Jonathan L. Sessler is a chemist recognized for his work on synthetic analogues of blood pigments. He is particularly well known for the development of the texaphyrins, larger versions of a class of naturally occurring tetrapyrrole macrocycles known as porphyrins that form stable 1:1 complexes with lanthanide cations and which have been the technological basis for two biotechnology startup companies, as well as a class of anion receptors termed calixpyrroles. Sessler was born in Urbana, IL and grew up in Berkeley, CA. He earned a B.S. in chemistry and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from U.C. Berkeley and Stanford University in 1977 and 1982, respectively. Following postdoctoral work at the University of Strasbourg and Kyoto University (1982-84), he began his independent career at The University of Texas, where he is currently the Doherty-Welch Regents Chair in Chemistry. Sessler was a cofounder of Pharmacyclics, Inc. and recently helped launch of OncoTEX, Inc. Sessler has held visiting professorships at Yonsei University and Shanghai University. In addition to English, he speaks French, Hebrew, Spanish, German, and some Japanese. Sessler is a member of the European Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Inventors, and the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

Jonathan L. Sessler's group is interested in chemistry of porphyrin analogues and their application in drug discovery, heavy element coordination chemistry, aromaticity, ion pair recognition, anion transport, supramolecular chemistry, and materials science. In his laboratory, organic synthesis is used to prepare oliogpyrrolic macrocycles that are typically larger than naturally occurring blood pigments, such as porphyrins. Sessler's synthetic systems show unusual electronic and coordination chemistry features, including an ability to switch from antiaromatic to aromatic forms or stabilize complexes with heavy elements, features that are not recapitulated in simpler systems. Understanding the underlying structure-activity determinants constitutes a major current research theme, as is the study of particular metal complexes as possible new diagnostic or therapeutic agents. The Sessler laboratory is also interested in using non-conjugated porphyrin analogues, particularly a class of macrocycles known as calixpyrroles, as ion pair receptors, through-membrane transporters, and recognition elements in rationally designed polymers. Recent work in the Sessler group has focused on the use of gold carbenes as immunogenic cell death agents with an eye to developing a new class of cancer therapeutics. The creation of self-assembled systems displaying hierarchical switching features or emergent behavior is another major area of interest.

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Section 14: Chemistry