Luesch Laboratory
Marine Natural Products Drug Discovery and Development

Research in the Luesch lab lies at the interface of chemistry and biology and addresses multiple aspects of the drug discovery process ranging from assay development, identification and structure determination of bioactive small molecules with a focus on marine natural products, studies toward their mechanism of action, chemical synthesis and drug development of promising agents, the engineering of their biosynthetic pathways and development of heterologous expression systems, to the discovery of novel drug targets. Other products of our research are unique small molecule tools for chemical biology to probe gene and protein functions.

Specific areas of research

A New Wave of Medicine: Answer the Call

The ocean is calling and beneath its surface dwells an unseen power to heal. Dr. Hendrik Luesch explores the world’s oceans in search of natural compounds that treat cancer and other deadly diseases. In these uncharted waters, lies new chemistry, new biology and new cures just waiting to be revealed. His discoveries have already provided the basis for various FDA-approved cancer treatments and new starting points to treat pancreatic, colon, breast and ovarian cancers, as well as ocular and autoimmune diseases. He is also working on the development of broad-spectrum antivirals to combat COVID-19 and future pandemics.


University of Florida College of Pharmacy researchers have discovered a new compound called gatorbulin-1 from marine cyanobacteria blooms off the Florida coast. The novel marine natural product binds to a new site of tubulin, an important target for cancer drugs.

Lab information

Treasure Hunt: Cyanobacteria

UF Researcher, Center Director Hendrik Luesch, Ph.D., collects marine organisms from the Florida Keys that have potential for development into drug therapies and for disease prevention.


The Luesch lab gratefully acknowledges past and current funding from the following sources:


  • Debbie and Sylvia DeSantis Endowed Chair/Professorship
  • UF Health Cancer Center, UF College of Pharmacy and UF Research Opportunity Fund
  • The Evelyn F. & William L. McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida


  • National Institutes of Health (NCI, NIGMS)
  • American Heart Association
  • James & Esther King Biomedical Research Program
  • Bankhead-Coley Cancer Research Program
  • Florida Sea Grant College Program
  • Florida Institute of Oceanography
  • Ocala Royal Dames for Cancer Research, Inc.

Diving with a Donor

Learn more about UF College of Pharmacy alumna and supporter Debbie DeSantis, ʼ82, and her interest in natural products. This video highlights a May 2015 trip to the Florida Keys to collect cyanobacteria.

This lab is managed by Hendrik Luesch