Nicholas Oberlies

Title: Patricia A. Sullivan Distinguished Professor of Chemistry
Field: Natural Products Chemistry
Room: 405A Sullivan Science Building
Phone: 336.334.5474
Research Website:


B.S. Chemistry, Miami University , 1992
Ph.D., Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy, Purdue University, 1997


The Oberlies research group focuses on the isolation and structure elucidation of bioactive compounds from natural sources, including those from both fungal cultures and plants. Such studies have ramifications both in the realm of drug discovery and in the area of herbal drugs.

Natural Products Drug Discovery

We have several projects that seek to identify new drug leads. For our largest project, we are exploring a library of filamentous fungi, which have the advantage that they can be grown in culture, for new anticancer leads. This research is part of a Program Project, supported by the National Cancer Institute, where other team members are searching for similar leads from both cyanobacteria and plants. Over our most recent five years of research, we examined over 1000 cultures to isolated more than 300 compounds, and of those, more than 1/3 represented new chemical entities. Several other drug discovery projects are ongoing, and the common theme for all of these is the use of natural substances to identify small molecules that affect biological systems.

Herbal Drugs

The tools and the skill sets that my group develops in the realm of drug discovery are directly applicable to working with herbal drugs. The only difference is that the end goals between these projects are somewhat different. With herbal drugs, we are often developing reference standards, such that the herbal mixture can be characterized more fully. In one project we are working with colleagues at Washington State University to understand potential untoward interactions that may occur between a pharmaceutical and an herbal material taken concomitantly. The common theme for our herbal projects is using natural products chemistry to better understand how an herbal products works while making it safer and more consistent for consumers.

Researchers working in my group develop skills in analytical chemistry, spectroscopy/spectrometry, and organic chemistry.

For more information please visit The Oberlies Research Group