• Meet Baylor’s nationally recognized leader in cancer research

    If you’re a sports fan, the best comparisons for Dr. John Wood coming to Baylor in 2013 might be a top free agent or recruit signing with your team. If fishing is your thing, he’s the “big fish” that didn’t get away.

    In the academic world, no metaphor is needed — he’s a nationally recognized leader in cancer research, a top scholar and mentor who chose to bring his research operation to Baylor in 2013 and has been leading students in groundbreaking natural product synthesis research from the Baylor Sciences Building ever since.

    Wood, the Robert A. Welch Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, applies his discipline in the fight against cancer through a process known as natural product synthesis. Most major brand-name drugs are the result of natural products, such as plants, that have a quality or mechanism that fights disease. Wood and his students re-create these molecules and put them together in different ways to fight disease.

    He came to Baylor after a two-year recruitment process that was sealed when Baylor earned a $4.5 million grant from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), which provides funding to help bring top cancer researchers to conduct their work here in Texas — “big fish” in the cancer research world, as chemistry chair and professor Patrick Farmer, who worked on the grant and recruited Wood, puts it.

    Over the years on the faculties of Yale and Colorado State, Wood established his national reputation as a leader in this area; the “awards and honors” section on his Wikipedia page attest to that. But he has also earned a reputation as a mentor committed to helping his students develop top-notch skills to succeed as researchers and practitioners in the field.

    Since his arrival on campus, Wood has been joined by others with similar backgrounds in synthesis and cancer research, including Dr. Daniel Romo, the Schotts Professor of Chemistry, and Dr. Liela Romero, assistant professor of chemistry, as well as numerous student researchers in his labs and groups (the Wood Group and Baylor CPRIT Synthesis and Drug Lead Discovery Laboratory).

    As Baylor pursues Tier 1 research recognition and advances in the strategic plan of Illuminate, Wood’s daily pursuit of top-notch research and mentorship is the type of work that will help Baylor get there.

    “After having spent 13 years at Yale, these are the best facilities that my research group has ever worked in,” Wood says. “The thing I’m most excited about is just seeing this program grow and the quality of the research continue to improve. I get out of bed here at Baylor and want to come to my office and see what these students are up to.”

    Sic ’em, Dr. Wood!