P4T group, Food and Drug Department, Università di Parma

Assistant Professor of Medicinal Chemistry

Parco Area delle scienze 27, Campus Universitario, 43124 Parma, Italy

+39 0521 905054




Background and expertise of the representative

Marco Pieroni is a professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Parma, Department of Food and Drug. He graduated in 2003 in Pharmacy with a thesis regarding the synthesis of novel quinolones for the treatment of resistant bacterial strains. After his degree, he joined the medicinal chemistry group of Prof Fravolini in Perugia as a PhD student, continuing his work on the research of novel quinolone-like scaffolds and novel therapeutic approaches for the treatment of resistant infections. In this period, he starts working on the synthesis of inhibitors of bacterial efflux pumps as a strategy to control antibiotic resistance. After his PhD, he moved to Chicago, at the UIC College of Pharmacy, where he spent 3 years as research assistant, first, and research assistant professor and drug metabolism lecturer, later, within the group of Prof Alan P. Kozikowski. Under the supervision of Prof Kozikowski, who is a former student of Chemistry Nobel Laureate E.J. Corey, he deeply improved his chemistry skills, also dedicating his time to the total synthesis of natural product analogues. In the same period, he started working on the synthesis of novel chemical tools to be used in the fight of tuberculosis, a research field where he is still particularly active. At this regard, he is one of the co-authors of the two papers describing the derivatives of indole-2-carboxamides as potent antitubercular agents. Currently, indole-2-carboxamides are present in the Global TB Alliance drug pipeline, at the hit-to-lead optimization phase. In 2011 he was hired as research assistant professor at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, collaborating with professor Ghee Tan in the synthesis of derivatives of natural compounds for the treatment of parasitic diseases. At the end of 2011 he joined the group of Prof Costantino at the University of Parma, Italy, where he currently leads is own research in the field of antimicrobial agents. He is currently co-supervisor of an ESR hired within the MSCA ETN action entitled “INTEGRATE” (Project ID: 642620). Dr Pieroni’s research is focused on the medicinal chemistry enabling the synthesis of novel chemical scaffolds for the treatment of bacterial and parasitic infections, with particular emphasis on the treatment of susceptible and resistant M. tuberculosis. He is currently following two different approaches: from one side, the synthesis of inhibitors of mycobacterial growth with innovative mechanism of action used as a valuable strategy to eradicate tuberculosis. On the other hand, Dr Pieroni’s interest has been heavily captured by the synthesis of chemical probes able to inhibit the so called “non-essential targets” such as efflux pumps, virulence factors (i.e. O-acetyl sulfhydrylase) and host-pathogen interaction factors. This latter approach is not strictly directed to M. tuberculosis, but it has proved to be effective also toward other bacterial species and fungi. He is author of about 40 papers, with almost half of which published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry or in high impact journals such as Nature Communications, Nature Microbiology and Mucosal Immunology.

Organisation profile

The University of Parma (UP) has a centuries-old history and tradition, dating back to year 962. It has about 30,000 students, more than 5,000 graduates per year and about 2,000 faculty and staff members. The Department of Food and Drug is located in the scientific Campus, close to strategic interdepartmental facilities. It is involved in basic and applied research, with strong collaborations with industrial partners. The Medicinal Chemistry group has a long and successful experience in drug design, synthesis and molecular characterization of compounds endowed with biological activity. The Department of Food and Drug hosts, among the others, a Doctorate Program in medicinal chemistry and technology of drugs. Lately, our department has hosted an ESR resulting from an MSCA-ITN-ETN-Training Networks (“INTEGRATE”, Ref # 642620). The Department offers two laboratories for organic synthesis (> 200 sqm), equipped with all of the necessary instrumentation to carry out high-level organic synthesis. Along with general equipment (evaporators, dry pistol, aspirate cabinets and aspirate fridges), we can count on a microwave reactor from CEM Corporation, Matthews, North Carolina, USA, in order to perform chemical reactions in a faster way and with a limited use of solvents. For the purification of the reaction crude, we have an automated preparative flash-chromatograph CombiFlash® Rf (Teledyne Isco, Inc. Lincoln, Nebraska, USA) that is coupled to a 340CF ELSD (Teledyne Isco, Inc. Lincoln, Nebraska, USA), should the compounds be not UV visible. For the analysis of the derivatives, we can count on a HPLC Waters 2695 that is coupled to a triple quadrupole Micromass Quattro Micro API by Waters. Finally, full and free access to the Interdepartmental Centre for Measures “G. Casnati” warrants the use of advanced analytical instrumentation such as NMRs (600, 400, 300 Mhz), a Maldi TOF/TOF, an Orbitrap, two AFM apparatuses and several spectrophotometers.

Contribution to the network

Marco Pieroni will make available his experience and skills in the design, synthesis, purification and chemical characterization of novel chemical entities endowed with biological activity. Since his experience, testified by the literature produced, he can drive the synthesis of rationally designed compounds either according to a Structure-Based Drug Design and/or a Ligand-Based Drug Design approach. Moreover, ex-novo synthesis of natural products and/or natural products analogues can be carried out, if worth and in agreement with the strategy depicted by the project leaders. Extensive collaboration and interaction with the project partners, also from different backgrounds, is as well ensured. Marco Pieroni can also coordinate the medicinal chemistry activity of a small team of chemists, taking personally care of the collection of data and presentation of the results obtained. As often happens, he can supervise and train Early-Stage Researchers in the field of medicinal chemistry and drug design.