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Umesh Desai, Ph.D.

Massey Cancer Center research program membership

Developmental Therapeutics

Department affiliations

Professor, Department of Medicinal Chemistry, School of Pharmacy


PhD, Indian Institute of Technology, India (1991)

Awards and honors

Young Scientist Award, 1995, Government of India
University Distinguished Scholarship Award, 2013, Virginia Commonwealth University

Research description

GAGs are ubiquitously present in nature from hydra to humans, from embryonic stem cells to mature cells, and from a fully secreted state to a cell surface-bound state in the form of proteoglycans. This enables them to modulate a large number of physiological and pathological responses including growth and cancer, cell renewal and differentiation, and inflammation and immune response. These responses are brought about by their binding to proteins. Our hypothesis is that it should be possible to discover new therapeutics by aiding or interfering with GAG-protein interactions of relevance to growth and differentiation. This has led to the development of a library of synthetic molecules that mimic GAGs. This library is called non-saccharide glycosaminoglycan mimetics (NSGMs). Several NSGMs have been found to inhibit growth of cancer cell lines. One of the NSGMs, called G2.2, inhibits growth of cancer stem cells (CSCs) and has shown major promise in several in vivo models of cancer. We are pursuing advanced ADMET, PK and analog design and develop studies to enable an IND application in the near future.

Disease focus of research


Research keywords

Cancer stem cells, glycosaminoglycans, growth factor receptors, small molecule inhibitors, drug discovery

Published research (during tenure as a Massey Cancer Center member)

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Contact information


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