Grant helps Rice land cancer researcher from Caltech

$2 million from CPRIT brings Julian West to campus

Rice University has won a $2 million grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) to add researcher Julian West to the faculty. He will join Rice’s Department of Chemistry July 1.

Julian West will join Rice’s Department of Chemistry July 1.

West has also been awarded an endowed junior chair at Rice and will be a Norman Hackerman-Welch Young Investigator, a recognition bestowed by the Robert A. Welch Foundation.

A dual American and Canadian citizen, West grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, and comes from the California Institute of Technology, where he served as a Resnick and National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow. As a member of the Resnick Sustainability Institute, he focused on the design of electrocatalytic C-H oxidation reactions that are both highly selective and sustainable for bioactive molecule synthesis.

“One thing that immediately stood out to me about Rice University is how its excellent reputation in chemistry attracts some really phenomenal students and postdoctoral researchers,” West said. “Students and postdocs are the heroes of any research group, and I’m really excited to get to work with some of these outstanding young scholars as a professor at Rice.”

“The Department of Chemistry is very excited about Dr. West joining our scientific community,” said Anatoly Kolomeisky, professor and chair of the Rice Department of Chemistry. “We identified organic chemical synthesis as one of our main research directions, and Dr. West will help us to further develop this program and complement other foundational areas of chemistry. We are particularly pleased about Dr. West receiving a CPRIT grant to allow him to focus on cancer chemistry, which will also help build further ties with the Texas Medical Center.”

West’s research aims to solve problems in the chemical synthesis of bioactive molecules through creative advances in catalysis. His research at Rice will focus on the design and development of powerful new carbon-hydrogen functionalization reactions for anti-cancer molecule diversification and the invention of new coupling methods for anti-cancer and diagnostic bioconjugate synthesis.

“Through my training, I’ve gained knowledge and experience across the spectrum of synthetic organic chemistry and a deep appreciation for its applications in bettering human health,” he said. “My program at Rice will leverage this expertise to design much-needed chemical tools that can help us develop better anti-cancer therapeutics and diagnostic agents. We’re excited to be able to interface with some of the outstanding researchers at the Texas Medical Center to really make an impact in cancer research.”

West earned a Bachelor of Chemistry degree from the University of British Columbia and a Master of Chemistry and Ph.D. in Chemistry from Princeton University.

The grant to Rice was one of 42 new academic research grants, seven prevention grants and five product development grants awarded by CPRIT last month, totaling close to $96 million. To date, CPRIT has awarded 1,372 grants totaling more than $2.26 billion to Texas researchers, institutions and organizations, more than two-thirds of the way to fulfilling the state’s 2007 constitutional commitment of $3 billion to fight cancer.

CPRIT provides funding through its academic research, prevention and product development research programs. Programs made possible with CPRIT funding have reached all 254 counties in Texas, brought more than 170 distinguished researchers to the state, advanced scientific and clinical knowledge and provided more than 5.2 million life-saving education, training, prevention and early detection services to Texans.

About Kendall Schoemann

Kendall Schoemann is a staff writer in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.