Umesh R. Desai, Ph.D.
Department of Medicinal Chemistry
Faculty/Staff picture
  •   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
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)