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Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer CenterVanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

Alex G.  Waterson

Alex G. Waterson, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor of Pharmacology, Chemistry

Contact Information:

Vanderbilt University Medical Center
802C RRB
Nashville, TN 37232-0697


An accomplished and externally recognized medicinal chemist and scientific manager, I have directly impacted diverse projects within academia and the pharmaceutical industry and contributed to projects at all stages of the drug discovery process, including target identification and validation, lead optimization, and preclinical DMPK, efficacy, and toxicity optimization.

An accomplished and externally recognized medicinal chemist and scientific manager, I have directly impacted diverse projects within academia and the pharmaceutical industry and contributed to projects at all stages of the drug discovery process, including target identification and validation, lead optimization, and preclinical DMPK, efficacy, and toxicity optimization. Here at Vanderbilt, I have led and participated in hit discovery, hit-to-lead, and lead optimization campaigns for both fragment-based and HTS-derived compounds. I am also the Scientific Coordinator and co-PI of Vanderbilt’s center within the NCI’s NExT consortium, which is charged with utilizing the collaborative resources of the consortium to discovery new drugs for novel cancer targets. Prior to joining Vanderbilt, I was a member of a number of multidisciplinary teams charged with prosecuting cancer targets at GlaxoSmithKline. During this time I discovered the chemical series that led directly to the B-Raf inhibitor dabrafenib and was an integral member of a team that placed this molecule into clinical investigation.

  •          1994 B.S. - Mississippi State University
  •          1999 Ph.D. - Emory University
Research Description

My interests lie in the application of synthetic organic chemistry to questions of biological importance. Since 2001, I been engaged in medicinal chemistry toward primarily oncology related drug discovery efforts. Previous experience with the pharmaceutical industry included a key role in the discovery of dabrafenib, currently approved for the treatment of B-Raf positive metastatic melanoma.

Currently, I lead the medicinal chemistry team of the Fesik cancer drug discovery group. We employ fragment based drug discovery techniques to discover inhibitors of "undruggable" protein-protein interactions that are important for the future discovery of cancer therapeutics. currently, I manage the group’s Ras efforts, including an active collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim to develop Ras inhibitors, as well as the ongoing project aimed at validating inhibition of the protein-protein interactions mediated by RPA70N as a cancer target. Outside of the Fesik lab, I have also been involved in several collaborations, including active projects in the cancer, antibacterial, and antimalarial fields.

I am also the Director and Scientific Coordinator of the Vanderbilt Center for Cancer Drug Discovery, a newly expanded, dedicated center in the NCI’s NExT Chemical Biology Consortium. The center, which is co-directed by Professor Stephen Fesik and Professor Gary Sulikowski, was originally created in 2009, and engages in collaborative efforts with other centers across the country to discovery drug candidates for novel and challenging targets for cancer treatment. Current targets ongoing at Vanderbilt are aimed at inhibition of protein-protein interactions, a protease, and a metabolic enzyme.

