Yan Zhang, Ph.D.
Department of Medicinal Chemistry
Faculty/Staff picture
  •   Biotech One Suite 209
  • School of Pharmacy - Dept of Medicinal Chemistry
    BioTech One, Suite 205
    800 E. Leigh St.
    Box 980540
    Richmond, VA 23298-0540
  •  (804) 828-0021
    (804) 828-7625

Area of Focus

  • Drug design, discovery and development in neurological disorders, cancer, sickle cell disease, and metabolic disorders


  • Ph.D., Medicinal Chemistry (Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, China, 1997)
  • B.S., Chemistry (Nankai University, Tianjin, China, 1992)

Post-Graduate Training

  • Post-Doc - Postdoctoral Research Scholar (College of Pharmacy, Univesity of Iowa, 2000)
  • Fellowship - Alexander von Humboldt Fellow (University of Ulm, Germany, 1999)
  • Post-Doc - Postdoctoral Researcher, Institute of Chemistry (Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, 1997-1999)

Professional Experience

  • 3/2001 - 7/2004. Research Associate, Dept of Medicinal Chemistry, University of Minnesota
  • (2004 - 2010) Assistant Professor, Department of Medicinal Chemistry
  • (2010 - 2016) Associate Professor, Department of Medicinal Chemistry
  • (2016 - Present) Professor, Department of Medicinal Chemistry

Professional and Scholarly Interests

  • Our laboratory has a longstanding interest in design, discovery, and development of novel ligands targeting G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) and their potential application in pharmacology, biochemistry, biology, and therapy. Several families of GPCRs, including opioid receptors, chemokine receptors, and LPA receptors, are being studied vigorously in our lab to develop novel treatment for neurological disorders, e.g. substance use disorders, pain, multiple sclerosis, and neuroAIDS. We are also interested in anti-cancer drug discovery and development targeting Wnt signaling pathways. Treatments for sickle cell disease and metabolic disorders, e.g. obesity and diabetes, are also being explored in our lab through collaborations with other investigators in the field. Our research has been funded continuously by NIH for nearly two decades. We always look for motivated and energetic scientists to join us and enjoy the exploration and new findings together.

Research Interests

  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow positions in Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Discovery Job Description are continuously available in our laboratory. We are seeking highly motivated synthetic organic chemists, medicinal chemists and computational chemists to join our vigorous drug design, discovery, and development program. Our lab is conducting highly interdisciplinary research focused on pre-clinical development of novel drug candidates, where we apply chemical synthesis, medicinal chemistry, biochemical and biophysical assays, computational chemistry and molecular modeling, and in vitro and in vivo pharmacology to achieve our goals. The successful candidate will be involved in design, synthesis and characterization of small molecule targeting G-protein coupled receptors mainly. The duties will include design, synthesis, and biological characterization of novel lead compounds to develop drug candidates in treating varies types of diseases, including substance use disorders, cancer, AIDS, and sickle cell disease. Applicants should have a PhD degree in synthetic organic chemistry, medicinal chemistry, or computational chemistry. Excellent oral and written communication skills in English are preferred. To apply, please submit your cover letter, CV, and contact information for three references, all combined into one PDF file via e-mail to: yzhang2@vcu.edu. Contact: Professor Yan Zhang, Department of Medicinal Chemistry, Virginia Commonwealth University, Biotech One, Suite 209, 800 E Leigh Street, Richmond, VA 23298.


Recent Publications

  • Guo Li, Karen Watson, Robert W. Buckheit and Yan Zhang. Total Synthesis of Anibamine, a Novel Natural Product as Chemokine Receptor CCR5 Antagonist. Organic Letters, 2007, 9, 2043-2046.
  • Yunyun Yuan, Guo Li, Hengjun He, David L. Stevens, Patrick Kozak, Krista L. Scoggins, Pallabi Mitra, Phillip M. Gerk, Dana E. Selley, William L. Dewey, Yan Zhang. Identification of 6?- and 6?-N-Heterocyclic Substituted Naltrexamine Derivatives as Novel Leads to Development of Mu Opioid Receptor Selective Antagonists. ACS Chem. Neurosci. 2011, 2 (7), 346–351. PMCID: PMC3369747.
  • Feng Zhang, Saheem Zaidi, Kendra M. Haney, Glen E. Kellogg, Yan Zhang. Regio- and Stereo-selective Syntheses of the Natural Product CCR5 Antagonist Anibamine and its Three Olefin Isomers. J. Org. Chem. 2011, 76 (19), 7945–7952. PMID: 21875065. PMCID: PMC3197777.
  • Yunyun Yuan, Orgil Elbegdorj, Jianyang Chen, Shashidhar K. Akubathini, Feng Zhang, David L. Stevens, Irina O. Beletskaya, Krista L. Scoggins, Dana E. Selley, Hamid I. Akbarali, William L. Dewey, Yan Zhang. Design, Synthesis, and Biological Evaluation of 17-Cyclopropylmethyl-3,14ß-dihydroxy-4,5a-epoxy-6ß-[(4’-pyridyl)carboxamido]morphinan Derivatives as Peripheral Selective Mu Opioid Receptor Antagonists. J. Med. Chem. 2012, 55(22), 10118-29. PMID: 23116124. PMCID: PMC3527108.
  • Yunyun Yuan, Christopher K. Arnatt, Nazira El-Hage, Seth M. Dever, Joanna C. Jacob, Dana E. Selley, Kurt F. Hauser, Yan Zhang. A Bivalent Ligand Targeting the Putative Mu Opioid Receptor and Chemokine Receptor CCR5 Heterodimers: Binding Affinity versus Functional Activities. MedChemComm. 2013, 4, 847-851. PMID: 23682308. PMCID: PMC3652433.
  • Nazira El-Hage, Elizabeth M. Podhaizer, Seth M. Dever, Christopher K. Arnett, Yan Zhang, Kurt F. Hauser. Maraviroc fails to inhibit HIV-1 entry in astroglial exposed to morphine: Implication for new therapeutic against NeuroAIDS in drug abuse population. AIDS, 2013, 27, 2181-2190. PMID: 23751259. PMCID: PMC3918492.
  • Saheem Zaidi, Christopher K. Arnatt, Hengjun He, Dana Selley, Philip Mosier, Glen Kellogg, Yan Zhang. Binding Mode Characterization of 6?- and 6?-N-Heterocyclic Substituted Naltrexamine Derivatives in Opioid Receptor Crystal Structures: Application of the “Message–Address” Concept in Development of Mu Opioid Receptor Selective Antagonists. Bioorg. Med. Chem. 2013, 21, 6405-6413. PMID: 24055076. PMCID: PMC3831368.
  • Yunyun Yuan, Saheem A. Zaidi, Orgil Elbegdorj, Lindsey C. K. Aschenbach, Guo Li, David L. Stevens, Krista L. Scoggins, William L. Dewey, Dana E. Selley, Yan Zhang. Design, Syntheses, and Biological Evaluation of 14-Heteroaromatic Substituted Naltrexone Derivatives: Pharmacological Profile Switch from Mu Opioid Receptor Selectivity to Mu/Kappa Opioid Receptor Dual Selectivity. J. Med. Chem. 2013, 56, 9156-69. PMID: 24144240. PMCID: PMC4373589.
  • Christopher K. Arnatt, Saheem A. Zaidi, Zhu Zhang, Guo Li, Amanda C. Richardson, Joy L. Ware, Yan Zhang. Design, syntheses, and characterization of pharmacophore based chemokine receptor CCR5 antagonists as anti prostate cancer agents. Euro. J. Med. Chem. 2013, 69, 647-658. PMID: 24095757.
  • Yunyun Yuan, Saheem A. Zaidi, David L. Stevens, Krista L. Scoggins, Philip D. Mosier, Glen E. Kellogg, William L. Dewey, Dana E. Selley, Yan Zhang. Design, Synthesis, and Pharmacological Characterization of 17-Cyclopropylmethyl-3,14ß-dihydroxy-4,5a-epoxy-6a-(isoquinoline-3'-carboxamido)morphinan (NAQ) Analogues as Potent Opioid Receptor Ligands. Bioorg. Med. Chem. 2015, 23, 1701-1715.