Dirk Trauner

Professor of Chemistry and Janice Cutler Professor of Chemistry


Ph.D. (“Summa Cum Laude”). University of Vienna, Austria

Postdoctoral Research Fellow with Prof. S.J. Danishefsky, Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, New York City.

Areas of Research Interest

Chemical Biology, Chemical Neurosciences, Natural Product Chemistry, Chemical Synthesis

Neuroscience is one of the most exciting areas of research and synthetic chemistry can contribute much to its further development. Our current focus lies on the functional manipulation of ion channels and GPCRs using synthetic photoswitches, usually azobenzenes. The artificial photoreceptors so obtained can be inserted into neurons and other cell types and can be used to control various biological pathways with light (Photopharmacology). One of our major biological goals is the restoration of vision in the blind using synthetic photoswitches. The reach of photopharmacology, however, goes well beyond applications in neuroscience and sensory physiology. It is already clear that this approach is particular useful to controlling the highly dynamic systems that underlie cell motility, cell division and (unwanted) proliferation. As such, photopharmacology provides powerful tools for cell biology and could open a new direction in targeted cancer chemotherapy.

As our program in chemical biology grows, we remain are dedicated to chemical synthesis and natural product chemistry. We are convinced that the vast majority of natural products have not yet been found and that a wealth of interesting chemistry and biology awaits discovery. As synthetic organic chemists, we are intrigued by the structural beauty and functional sophistication of these molecules. Through total synthesis, we gain insight into their mechanism of action and biosynthetic origin. In addition, the total synthesis of complex natural products provides an ideal platform for the invention or discovery of new synthetic methodology or the validation of modern reactions in a challenging environment.

External Affiliations

Member, Leopoldina - German Academy of Sciences
Corresponding Member, Austrian Academy of Sciences
Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry
Member, American Chemical Society
Member, German Chemical Society (GDCh)
Member, Austrian Chemical Society (GOeCh)


Otto Bayer Award (2016)

Emil-Fischer-Medal of the German Chemical Society (2016)

George Büchi Lecturer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2016)

Novartis Chemistry Lectureship (2014-15)

Kitasato Microbial Chemistry Medal (2013)

Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship (2007)

NSF Career Award (2003).


"Optical Control of AMPA Receptors Using a Photoswitchable Quinoxaline-2,3-dioneAntagonist" Barber, D. M.; Liu, S.-A.; Gottschling, K.; Sumser, M.;Hollmann, M.; Trauner, D. Chem. Sci. 2016, 7, DOI: 10.1039/C6SC01621A.

"PhotoswitchableDiacylglycerols Enable Optical Control of Protein Kinase C" Frank, J. A.;Yushchenko, D.; Hodson, D. A.; Lipstein, N.; Nagpal, J.; Rutter, G. A.; Rhee,J.-S.; Gottschalk, A.; Brose, N.; Schultz, C.; Trauner. D. Nature Chem.Biol. 2016, 12, 755-762.

"ExpedientSynthesis of Lycopalhine A"Williams. B., Trauner, D.* Angew. Chemie Int. Ed. 2016, 55, 2191-2194.

"An Eight-Step Synthesis of EpicolactoneReveals its Biosynthetic Origin" Ellerbrock, P.; Armanino. N.; Ilg. M. K.;Webster, R.; Trauner, D. Nature Chemistry. 2015, 7, 879-882.

"A Highly Convergent and Biomimetic TotalSynthesis of Portentol" Cheng, B.; Trauner, D. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2015, 137, 13800-13803.

"A Roadmap to Success inPhotopharmacology" Broichhagen, J.; Frank, J.A.; Trauner, D. Acc. Chem.Res., 2015, 48, 1947-1960.

"The Total Synthesis of (–)-Nitidasin"Hog, D.; Huber. F.; Mayer, P.; Trauner, D. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2014, 53,8413-8517.