  • Patrone JD, Pelz NF, Bates BS, Souza-Fagundes EM, Vangamudi B, Camper DV, Kuznetsov AG, Browning CF, Feldkamp MD, Frank AO, Gilston BA, Olejniczak ET, Rossanese OW, Waterson AG, Chazin WJ, Fesik SW. Identification and Optimization of Anthranilic Acid Based Inhibitors of Replication Protein A. ChemMedChem [print-electronic]. 2016 Apr 4/19/2016; 11(8): 893-9. PMID: 26748787, PMCID: PMC4838552, DOI: 10.1002/cmdc.201500479, ISSN: 1860-7187.
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  • Brogan JT, Stoops SL, Brady S, An H, Weaver C, Daniels JS, Beauchamp RD, Lindsley CW, Waterson AG. Optimization of a small molecule probe that restores e-cadherin expression. Bioorg. Med. Chem. Lett [print-electronic]. 2015 Oct 10/1/2015; 25(19): 4260-4. PMID: 26299347, PMCID: PMC4567403, PII: S0960-894X(15)00823-9, DOI: 10.1016/j.bmcl.2015.07.104, ISSN: 1464-3405.
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  • An H, Stoops SL, Deane NG, Zhu J, Zi J, Weaver C, Waterson AG, Zijlstra A, Lindsley CW, Beauchamp RD. Small molecule/ML327 mediated transcriptional de-repression of E-cadherin and inhibition of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. Oncotarget. 2015 Sep 9/8/2015; 6(26): 22934-48. PMID: 26082441, PMCID: PMC4673210, PII: 4473, DOI: 10.18632/oncotarget.4473, ISSN: 1949-2553.
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  • Waterson AG, Kennedy JP, Patrone JD, Pelz NF, Feldkamp MD, Frank AO, Vangamudi B, Souza-Fagundes EM, Rossanese OW, Chazin WJ, Fesik SW. Diphenylpyrazoles as replication protein a inhibitors. ACS Med Chem Lett. 2015 Feb 2/12/2015; 6(2): 140-5. PMID: 25699140, PMCID: PMC4329576, DOI: 10.1021/ml5003629, ISSN: 1948-5875.
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  • Romaine IM, Taylor RW, Saidu SP, Kim K, Sulikowski GA, Zwiebel LJ, Waterson AG. Narrow SAR in odorant sensing Orco receptor agonists. Bioorg. Med. Chem. Lett [print-electronic]. 2014 Jun 6/15/2014; 24(12): 2613-6. PMID: 24813736, PMCID: PMC4111141, PII: S0960-894X(14)00438-7, DOI: 10.1016/j.bmcl.2014.04.081, ISSN: 1464-3405.
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  • Frank AO, Vangamudi B, Feldkamp MD, Souza-Fagundes EM, Luzwick JW, Cortez D, Olejniczak ET, Waterson AG, Rossanese OW, Chazin WJ, Fesik SW. Discovery of a potent stapled helix peptide that binds to the 70N domain of replication protein A. J. Med. Chem [print-electronic]. 2014 Mar 3/27/2014; 57(6): 2455-61. PMID: 24491171, PMCID: PMC3969094, DOI: 10.1021/jm401730y, ISSN: 1520-4804.
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  • Burns MC, Sun Q, Daniels RN, Camper D, Kennedy JP, Phan J, Olejniczak ET, Lee T, Waterson AG, Rossanese OW, Fesik SW. Approach for targeting Ras with small molecules that activate SOS-mediated nucleotide exchange. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A [print-electronic]. 2014 Mar 3/4/2014; 111(9): 3401-6. PMID: 24550516, PMCID: PMC3948241, PII: 1315798111, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1315798111, ISSN: 1091-6490.
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  • Frank AO, Feldkamp MD, Kennedy JP, Waterson AG, Pelz NF, Patrone JD, Vangamudi B, Camper DV, Rossanese OW, Chazin WJ, Fesik SW. Discovery of a potent inhibitor of replication protein a protein-protein interactions using a fragment-linking approach. J. Med. Chem [print-electronic]. 2013 Nov 11/27/2013; 56(22): 9242-50. PMID: 24147804, PMCID: PMC3932990, DOI: 10.1021/jm401333u, ISSN: 1520-4804.
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  • Feldkamp MD, Frank AO, Kennedy JP, Patrone JD, Vangamudi B, Waterson AG, Fesik SW, Chazin WJ. Surface reengineering of RPA70N enables cocrystallization with an inhibitor of the replication protein A interaction motif of ATR interacting protein. Biochemistry [print-electronic]. 2013 Sep 9/17/2013; 52(37): 6515-24. PMID: 23962067, PMCID: PMC3804075, DOI: 10.1021/bi400542z, ISSN: 1520-4995.
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  • Patrone JD, Kennedy JP, Frank AO, Feldkamp MD, Vangamudi B, Pelz NF, Rossanese OW, Waterson AG, Chazin WJ, Fesik SW. Discovery of Protein-Protein Interaction Inhibitors of Replication Protein A. ACS Med Chem Lett. 2013 Jul 7/11/2013; 4(7): 601-5. PMID: 23914285, PMCID: PMC3728914, DOI: 10.1021/ml400032y, ISSN: 1948-5875.
