional Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine and The Rockefeller UniversitySince 2012, he has served as Director of the Tri-Institutional PhD Program in Chemical Biology. 


  • Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring, Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences (2013)  

Current Areas of Focus

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Weill Cornell Medicine Graduate School of Medical Sciences 1300 York Ave. Box 65 New York, NY 10065 Phone: (212) 746-6565 Fax: (212) 746-8906