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Dr. Betsy Parkinson

Dr. Betsy Parkinson

From Microbes to Medicines:

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, and antibiotic resistant-bacteria are a growing health crisis. The discovery of novel chemotherapeutics and antibiotics is thus an area of great need. Natural products (NPs) have historically been a bountiful source of anticancer and antibiotic agents. Unfortunately, traditional means of discovering new bioactive NPs are no longer effective due to the problem of rediscovery. Novel strategies to find new bioactive NPs are desperately needed. Research in my group focuses on the discovery of new NPs from cryptic biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) and the examination of the anticancer and antibiotic activities of these NPs with a focus on difficult-to-hit targets. The major research areas in my lab are:

1) Chemicals induction of cryptic BGCs for the discovery of novel bioactive NPs

2) Synthesis of peptide macrocycles inspired by cryptic biosynthetic gene clusters

3) High throughput assays for challenging anticancer and antibacterial targets

These projects will establish general methods for the discovery of novel anticancer and antibiotic natural products from cryptic biosynthetic gene clusters. In the long term, this approach will allow discovery of many novel anticancer and antibiotic agents and could also be used for the discovery of other types of bioactive molecules. Students in my lab gain experience in organic synthesis, isolation of compounds from complex extracts, natural product structure elucidation, bacterial and mammalian cell culture, high throughput screening, target identification, and bioinformatics.

We are currently seeking graduate students.


  • B.S., Rhodes College, 2010
  • Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2015
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2018


  • Postdoctoral Fellow, 2017
  • Medicinal Chemistry Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, 2013
  • Graduate Research Fellow, 2010


List of publications