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  • Taylor RW, Romaine IM, Liu C, Murthi P, Jones PL, Waterson AG, Sulikowski GA, Zwiebel LJ. Structure-activity relationship of a broad-spectrum insect odorant receptor agonist. ACS Chem. Biol [print-electronic]. 2012 Oct 10/19/2012; 7(10): 1647-52. PMID: 22924767, DOI: 10.1021/cb300331z, ISSN: 1554-8937.
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  • Delpire E, Baranczak A, Waterson AG, Kim K, Kett N, Morrison RD, Daniels JS, Weaver CD, Lindsley CW. Further optimization of the K-Cl cotransporter KCC2 antagonist ML077: development of a highly selective and more potent in vitro probe. Bioorg. Med. Chem. Lett [print-electronic]. 2012 Jul 7/15/2012; 22(14): 4532-5. PMID: 22727639, PMCID: PMC3389279, PII: S0960-894X(12)00738-X, DOI: 10.1016/j.bmcl.2012.05.126, ISSN: 1464-3405.
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  • Sun Q, Burke JP, Phan J, Burns MC, Olejniczak ET, Waterson AG, Lee T, Rossanese OW, Fesik SW. Discovery of small molecules that bind to K-Ras and inhibit Sos-mediated activation. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl [print-electronic]. 2012 Jun 6/18/2012; 51(25): 6140-3. PMID: 22566140, PMCID: PMC3620661, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201201358, ISSN: 1521-3773.
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  • Jones PL, Pask GM, Romaine IM, Taylor RW, Reid PR, Waterson AG, Sulikowski GA, Zwiebel LJ. Allosteric antagonism of insect odorant receptor ion channels. PLoS ONE [print-electronic]. 2012; 7(1): e30304. PMID: 22272331, PMCID: PMC3260273, PII: PONE-D-11-19400, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030304, ISSN: 1932-6203.
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  • Vangamudi, B.; Ayres, A. E.; Burke, J. P.; Waterson, A. G.; Rossanese, O. W.; Fesik, S. W., editor.. Evaluation of TBK1 as a novel cancer target in the K-Ras pathway.
  • Stellwagen JC, Adjabeng GM, Arnone MR, Dickerson SH, Han C, Hornberger KR, King AJ, Mook RA, Petrov KG, Rheault TR, Rominger CM, Rossanese OW, Smitheman KN, Waterson AG, Uehling DE. Development of potent B-RafV600E inhibitors containing an arylsulfonamide headgroup. Bioorg. Med. Chem. Lett [print-electronic]. 2011 Aug 8/1/2011; 21(15): 4436-40. PMID: 21733693, PII: S0960-894X(11)00804-3, DOI: 10.1016/j.bmcl.2011.06.021, ISSN: 1464-3405.
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  • Stoops SL, Pearson AS, Weaver C, Waterson AG, Days E, Farmer C, Brady S, Weaver CD, Beauchamp RD, Lindsley CW. Identification and optimization of small molecules that restore E-cadherin expression and reduce invasion in colorectal carcinoma cells. ACS Chem. Biol [print-electronic]. 2011 May 5/20/2011; 6(5): 452-65. PMID: 21241068, PMCID: PMC3401128, DOI: 10.1021/cb100305h, ISSN: 1554-8937.
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  • Thorne CA, Hanson AJ, Schneider J, Tahinci E, Orton D, Cselenyi CS, Jernigan KK, Meyers KC, Hang BI, Waterson AG, Kim K, Melancon B, Ghidu VP, Sulikowski GA, LaFleur B, Salic A, Lee LA, Miller DM, Lee E. Small-molecule inhibition of Wnt signaling through activation of casein kinase 1a. Nat. Chem. Biol [print-electronic]. 2010 Nov; 6(11): 829-36. PMID: 20890287, PMCID: PMC3681608, PII: nchembio.453, DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.453, ISSN: 1552-4469.
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  • Bhagwanth S, Waterson AG, Adjabeng GM, Hornberger KR. Room-temperature Pd-catalyzed amidation of aryl bromides using tert-butyl carbamate. J. Org. Chem. 2009 Jun 6/19/2009; 74(12): 4634-7. PMID: 19518153, DOI: 10.1021/jo9004537, ISSN: 1520-6904.
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  • Waterson AG, Petrov KG, Hornberger KR, Hubbard RD, Sammond DM, Smith SC, Dickson HD, Caferro TR, Hinkle KW, Stevens KL, Dickerson SH, Rusnak DW, Spehar GM, Wood ER, Griffin RJ, Uehling DE. Synthesis and evaluation of aniline headgroups for alkynyl thienopyrimidine dual EGFR/ErbB-2 kinase inhibitors. Bioorg. Med. Chem. Lett [print-electronic]. 2009 Mar 3/1/2009; 19(5): 1332-6. PMID: 19208477, PII: S0960-894X(09)00081-X, DOI: 10.1016/j.bmcl.2009.01.080, ISSN: 1464-3405.
