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Blumberg Institute presents 2023 Lam Excellence in Medicinal Chemistry Award

The Baruch S. Blumberg Institute presented the 2023 Lam Excellence in Medicinal Chemistry Award recently to Steven Kultgen of Arbutus Biopharma, which is in Warminster, and Zhengyuan Jiang of the Blumberg Institute, located in Doylestown.


(L-R) Zhengyuan Jiang of the Blumberg Institute, Dr. Patrick Y. S. Lam and Steven Kultgen of Arbutus Biopharma.

The Institute presents the Lam Excellence in Medicinal Chemistry Award annually in recognition of Patrick Y. S. Lam, PhD, a distinguished professor at the Blumberg Institute. Dr. Lam has established a strong model for medicinal chemists that embodies two essential areas. First, he is a co-inventor of Eliquis, a novel transformative anticoagulant medication that helps to alleviate human suffering. Second, he is a co-inventor of the powerful Chan-Lam Coupling Reaction, which is used in synthesizing and manufacturing of biologically active compounds.

Steven Kultgen, who earned a Master of Science in Chemistry from Northwestern University in 1997, joined Arbutus Biopharma in 2015 as a scientist in the medicinal chemistry department and was promoted to Senior Scientist in 2018. Kultgen has worked on numerous antiviral targets, primarily focused on hepatitis B. He has made key scientific and synthetic contributions to a program focused on Capsid Assembly Modulators (CAMs) and his work was instrumental in the progression of two small molecule CAMs (AB-506 and AB-836) into clinical development. During his time at Arbutus, Steve has co-authored five peer-reviewed research manuscripts and is a named inventor on 12 patent applications.


(L-R) Dr. Michael Sophia, CSO of Arbutus; Dr. Timothy Block, founder, Blumberg Institute; Zhengyuan Jiang; Steven Kultgen; Dr. Patrick Y. S. Lam; Dr. Jason Clement, Blumberg Institute; and Louis Kassa, CEO of the Blumberg Institute.

Zhengyuan Jiang, who earned a Master of Science in Chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania in 2022, is a research associate in Dr. Yanming Du’s lab at the Blumberg Institute. His primary project focuses on the development of anti-yellow fever virus benzodiazepine compounds. Jiang synthesized benzodiazepine derivatives and successfully discovered a new candidate with better pharmacokinetic properties. Compared with the current lead drug candidate, this new one allows once-a-day dosing instead of twice-a-day dosing. Jiang also optimized the synthesis route by solving a chirality loss problem in a single step.

He proposed a new condition and improved the from 75% to 97% while keeping the yield over 80%. In addition, Zhengyuan adapted a photoaffinity labeling strategy to identify the binding site on the drug target and prepared clickable photoaffinity probes with sub-micromolar EC50s in the anti-YFV in-cell Western assay.

Along with the anti-yellow fever virus project, Jiang also contributes to an anti-HBV project by synthesizing a lead with selective distribution to liver relative to plasma. This lead has been forwarded to animal efficacy studies.

The Lam Award was created in 2021 by Yanming Du, PhD, professor and director of medicinal chemistry at the Blumberg Institute. The first recipient was Nicky Hwang, a former research associate at the institute now working in research at Genentech. Last year’s recipient was Simon D. P. Baugh, PhD, a research fellow at the Fox Chase Therapeutics Discovery Inc.

About the Baruch S. Blumberg Institute – An independent, nonprofit organization, the institute was launched in 2003 by the Hepatitis B Foundation to advance its research mission. Today, it is one of the nation’s leading centers for translational research in hepatitis B and liver cancer. The institute supports drug discovery, biomarker discovery and translational biotechnology around common research themes such as chronic hepatitis, liver disease and liver cancer in an environment conducive to interaction, collaboration and focus. The institute is located in, and manages, the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center (PABC) in Doylestown, Pa. Visit www.blumberginstitute.org and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter (@BlumbergInstit1).

About Arbutus Biopharma – Based in Warminster, Pa., Arbutus Biopharma is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company with deep virology expertise and an unwavering focus on curing conditions with unmet medical need. Today, the company is drawing upon its understanding and expertise in treating viral infections to develop and progress novel therapeutics focused on hepatitis B virus.