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Pomerantz selected as for McKnight Land-Grant Professorship

Assistant Professor William “Will” Pomerantz has been selected as a recipient of the University of Minnesota McKnight Land-Grant Professorship. This award is designed to advance the careers of new assistant professors at a crucial point in their professional lives.

The two-year appointment, 2016-2018, includes a research grant of $50,000, which will aid Pomerantz in his research into, “Inspiration from Fluorination: Teflon Proteins for Protein-Protein Interaction Drug Discovery.” Researchers in Pomerantz’ laboratory seek to perturb the physical interaction between proteins, termed transcription factors, by designing small drug-like molecules. These interactions dictate the information flow inside cells that can ultimately lead to disease. Given that transcription factors represent a major class of potential drug targets, his new spectroscopy method using fluorine, a unique element on the periodic table, could significantly increase the repertoire of drug targets and open new avenues for drug/probe discovery for a range of diseases including cancer, cardiac disease, and diabetes. He plans to extend his applications of fluorinated biopolymers to use its unique bioorthogonality of fluorine for imaging cancer biomarkers by 19F MRI.

His research is interdisciplinary and melds spectroscopy, cell biology, organic chemistry, and biochemistry approaches. Pomerantz collaborates with colleagues in the departments of Medicinal Chemistry and Biochemistry Molecular Biology and Biophysics on his research, and with companies such as Eli Lilly and Astellas. His research program has garnered interest in both academia and industry, where he has been an invited speaker at both national and international conferences, including the Cambridge Health Innovation Drug Discovery Conference, GRC in High Throughput Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and the American Chemical Society.  Pomerantz’ research has been published in some of the American Chemical Society’s top publications, and has earned him a number of honors, including the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, grants from the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Foundation, Masonic Cancer Center, and Phi Kappa Phi, and an honorarium from Eli Lilly.

Pomerantz has been a professor in the Department of Chemistry since 2012. He also is an affiliated faculty member in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and one of the founding members of the Epigenetics Consortium on campus. Before coming to the University of Minnesota, he was a National Institutes of Health post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan. He earned his doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, spent a year as a Seydel/Fulbright Fellow at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, and earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Ithaca College.

Pomerantz is an active and involved professor in the chemistry department and university and was named a College of Science & Engineering Teaching Fellow in 2014. He has developed a chemical biology boot camp for graduate students, which has run for the last three years, visits college campuses and helps recruit graduate students to the University of Minnesota, and teaches chemical biology to retirees through the Osher Life Long Learning Institute. Several of his demonstrations in collaboration with Professor Christy Haynes have been used in creation of curriculum for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, and several of the boot camp modules helped with the development of the department’s chemical biology laboratory. He was instrumental in obtaining a state-of-the-art 19F nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) cryoprobe and an automated sample changer for screening experiments for the department’s new 500 MHz NMR spectrometer.

“Professor Pomerantz brings outstanding qualities of research acumen, interdisciplinary perspectives, and creativity to solving important chemical biology problems in unique ways,” said Professor William Tolman, chair of the Department of Chemistry. “His novel approaches have excellent promise as entirely new ways of discovering new drugs for many diseases. His impressive scholarly attributes and research expertise are coupled to a passion and talent for education in the classroom and laboratory.”