David Spiegel's picture David Spiegel Professor of Chemistry

Professor David A. Spiegel, Ph.D., M.D., was born in New York City, and grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey. From a very young age, he was fascinated by the chemistry and biology of small molecules, and at 16 began doing research in a neuroanesthesiology laboratory at the University of Iowa. He went on to attend Harvard University where he conducted research under the guidance of Professor Yoshito Kishi. After graduating from Harvard, David began in Yale University’s M.D./Ph.D. program. There he conducted graduate research in Professor John Wood’s laboratory focusing on developing synthetic approaches toward the phomoidrides. During the course of these studies, he discovered that trialkylborane-water complexes could function as H-atom donors in free radical reactions. Following graduation from Yale, Professor Spiegel moved back to Harvard for postdoctoral studies under the guidance of Professor Stuart L. Schreiber. There he focused on developing an oligomer-based method for small-molecule synthesis to enable the rapid assembly of skeletally diverse small molecules starting from simple monomers.

David began as an Assistant Professor at Yale in June of 2007, was promoted to Associate Professor in 2011, and then to Full Professor (with tenure) in 2014. During his time as a faculty member at Yale, David has led the Spiegel Group’s research efforts in a number of successful directions, ranging from the development of antibody-recruiting molecules to fundamental studies of advanced glycation end-products.  He has also served as a consultant for International Flavors and Fragrances, Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Pharmaseq.  He has been recognized with various awards and honors, including the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, the Department of Defense Era of Hope Scholar Award, the Ellison Medical Foundation New Scholar Award in Aging Research, the Novartis Early Career Award in Organic Chemistry, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations Award, an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship, and others.  He has been fortunate to be named recipient of the NIH New Innovator Award, the Ellison Medical Foundation New Scholar Award, the Camille and Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Award, and an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship.

David is married to Kathryn Picanso, a lawyer in New Haven. They have a son, Leo Francis Spiegel, who was born in 2011.

Postdocs and Fellows

Chhanda Charan Danta's picture Chhanda Charan Danta

Chhanda was born and grew up in the state of Odisha, India. He worked on design and synthesis of potential quinazoline derivatives as anticancer and anticonvulsant agents with Dr Senthil Raja A. at Banaras Hindu University, India. He did his PhD from Panjab University, India with Prof. Poonam Piplani and worked on design, synthesis and evaluation of potential piperazine derivatives as cognition enhancers. He designed compounds through molecular docking and Pharmacophore based and screened them via in vitro acetylcholinesterase inhibition and enzyme kinetics, and in vivo passive avoidance using mice, and ex vivo models. He then backed to Banaras Hindu University to join Prof. Sushant Kumar Shrivastava research group and synthesized some heterocyclic compounds for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. He awarded Royal Society-SERB Newton International Fellowship from The Royal Society, London, and moved to join Dr Klaus Pors at University of Bradford, UK and worked on synthesis of hypoxia activated fluorescent probes, aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) inhibitors and DNA-intercalating alkylating agents for the detection and treatment of cancer. He joined with Dr Sam Xu at University of Hull and worked on synthesis of potential H2S releasing compounds and investigated for the treatment of diabetic kidney disease (DKD) through oxidative stress and cellular calcium signaling. He has also industrial experience working on robust organic synthesis and prediction of retrosynthetic routes for natural products. He is very passionate on new drug discovery and always worried for the discovery of new potential safe therapeutics for the wellbeing of human beings. Away from chemistry and pharmacology, he loves playing football and cricket, walking and cycling, reading and thinking, and enjoying nature.    

David McDonald's picture David McDonald

Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, David studied chemistry, immunology and biochemistry at the University of Sydney. He went on to study the deleterious activation of naïve CD8+ T lymphocytes in the liver at the Centenary Institute under the tutelage of Dr Patrick Bertolino. David returned to the University of Sydney for his PhD studies, under the supervision of Professor Richard Payne and Associate Professor Scott Byrne. There, he combined his interests in chemistry and immunology for the development and evaluation of self‑adjuvanting vaccines for cancer and tuberculosis. In the Spiegel lab, David is working towards novel methods to rapidly identify small molecules that target specific proteins and cells. Away from the bench, David enjoys board games, craft beer, and hiking.

Aristidis Sachpatzidis's picture Aristidis Sachpatzidis

Ari was born in Thessaloniki and grew up in Aridaia in northern Greece. He got a Pharmacy degree from AUT and came to Yale to obtain a PhD in Pharmacology. Under the mentorship of Professor Elias Lolis, he obtained basic knowledge of X-ray crystallographic techniques and high-throughput library screening using yeast genetics. Working for João Cabral on Science Hill at MB&B, he gained experience with membrane protein purification-crystallization, and crystallized a novel sodium-proton antiporter. Under the direction of Professor Yong Xiong, he worked on structural and biochemical characterization of protein-DNA complexes involved in the regulation of DNA repair and Fanconi Anemia. In the Eswarakumar lab in Orthopaedics, he developed baculovirus expression protocols for a number of FGFR receptor variants implicated in craniosynostosis. In the lab of Professor Yossi Schlessinger in Pharmacology, he performed crystallographic studies on protein kinase-inhibitor complexes. He studied novel mechanisms of gene expression regulation by long non-coding RNAs in the labs of Professors William Konigsberg and Alan Garen at MB&B. He gained experience in cryo-EM structural studies of kinesin-microtubule complexes under the direction of Dr. Chuck Sindelar in Prof. Enrique De La Cruz’s lab, also at MB&B. Ari joined recently the Spiegel lab as an Associate Research Scientist. He plans to use his expertise on protein, computational and structure-based approaches to expand the ongoing lab’s efforts in the development of innovative chemical platforms for neutralization of current and future threats to public health. Outside the lab, Ari enjoys reading and staying in touch with his friends and family.

