Burkart, Michael
Natural product synthesis/biosynthesis, Biological chemistry and enzymology, Metabolic engineering.

Contact Information
Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Associate Director, California Center for Algae Biotechnology
Teddy Traylor Faculty Scholar

Office: Pacific Hall 6100A
Phone: 858-534-5673
Email: mburkart@ucsd.edu
Web: burkartlab.ucsd.edu
Group: View group members
Accepting Rotation Students: Yes
1999 Ph.D., Organic Chemistry, Scripps Research Institute
1994 B.A., Chemistry, Rice University
2023- Chair, UCSD Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
2017-2019 Vice Chair, UCSD Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
2012- Professor, UCSD Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
2008-2012 Associate Professor, UCSD Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
2002-2008 Assistant Professor, UCSD Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
2000-2002 NIH Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard Medical School
Awards and Academic Honors
Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Postdoctoral Scholar Mentoring
Teddy Traylor Faculty Scholar
Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
Fellow, Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC)
Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry Lecture Award
Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship
American Cancer Society Research Scholar
National Science Foundation CAREER Award
Hellman Fellow
Ellison Medical Foundation, New Scholar Award in Global Infectious Disease
NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship
Bristol-Myers Squibb Graduate Fellowship
Zevi & Bertha Salsburg Award for Excellence in Chemistry
Research Interests
Project 1: Biosynthetic chemical and structural biology.

The modular metabolic pathways encoding fatty acid synthases (FASs), polyketide synthases (PKSs), and non-ribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPSs) offer a glimpse of how Nature’s evolution of an iterative multienzyme pathway can diverge into the impressive pharmacopeia of natural products observed at sea and on land. Unraveling the molecular logic of these pathways lies at the forefront of modern molecular science, and a major research topic of our lab, in line with our long-term objective of engineering these pathways for the preparation of novel compounds. Our most recent work has focused on leveraging chemical biology tools for the structural elucidation of these pathways. This has included NMR, x-ray crystallography, and cryo-EM methodologies to unravel pathway processivity and protein-protein interactions.

Project 2: Renewable and biodegradable fuels and materials from algae

Plastics have become omnipresent on the planet, and global plastics use is predicted to grow over the next 30 years, and petroleum consumption for plastics is expected to prevail over any decreases in petroleum consumption from adoption of renewable energy. Critically, plastics have become a major source of world pollution, especially in the ocean gyres, known as the ocean garbage patches. After working on algae biofuels for 10 years, we began to develop polyurethanes (PUs) made from algae feedstocks in 2018. Versatile, functional, and essential components of many products from shoes to furniture, PUs unfortunately also represent a major and ubiquitous plastic pollutant. Not only did we develop a path to produce PU foams from renewable algae biomass materials, but we have demonstrated their ability to be completely biodegradable under standard compost conditions. Here we see a key opportunity to meaningfully address non-biodegradable plastic pollution by development of a monomer recycling platform for polyester PUs. These polymers contain urethane bonds susceptible to chemical and enzymatic cleavage, making them one of the few plastics that can potentially be decomposed either by biodegradation, or by depolymerization and recycling of constitutive parts. Our discoveries have been incorporated into a spin-off company, Algenesis Materials, which is actively manufacturing renewable materials for applications in consumer products.

Project 3: Drug discovery and medicinal chemistry.

In addition to biosynthetic work, a portion of our laboratories resources have been devoted to the drug discovery and development efforts. Here, we have recently developed highly collaborative programs in infectious disease and cancer. Most recently our group has focused both on the development of spliceosome modulators as potential anticancer drugs and on the development of proteolysis-targeting chimeras (PROTACs) for drug discovery tools. Our group has been a leader in the development of spliceosome modulators as potential clinical entries for blood-born malignancies and solid tumors. Our early work in 2007 set the stage for the structure elucidation pladienolide B and chemical synthesis of FD-895. This led to the development of a potent non-natural analog, 17S-FD-895, recently renamed Rebecsinib. Rebecsinib recently completed preclinical development, and we will soon be submitting an application to the FDA for an investigational new drug (IND) in order to begin clinical trials through a spin-off company Aspera Biomedicines.
Primary Research Area
Organic Chemistry
Interdisciplinary interests
Macromolecular Structure

Outreach Activities
• Co-Founder and regular participant, Natural Product Affinity Group (NPAG)

• Co-Founder and Associate Director, California Center for Algae Biotechnology (Cal-CAB)

• Co-organizer, EDGE (Educating and Developing Workers for the Green Economy)

• Guest lecturer/presenter, various community venues (San Diego Rotary Club, Fleet Science Center, Two Scientists Walk into a Bar, Coronado Round Table)
Image Gallery

We have developed a path to produce fuels and plastics from renewable algae biomass and have focused on making fully biodegradable materials, making them one of the few commercially viable plastics that can be made from 100% renewable monomers and can be decomposed either by biodegradation, or by de

The study of natural product biosynthesis, including fatty acid, polyketide, and non-ribosomal peptide pathways, are a central theme in our laboratory. We have developed a suite of chemo-enzymatic tools to study and engineer these pathways, enabling synthetic biology of these systems.

Our group is actively developing new drugs, with a focus on natural product anticancer agents. Our research into the synthesis and biosynthesis of the pladienolides and FD-895 has uncovered Rebecsinib, the most potent anticancer spliceosome inhibitor to date.

Selected Publications   See https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2020/gc/d0gc00852d