Umesh R. Desai, Ph.D.
Department of Medicinal Chemistry
Faculty/Staff picture [View Image]
  •   Virginia Biotechnology Research Park, Suite 212
  • School of Pharmacy - Dept of Medicinal Chemistry
    BioTech One, Suite 205
    800 E. Leigh St.
    P.O. Box 980540
    Richmond, VA 23298-0540
  •  (804) 828-7575
    (804) 827-3664

Area of Focus

  • Heparin Mimetics - Design, Discovery and Development
  • Allosteric Modulators of Coagulation Factors, Viral Glycoproteins and Cell Surface Growth Factor Receptors
  • Computational Design of 'High-Specificity' Glycosaminoglycan Sequences
  • Anti-Thrombotic Agents
  • Anti-Cancer Stem Cell Agents


  • B.S., Chemistry (M. S. University of Baroda, India, 1983)
  • M.S., Organic Chemistry (Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay, 1985)
  • Ph.D., Organic Chemistry (Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay, 1991)

Post-Graduate Training

  • Fellowship - Postdoctoral Training (University of Iowa – Iowa City, 1993)
  • Fellowship - Postdoctoral Trainint (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, 1994)

Professional Experience

  • (2018 - Present) Chairman, Department of Medicinal Chemistry,
  • (2009 - 2021) Director, Institute for Structural Biology, Drug Discovery and Development
  • (2007 - Present) Professor of Medicinal Chemistry, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • (2004 - 2007) Associate Professor of Medicinal Chemistry, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • (1998 - 2004) Assistant Profesor of Medicinal Chemsitry, Virginia Commonwealth University


PubMed Search [View Image]

The publications search is performed on the National Library of Medicine's PubMed database. The search may be slow during high traffic hours, may return articles authored by another researcher with a similar name and may not always find all of a researcher's articles.

Books/Book Chapters

  • ‘Glycosaminoglycans – Chemistry and Biology’, a volume of Methods in Molecular Biology, Springer, NY (2014). Editor: Kuberan Balagurunathan, Hiroshi Nakato and Umesh R. Desai


  • Desai, U. R.; Patel, B. B.; Patel, N. J.; Karuturi, R. Sulfated and unsulfated flavonoid oligomers as cancer therapeutics. US Patent 9,850,221 B2. Priority date: Nov. 8, 2013; Issued on Dec. 26, 2017.
  • Desai, U. R.; Thakkar, J. N.; Mehta, A. Y. Sulfated beta-O4 low molecular weight lignins. US Patent 9,777,123 B2. Priority date: Nov. 12, 2012; Issued on Oct. 3, 2017.
  • Desai, U. R.; Al-Horani, R. A.; Karuturi, R. Allosteric modulators of factor XIa as anticoagulant agents. US Patent 9,758,459 B2. Priority date: Nov. 12, 2012; Issued on Sept 12, 2017.
  • Desai, U. R.; King, J. T. Method for finger-printing heparins. United States Patent, US 8,262,881 issued September 11, 2012.
  • Desai, U. R.; Henry, B. L.; Liang, A.; Thakkar, J. N.; Mangrum, J. B.; Torres Filho, I.; Spiess, B. D.; Saluja, B.; Sakagami, M. Cinnamic acid-based oligomers and uses thereof – Divisional II Application. United States Patent Application Publication, US 8,993,620 issued March 31, 2015.

