Dr. David Crich Makes Research Mark at UGA

David Chu Family Supports Professorship

Renowned organic chemist Dr. David Crich is making a difference in the fields of carbohydrate and medicinal chemistry – and the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy is all the better for his significant contributions.

The Georgia Research Alliance and David Chu Eminent Scholar in Drug Design, Crich joined the UGA faculty a year-and-a-half ago, with a joint appointment in the department of pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences in the College of Pharmacy and the department of chemistry in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. Also affiliated with UGA’s Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, Crich is the winner of major international prizes in organic and carbohydrate chemistry.

GRA Eminent Scholars are acknowledged leaders in areas of science that are strategically important to the State of Georgia and its research universities. Remarked President Jere W. Morehead when Crich came onboard at UGA, “I am delighted that Dr. Crich has joined the University of Georgia, and I look forward to his contributions to our research enterprise and entrepreneurial endeavors. He will build important connections among disciplines on our campus and advance our efforts to find solutions to scientific and health-related challenges facing our world.”

Jack Hu, UGA’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, noted that “Professor Crich offers the University of Georgia an exemplary record of research and translating discoveries into innovations that have the potential to significantly enhance human health and well-being.”

President Morehead and Provost Hu were right. Since joining the ranks at UGA, Crich has established a group of 14 Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows and has accommodated several undergraduate students in his laboratories located in the College of Pharmacy and in the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center. He and his team have continued to build on existing themes in his laboratory, while also endeavoring to establish significant new collaborations with faculty in PBS and across campus.  Noteworthy in this respect are timely collaborations with the Pegan (Dr. Scott Pegan) and Cummings (Dr. Brian Cummings) laboratories in PBS and the Tripp (Dr. Ralph Tripp) laboratory in the College of Veterinary Medicine in the development of therapeutics for COVID-19 and other corona viruses, and a recently initiated project with the Popik (Dr. Vladimir Popik) laboratory in the chemistry department on the development of photoactivated glycosyl donors.

New areas initiated within the Crich group itself include the development of trisubstituted hydroxylamines, dubbed hydroxalogs, as novel bioisoteres for use in medicinal chemistry, and the study of the manner in which glycoside and glycosyltransferase enzymes manipulate the side chain conformation of their substrates as an adjunct to transition state stabilization. Crich views both of these areas as ground-breaking and expects to spend the next several years exploiting the potential they have unleashed and ideally translating at least some it through the establishment of a biotech start-up. In 2020, his first full year at UGA, Crich and his team published more than 18 peer-reviewed papers (almost equaling his earlier record) and filed three provisional patent applications. According to Crich, 2021 is off to a good start that hopefully will be as equally fulfilling.

Crich also is enjoying teaching in the PBS and chemistry graduate programs, where he currently is delivering a newly-developed course on the organic chemistry of drug design and development.

Crich is the former Schaap Professor of Organic Chemistry at Wayne State University, where he led a group working in the areas of glycochemistry, organic reactivity, and antibiotic chemistry. In addition to his position at Wayne State, Crich served a term as director of his alma matter, the Institut de Chimie des Substances Naturelles, France’s then largest state-run organic chemistry research institute; earlier, he was a Liberal Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago; and a lecturer in chemistry at University College London.

Crich has made a number of seminal contributions to organic and carbohydrate chemistry, including reaction mechanisms and methods, as well as contributing significantly to the fields of free radical chemistry and peptide synthesis. He has published more than 400 papers in areas as diverse as the total synthesis of alkaloids, the catalysis of radical reactions, and improved methods for peptide synthesis.

His major emphasis in recent years, however, has been on the development of new glycosylation methods, and he is especially well known for his seminal contributions to the elucidation of the principles of reactivity and selectivity.

His work has been recognized with numerous national and international awards, including the 2018 International Carbohydrate Organization’s Whistler International Award in Carbohydrate Chemistry.

Crich is delighted with his transition to UGA and remarked, “Moving to the University of Georgia has allowed me to take up all kinds of new challenges. Together with my coworkers, I’ve moved from an environment where I was surrounded by other organic chemists to a place where I’m surrounded by people who are much more biomedically-oriented. It’s a great match and has given me the chance to challenge myself and evolve.”

He added, “If you’re trying to work in interdisciplinary science and have an impact, then the synergy provided by collaboration is essential. That’s a very valuable part of this opportunity made possible by the Georgia Research Alliance and the University of Georgia.”

Crich is especially appreciative of his newly remodeled state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment in the RC Wilson Pharmacy building made possible with contributions from the Georgia Research Alliance and UGA emeritus pharmacy professor David Chu, whose namesake chair Crich occupies. “The support of David Chu and the GRA have provided us with world class laboratories and facilities that make the day-to-day conduct of research at the cutting edge and the retention of quality students and collaborators so much easier and more pleasant,” he commented, adding that, “The freedom to explore new ideas that is provided by the GRA and David Chu Eminent Scholar position is invaluable and really opens up the possibility of new and creative synergies at the frontiers of chemistry and biology.”

David Chu Gives Back to College of Pharmacy

David and Jane Chu (seated) and their daughters, Jaclyn (left) and Susan

As a retired faculty member, Dr. C.K. “David” Chu has remained actively involved with the College of Pharmacy. The David and Jane Chu Endowed Student Scholarship helps pharmacy students attend the College without financial burdens. Because his research focused on drug design, he created an endowed faculty position – the Georgia Research Alliance and David Chu Eminent Scholar in Drug Design – to expand research in this area. His family foundation also funds a lecture series, which brings in leaders in the field of drug discovery and design.

“My wife and I are deeply grateful to the University of Georgia for providing me the opportunity to teach, research, and grow professionally. We achieved the American Dream, and we wanted to give back. I hope to create opportunities for future faculty and students to conduct research in order to make life-changing discoveries and boost the reputation of UGA’s College of Pharmacy.” – Dr. C.K. “David” Chu