March 5, 2019
Dr. Tim Cernak’s research at U-M focuses on exploring the role of chemical synthesis in pharmaceutical discovery and development.

Research performed by Tim Cernak, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy, was recently featured in the journal Science. The report, titled Pharmaceutical diversification via palladium oxidative addition complexes, was co-led by Cernak, who then worked at Merck & Co., and Professor Stephen Buchwald at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. Cernak’s research at U-M focuses on exploring the role of chemical synthesis in pharmaceutical discovery and development.

“One of the major problems in drug discovery is that the synthetic reactions we need to actually make the compounds perform well on simple molecules, but do not work very well on the complex molecules typically found in real-world drug candidates,” explains Dr. Cernak. “In a partnership between MIT and my lab at Merck & Co., a new way to run one of medicinal chemists’ most used synthetic reactions was developed with a specific aim to ensure it would work well on complex drug-like molecules, rather than the simple model molecules that are typically used to study new reactions.”

“We are absolutely delighted that we were able to recruit Dr. Cernak to join us here at Michigan,” says George Garcia, PhD, Professor and Chair of Medicinal Chemistry and Director, Interdepartmental Program in Medicinal Chemistry. “His cutting-edge research in synthetic chemistry involves performing literally thousands of nanoscale reactions and generating orders of magnitude more reaction data than a traditional approach. This has the potential to vastly accelerate the drug discovery process.  His nine years of experience at Merck also give him a fantastic pharma industry perspective to share with our students.”

Dr. Cernak earned his PhD in Organic Chemistry with Prof. Jim Gleason at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec.  His doctoral research focused primarily on the development of chemical methods towards natural product synthesis. As a FQRNT postdoctoral fellow in Prof. Tristan Lambert’s lab at Columbia University, he worked on the development of approaches for multiplexed chemical synthesis (e.g., synthesizing many molecules at a time). Dr. Cernak followed his postdoc by accepting a position at Merck & Co. first as a Senior Scientist then as an Associate Principal Scientist.  He also served on the scientific advisory board for the NSF Center in Selective C-H Functionalization from 2011-2018.