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  • Stevens KL, Alligood KJ, Alberti JG, Caferro TR, Chamberlain SD, Dickerson SH, Dickson HD, Emerson HK, Griffin RJ, Hubbard RD, Keith BR, Mullin RJ, Petrov KG, Gerding RM, Reno MJ, Rheault TR, Rusnak DW, Sammond DM, Smith SC, Uehling DE, Waterson AG, Wood ER. Synthesis and stereochemical effects of pyrrolidinyl-acetylenic thieno[3,2-d]pyrimidines as EGFR and ErbB-2 inhibitors. Bioorg. Med. Chem. Lett [print-electronic]. 2009 Jan 1/1/2009; 19(1): 21-6. PMID: 19028424, PII: S0960-894X(08)01392-9, DOI: 10.1016/j.bmcl.2008.11.023, ISSN: 1464-3405.
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  • Laquere, S.; Arnone, M.; Moss, K.; Yang, J.; Fisher, K.; Kane-Carson, L.; Smitheman, K.; Ward, J.; Heidrich, B.; Rheault, T.; Adjebeng, G.; Hornberger, K.; Stellwagen, J.; Waterson, A.; Han, C.; Mook, Jr. R. A.; Uehling, D.; King, A. J., editor.. A selective Raf kinase inhibitor induces cell death and tumor regression of human cancer cell lines encoding R-Raf V600E mutation.
  • Schaaf, G. M.; Mukherjee, S.; Waterson, A. G.. Conjugate addition of sodium methanesulfinate to vinyl pyridines and diazines for the synthesis of aliphatic sulfones. Tetrahedron Lett. 2009; 50: 1928-33.
  • Waterson, A. G. Delpire, E.; Days, E.; Lewis, M.; Kim, K.; Lindsley, C. W.; Weaver, C. D., editor.. Small molecule inhibitors of the KCC2 neuronal co-transporter.
  • Hubbard RD, Dickerson SH, Emerson HK, Griffin RJ, Reno MJ, Hornberger KR, Rusnak DW, Wood ER, Uehling DE, Waterson AG. Dual EGFR/ErbB-2 inhibitors from novel pyrrolidinyl-acetylenic thieno[3,2-d]pyrimidines. Bioorg. Med. Chem. Lett [print-electronic]. 2008 Nov 11/1/2008; 18(21): 5738-40. PMID: 18842405, PII: S0960-894X(08)01162-1, DOI: 10.1016/j.bmcl.2008.09.090, ISSN: 1464-3405.
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  • Wood ER, Shewchuk LM, Ellis B, Brignola P, Brashear RL, Caferro TR, Dickerson SH, Dickson HD, Donaldson KH, Gaul M, Griffin RJ, Hassell AM, Keith B, Mullin R, Petrov KG, Reno MJ, Rusnak DW, Tadepalli SM, Ulrich JC, Wagner CD, Vanderwall DE, Waterson AG, Williams JD, White WL, Uehling DE. 6-Ethynylthieno[3,2-d]- and 6-ethynylthieno[2,3-d]pyrimidin-4-anilines as tunable covalent modifiers of ErbB kinases. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A [print-electronic]. 2008 Feb 2/26/2008; 105(8): 2773-8. PMID: 18287036, PMCID: PMC2268535, PII: 0708281105, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0708281105, ISSN: 1091-6490.
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  • Waterson AG, Stevens KL, Reno MJ, Zhang YM, Boros EE, Bouvier F, Rastagar A, Uehling DE, Dickerson SH, Reep B, McDonald OB, Wood ER, Rusnak DW, Alligood KJ, Rudolph SK. Alkynyl pyrimidines as dual EGFR/ErbB2 kinase inhibitors. Bioorg. Med. Chem. Lett [print-electronic]. 2006 May 5/1/2006; 16(9): 2419-22. PMID: 16483772, PII: S0960-894X(06)00153-3, DOI: 10.1016/j.bmcl.2006.01.111, ISSN: 0960-894X.
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  • Padwa, A.; Waterson, A. G.. A novel synthesis of polysubstituted phenols using the SnAr reaction of 2,5-dinitrofuran.”. ARKIVOC. 2001; 4: 29-42.
  • Waterson, A. G.; Meyers, A. I.. Studies directed toward the synthesis of Viridenomycin. Route 2: a second-generation approach. Tetrahedron Lett. 2001; 42: 4305-8.
  • Waterson AG, Meyers AI. Bicyclic lactams as chiral homoenolate equivalents: synthesis of (-)-penienone. J. Org. Chem. 2000 Oct 10/20/2000; 65(21): 7240-3. PMID: 11031061, ISSN: 0022-3263.
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  • Padwa A, Waterson AG. Studies dealing with thionium ion promoted mannich cyclization reactions. J. Org. Chem. 2000 Jan 1/14/2000; 65(1): 235-44. PMID: 10813921, PII: jo991414h, ISSN: 0022-3263.
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  • Padwa, A.; Waterson, A. G.. Synthesis of nitrogen heterocycles using the intramolecular Pummerer reaction [editorial]. Curr. Org. Chem. 2000; 4: 175-203.
  • Padwa, A.; Waterson, A. G.. The thionium/N-acyliminium ion cyclization cascade as a strategy for the synthesis of azapolycyclic ring systems. Tetrahedron. 2000; ((56)): 10159-73.
  • Padwa, A.; Dimitroff, M.; Waterson, A. G.; Wu, T.. IMDAF cycloaddition as a method for the preparation of pyrrolophenanthridine alkaloids. J. Org. Chem. 1998; 63: 8585-8.
  • Padwa, A.; Waterson, A.G.. Synthesis of the perhydroindolizine nucleus by a Pummerer/Mannich induced cyclization cascade. Tetrahedron Lett. 1998; 39: 3986-97.
  • Padwa, A.; Dimitroff, M.; Waterson, A. G.; Wu, T.. Diels-Alder reaction of 2-amino-substituted furans as a method for preparing substituted anilines. J. Org. Chem. 1997; 62: 4088-96.