Project Overview

Synthesis of Metabolically Stable Tn Antigen Mimics with Conformational Integrity

Faculty Sponsor

Ernie Nolen (




Tn antigen is a carbohydrate bound to serine or threonine of a membrane protein, and is found displayed exclusively on the surface of tumor cells. While the immune system recognizes this feature as unique, it generally does not mount a significant defensive attack with respect to Tn antigen.  To aid in the development of cancer vaccines, we have designed and are attempting to construct a conformational mimics of Tn antigen that have an extended half-life, and therefore expected to produce a more robust immune response.  The actual lab work involves organic molecule synthesis and purification of these new materials, as well as characterization of these structures by NMR and mass spectrometry.

Students will work alongside me to produce gram quantities of material for exploration of the final steps in our planned syntheses of several target Tn antigen mimics. It will involve following synthetic organic chemistry procedures established by our lab and adapting procedures of others.  In doing so, the students will learn various techniques:  for handling air- and moisture-sensitive materials, and for purification and analysis of new products.  There are several hurdles to overcome, each providing publication opportunities. Once a viable route is established, then enough material will be produced for incorporation into biomedically relevant peptides (e.g., MUC1 and APF), and this material will be forwarded to collaborators for immunological and structural studies.


Student Qualifications

Students must have completed the CHEM 263-264 courses for consideration.

Number of Student Researchers

2 students

Project Length

10 weeks

Applications open on 01/03/2021 and close on 03/22/2021

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If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (