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Ben Shen, Ph.D.

Director, The Natural Products Library Initiative at TSRI
Department of Chemistry
Florida Campus
Laboratory Website
(561) 228-2456

Scripps Research Joint Appointments

Professor, Department of Molecular Therapeutics
Professor, Worm Institute for Research and Medicine (WIRM)
Faculty, Graduate Program

Research Focus

Natural Product Biosynthesis, Engineering, and Drug Discovery.  Microorganisms produce a large variety of biologically active substances representing a vast diversity of fascinating molecular architecture not available in any other systems. Our research centers on the chemistry, biochemistry and genetics of the biosynthesis of these secondary metabolites. Blending organic chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular biology, we take a multidisciplinary approach to study the secondary metabolism by asking the following questions: what reactions are available in nature, what are the enzymatic mechanisms of these reactions, how are these reactions linked to produce complex structures, what are the regulatory mechanisms of these pathways, and, ultimately, how can we manipulate nature's biosynthetic machinery for the discovery and development of new drugs. Members of our group gain broad training spanning organic chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology and molecular biology, a qualification that is becoming essential for the modern bioorganic chemists who seek career opportunity in both academia and pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry (

The Natural Products Library Initiative (NPLI) at TSRI.  Natural products are significantly underrepresented in current small molecule libraries.  The current NPL at TSRI consists of: (i) purified natural products with fully assigned structures, (b) MPLC (on C-18 semipreparative column) fractions, and (c) crude extracts.  The NPL is presented in 384-well format with all materials dissolved in DMSO (1 mM for pure compounds and 50 mg/mL for fractions and extracts), compatible with most of the HTS platforms.  The NPL at TSRI currently available for screening includes: (a) 3,000 strains, (b) 450 pure natural products, (c) 1,500 MPLC fractions, and (d) 5,500 crude extracts.  The NPL grows at the rate of 100 strains/month and crude extracts, MPLC fractions, and pure natural products derived thereof.  The NPL provides an unprecedented molecular diversity to screen emerging targets for drug leads, and selected members of the NPL serves as outstanding small molecule probes to interrogate biology (


Ph.D., Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, 1991
M.S., Chemistry, The Chinese Academy of Sciences, China, 1984
B.S., Chemistry, Hangzhou University, China, 1982

Professional Experience

1991-95, Postdoctoral Research Associate, School of Pharmacy, UW-Madison, WI
1995-01, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, University of California, Davis, CA
2001-03, Associate Professor, School of Pharmacy and Department of Chemistry, UW-Madison, WI
2004-10, Professor, School of Pharmacy and Department of Chemistry, UW-Madison, WI
2004-10, Charles M. Johnson Distinguished Chair, School of Pharmacy, UW-Madison, WI
2005-10, Principal Investigator, NCI UW National Cooperative Drug Discovery Group, Madison, WI
2011-, Professor, Departments of Chemistry and Molecular Therapeutics, TSRI, Jupiter, FL
2011-, Director, The Natural Products Library Initiative at TSRI, TSRI, Jupiter, FL

Awards & Professional Activities

1996-01, FIRST Award, NIH
1997-00, Searle Scholar, Searle Scholars Program
1998-03, CAREER Award, NSF
2000, Matt Suffness Award, American Society of Pharmacognosy
2001-06, Independent Scientist Award, NIH
2002, Jack L. Beal Award, American Society of Pharmacognosy
2011, Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology
2011, Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science

2002-, Member, Editorial Board of J. Ind. Microbiol. Biotechnol.
2002-, Member, Editorial Advisory Board of J. Nat. Prod.
2005-, Member, Editorial Board of Current Bioactive Compounds
2005-, Member, Advisory Board of Molecular BioSystems
2006-, Member, Editorial Board of Recent Patents on Anticancer Drug Discovery
2007-, Associate Editor, Acta Microbiologica Sinica
2009-, Member, Editorial Board of Journal of Antibiotics

Selected References

185. Xie, P.; Ma, M.; Rateb, M. E.; Shaaban, K. A.; Yu, Z.; Huang, S.-X.; Zhao, L.-X.; Zhu, X.; Yan, Y.; Peterson, R. M.; Lohman, J. R.; Yang, D.; Yin, M.; Rudolf, J. D.; Jiang, Y.; Duan, Y.; Shen, B. (2014) Biosynthetic potential-based strain prioritization for natural product discovery - a showdase for diterpenoid producing actinomycetes. J. Nat. Prod. 77:377-387.

