The main focus of Professor Cane's research has been to establish the mechanism of formation of a wide variety of naturally occurring substances of diverse biological origins. These metabolites include antibiotics, toxins, plant defense substances, essential oils, and vitamins. Over the last several years his research group has concentrated on the mechanistic enzymology and molecular genetics of two broad areas, terpenoid metabolism and polyketide antibiotic biosynthesis.
David E. Cane was born in New York in 1944. After undergraduate study at Harvard, he received his Ph. D. in 1971 from Harvard University for research in organic synthesis carried out under the direction of Prof. E. J. Corey. During this period he developed an interest in the origins of natural products that led him to pursue postdoctoral study in natural products biosynthesis and bioorganic chemistry with Prof. Duilio Arigoni at the Eidgenössiche Technische Hochschule in Zürich. In 1973, he joined the faculty of Brown University where he is now Vernon K. Krieble Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Biochemistry. His research interests include the chemistry, enzymology and molecular genetics of natural products biosynthesis. This research has led to the identification, purification, and characterization of a variety of new enzymes that catalyze the conversion of the universal acyclic precursor, farnesyl diphosphate, to cyclic sesquiterpenes. Studies on these enzymes have established many key details of this fascinating cyclization process. In addition, cloning, over-expression, and site-directed mutagenesis of terpenoid synthase genes has provided large quantities of protein for further mechanistic and structural studies, and resulted in the elucidation of several crystal structures of a terpene synthase, the latter work carried out in collaboration with Prof. David W. Christianson of the University of Pennsylvania. In work on macrolide antibiotics, carried out in close collaboration with Prof. Chaitan Khosla of Stanford University, a combination of synthetic, enzymological, and molecular genetic approaches is being used to clarify the intricate sequence of events that is required to convert the simple building blocks such as acetate and propionate to complex macrolides such as the broad spectrum antibiotic erythromycin A and picromycin. In other recent work, Prof. Cane and his collaborators have investigated the enzymology and mechanism of formation of vitamin B6 and have established the role of two key enzymes in the formation of the characteristic pyridoxine ring. Prof. Cane has been a Fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (1983) and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow (1990), and has twice held Senior International Fellowships (1990, 1999) from the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health. In addition, he has received a number of awards, including the Ernest Guenther Award (1985), the Cope Scholar Award (2000), the Repligen Award (2005), and the Alfred Bader Award (2013) of the American Chemical Society, the Simonsen Lecture of the Royal Society of Chemistry (1990-91), the Kitasato Medal in Microbial Chemistry (1995), the Prelog Medal of the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, Zürich, and a Ph. D. (honoris causa) from the University of Kalmar, Sweden. He is a Fellow of the American Association of the Advancement of Science. In addition to over 295 scientific publications, in 2003 he co-edited a book of his father's World War II Letters published by Fordham University Press.
DAVID CANE, PHD
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