Recent Publications

  • Morla, S.; Desai, U. R.* Discovery of sulfated small molecule inhibitors of matrix metalloproteinase-8. Biomolecules 2020, 10, 1166. (PMID: 32784891)
  • Tiwari, V.;* Beer, J. C.; Sankaranarayanan, NV.; Swanson-Mungerson, M. Desai, U. R.* Discovering small molecule therapeutics against SARS-CoV-2. Drug Discovery Today 2020, 25, 1535–1544. (PMID: 32574699)
  • Rajarathnam, K.;* Desai, U. R. Structural insights into how proteoglycans determine chemokine function: Progress and challenges. Frontiers in Immunology 2020, 11, 660. (PMID: 32391006)
  • Sankaranarayanan, NV.; Bi, Y.; Balagurunathan, K.;* Desai, U. R.* Combinatorial virtual library screening analysis of antithrombin binding oligosaccharide motif generation by heparan sulfate 3-O-sulfotransferase 1. Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journal 2020, 18, 933–941. (PMID: 32346466)
  • Alabbas, A.; Desai, U. R.* Enzyme immobilization offers a robust tool to scale up the production of longer, diverse, natural glycosaminoglycan oligosaccharides. Glycobiology 2020, 30, 768-773. (PMID: 32193533)
  • Elste, J.; Kaltenbach, D.; Patel, V. R.; Nguyen, M. T.; Sharthia, H.; Tandon, R.; Mehta, S. K.; Volin, M. V.; Fornaro, M.; Tiwari, V.;* Desai, U. R.* Inhibition of human cytomegalovirus entry into host cells through a pleiotropic small molecule. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 2020, 21, 1676. (PMID: 32121406)
  • Nagarajan, B.;* Sankaranarayanan, NV.; Desai, U. R.* Rigorous analysis of free solution glycosaminoglycan dynamics using simple, new tools. Glycobiology 2020, 30, 516–527. (PMID: 32080710)
  • Al-Horani, R. A.; Abdelfadiel, E. I.; Afosah, D. K.; Morla, S.; Sistla, J. C.; Mohammed, B.; Martin, E. J.; Sakagami, M.; Brophy, D. F.; Desai, U. R.* A synthetic heparin mimetic that allosterically inhibits factor XIa and reduces thrombosis in vivo without enhanced risk of bleeding. Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis 2019, 17, 2110–2122. (PMID: 31397071)
  • Morla, S.; Sankaranarayanan, NV.; Afosah, D. K.; Kumar, M.; Kummarapurugu, A. B.; Voynow, J. A.; Desai, U. R.* On the process of discovering leads that target the heparin-binding site of neutrophil elastase in the sputum of cystic fibrosis patients. Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 2019, 62, 5501–5511. (PMID: 31074986)
  • Nagarajan, B.; Sankaranarayanan, NV.; Desai, U. R.* A perspective on computational simulations of glycosaminoglycans. WIREs Computational Molecular Science 2019, 9, e1388. (PMID: 31080520)
  • Boothello, R. S.; Patel, N. J.; Sharon, C.; Abdelfadiel, E. I.; Morla, S.; Brophy, D. B.; Lippmann, R. H.; Desai, U. R.;* Patel, B. B.* A unique non-saccharide mimetic of heparin hexasaccharide selectively inhibits cancerous but protects adult colonic stem/progenitor cells via a common mechanism of induction of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase. Molecular Cancer Therapeutics 2019, 18, 51–63. (PMID: 30337351)
  • Sistla, J. C.; Morla, S.; Alabbas, A. K.; Kalathur, R. C.; Sharon, C.; Patel, B. B.; Desai, U. R.* Polymeric fluorescent heparin as a one-step FRET substrate of human heparanase. Carbohydrate Polymers 2019, 205, 385–391. (PMID: 30446119).
  • Afosah, D. K.; Verespy III, S.; Al-Horani, R. A.; Boothello, R. S.; Karuturi, R.; Desai, U. R.* A small group of sulfated benzofurans induces steady-state submaximal inhibition of thrombin. Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters 2018, 28, 1101–1105. (PMID: 29459207)
  • Kaltenbach, D. D.; Jaishankar, D.; Hao, M.; Beer, J. C.; Volin, M.; Desai, U. R.; Tiwari, V.* Sulfotransferase and heparanase: Remodeling engines in promoting virus infection and disease development. Frontiers in Pharmacology 2018, 9, 1315.
  • Sepuru, K. M.; Nagarajan, B.; Desai, U. R.; Rajarathnam, K.* Structural basis, stoichiometry and thermodynamics of chemokines KC/mCXCL1 and MIP2/mCXCL2 binding to glycosaminoglycan heparin. Journal of Biological Chemistry 2018, 293, 17817–17828. (PMID: 30257866).
  • Sankaranarayanan, NV.; Nagarajan, B.; Desai, U. R.* So you think computational approaches for understanding glycosaminoglycan–protein interactions are too dry and too rigid? Think again! Current Opinion in Structural Biology 2018, 50, 91–100. (PMID: 29328962)
  • Kummarapurugu, A. B.; Afosah, D. K.; Sankaranarayanan, NV.; Zheng, S.; Kennedy, T.; Rubin, B. K.; Voynow, J. A.*; Desai, U. R.* Molecular principles for heparin oligosaccharide-based inhibition of neutrophil elastase in cystic fibrosis. Journal of Biological Chemistry 2018, 293, 12480–12490. (PMID: 29903912)
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