184. Peterson, R. M.; Huang, T.; Rudolf, J. D.; Smanski, M. J.; Shen, B. (2014) Mechanisms of self-resistance in the platensimycin and platencin producing Streptomyces platensis MA7327 and MA7339 strains. Chem. Biol. 21:389-397.

183. Lohman, J. R.; Ma, M.; Cuff, M. E.;  Bigelow, L.; Bearden, J.; Babnigg, G.; Joachimiak, A.; Phillips Jr., G. N.; Shen, B. (2014) The crystal structure of BlmI as a model for nonribosomal peptide synthetase peptidyl carrier proteins. Proteins, ASAP (DOI: 10.1002/prot.24485).

182. Rateb, M. E.; Yu, Z.; Yan, Y.; Yang, D.; Huang, T.; Vodanovic-Jankovic, S.; Kron, M. A.; Shen, B. (2014) Medium optimization of Streptomyces sp. 17944 for tirandamycin B production and isolation and structural elucidation of tirandamycins H, I and J. J. Antibiot. 67:127-132.

181. Falzone, M.; Martens, E.; Tynan, H.; Maggio, C.; Golden, S.; Nayda, V.; Crespo, E.; Inamine, G.; Gelber, M.; Lemense, R.; Chiapinni, N.; Friedman, E.; Shen, B.; Gullo, V.; Demain, A. L. (2013) Development of a chemically-defined medium for the production of the antibiotic platensimycin by Streptomyces platensis. Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol:97:9535-9539.

180.  Horsman, G. P.; Lechner, A.; Ohnishi, Y, Moore, B. S.; Shen, B. (2013) A predictive model for epoxide hydrolase-generated stereochemistry in the biosynthesis of 9-membered enediyne antitumor antibiotics. Biochemistry 52:5217-5224.

179.  Huang, S.-X.; Lohman, J. R.; Huang, T.; Shen, B. (2013) A new member of the 4-methylideneimidazole-5-one-containing aminomutase family from the enediyne kedarcidin biosynthetic pathway. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 110:8069-8074.

178.  Ma, M.; Kwong, T.; Lim, S.-K.; Ju, J.; Lohman, J. R.; Shen, B. (2013) The post-polyketide synthase steps in iso-migrastatin biosynthesis featuring tailoring enzymes with broad substrate specificity. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 135:2489-2492.

177.  Lohman, J. R.; Huang, S.-X.; Horsman, G.P.; Dilfer, P.; Huang, T.; Chen, Y.; Wendt-Pienkowski, E.; Shen, B. (2013) Cloning and sequencing of the kedarcidin biosynthetic gene cluster from Streptoalloteichus sp. ATCC 53650 revealing new insights into biosynthesis of the enediyne family of antitumor antibiotics. Mol. BioSyst. 9:478-491.

176.  Lohman, J. R.; Bingman, C. A.; Philips Jr., G. N.; Shen, B. (2013) The structure of the bifunctional acyltransferase/decarboxylase LnmK from the leinamycin biosynthetic pathway revealing novel activity for a double hot dog fold. Biochemistry 52:902-911.

175.  Yu, Z.; Rateb, M. E.; Smanski, M. J.; Peterson, R. M.; Shen, B. (2013) Isolation and structural elucidation of glucoside congeners of platencin from Streptomyces platensis SB12600. J. Antibiot. 66:291-294.

174.  Van der Donk, et al. (total of 58 co-authors). (2013) Ribosomally synthesized and post-translationally modified peptide natural products: overview and recommendations for a universal nomenclature. Nat. Prod. Rep. 30:108-160.

173.  Kurata, S.; Shen, B.; Liu, J. O.; Takeuchi, N.; Kaji, A.; Kaji, H. (2013) Possible steps of complete disassembly of post-termination complex by yeast eEF3 deduced from inhibition by translocation inhibitors. Nucleic Acids Res. 41:264-276.

172.  Unsin, C. E.-M.; Rajski, S. R.; Shen, B. (2013) "The Role of Genetic Engineering in Natural Product-based Anticancer Drug Discovery" in Natural Products and Cancer Drug Discovery, Koehn, F. E. ed., Springer, New York, NY, pp175-191.

See Shen Laboratory website for complete list of publications (


The Natural Products Library Initiative (NPLI) at TSRI