Mihir Khambete's picture Mihir Khambete

Mihir was born in Mumbai and grew up in the city of Pune, India. He completed his master’s and PhD from Institute of Chemical Technology (Erstwhile UDCT), Mumbai in the area of Medicinal and Pharmaceutical Chemistry. His research focussed on design, synthesis, and biological evaluation of small molecules in various therapeutic areas such as tuberculosis and Alzheimer’s disease. After working as faculty member at pharmacy school in Mumbai for three years, he joined Spiegel lab in December 2021. Here, his work is focused on development of bifunctional molecules which are therapeutically relevant. Outside the lab, he enjoys reading (especially non-fiction), listening to Indian classical and light music, meeting new people, and travelling. 

Shikha Kumari's picture Shikha Kumari

Shikha was born in Delhi, India, and raised there. As a B.S. graduate, she graduated from the University of Delhi, India, and earned an M.S. degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry from Banasthali University. She received a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from ACBR, University of Delhi, India, where she designed, synthesized, and developed novel heterocyclic compounds against neurological disorders and cancer. Throughout her career, she has gained expertise in a variety of fields related to drug discovery, pharmacology, and drug development. Following her doctoral studies, she pursued postdoctoral research at the University of Delhi and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. In 2021, she became a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Toledo. Shikha joined the Spiegel lab as an Associate Research Scientist in December 2022. Here, her research will focus on developing synthetic methods for obtaining large quantities of bifunctional molecules. In developing and implementing novel therapeutic modalities for a variety of human diseases, these molecules are expected to have a significant impact. In her free time, Shikha enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading spiritual texts, gardening, cooking, and traveling.

Muthukumaran Venkatachalapathy's picture Muthukumaran Venkatachalapathy

Born and raised in Pondicherry, India, Muthu studied Biotechnology at PSG College of Technology and the Indian Institute of Technology. His fascination for travelling motivated him to win a DAAD Siemens scholarship and helped him secure a PhD position at Max Planck Institute for Molecular Physiology, Germany. During his PhD, he mastered DNA recombinant technology, protein engineering and advanced microscopy to develop live cell technologies such as protein interaction arrays and molecular activity painting. He mentored six bachelor’s and one master’s students during his PhD. After that, he won a Fulbright scholarship and developed super-resolution imaging techniques at the Indian Institute of Science and the University of Chicago. Muthu worked for Novartis in the medical communications and innovation department for two years. His excitement towards Biotech entrepreneurship and Protein degradation field made him come to Yale and work with Prof Craig Crews for 18 months. At our lab, Muthu will be co-developing an innovative high throughput screening assay to measure lysosome mediated protein degradation with MoDEs. Additionally, Muthu is a Blavatnik associate at Yale Ventures and organizes YBC’s Job treks for Yale students. Apart from microscopy, Muthu enjoys traveling, reading books, learning musical instruments, and playing badminton

Graduate Students

Jason Ray's picture Jason Ray

Jason grew up in North Carolina and decided at age ten to become a scientist. He studied chemistry at Brigham Young University, where his coursework focused on organic chemistry and biochemistry. He did research with Dr. Jeffery Tessem on genetic pathways that could be targeted to reverse type 1 and type 2 diabetes. He was a teaching assistant for several general chemistry classes and tutored students extensively in both math and chemistry. Because of his love for research and teaching, Jason plans to become a professor at a primarily undergraduate institution. His research in the Spiegel lab focuses on novel uses of bifunctional molecules. Outside of lab, Jason enjoys reading, running, and spending time with his wife.

Rebecca Howell's picture Rebecca Howell

Rebecca grew up in Connecticut and attended Bucknell University where she majored in Cell Biology/ Biochemistry.  At Bucknell, she worked in Dr. Charles Clapp’s laboratory using site-directed mutagenesis to probe conformational changes of soybean lipoxygenase.  After graduation, she completed a one-year appointment in the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Dr. Joern Schmitz’s laboratory.  Here she generated stable cell lines expressing soluble and membrane bound Fc receptors to explore differences in therapeutic antibody binding in Rhesus macaques and humans. Next, she joined the Immunology team at Moderna Therapeutics and worked under the guidance of Dr. Gilles Besin for three years developing high-throughput flow cytometry-based screening methods to assess biological interactions of novel delivery and mRNA chemistries.  Her work on the Moderna platform contributed to several drug candidates currently in the clinic.  She began her graduate studies at Yale in Chemical Biology in 2018 and joined the Spiegel lab to work at the interface between chemistry and immunology. In her free time, Rebecca enjoys baking, traveling and playing with her dog.

Jovan Lopez's picture Jovan Lopez

Jovan considers himself a Texafornian, having grown up in Texas and spent most of his adult life in California. Though he majored in Chemistry at Stanford University, he first worked in the Translational Immunology lab of Catherine Blish. His work there seeded his interest in immunology but planted ideas of doing science and medicine. However, he was charmed by his organic chemistry professor and so switched to the lab of Noah Burns, where he worked on synthetic methods development. After his undergraduate, he began working at Merck Research Laboratories, San Francisco as a medicinal chemist. Over three years, he was involved in the discovery, lead optimization, and pre-clinical development of several small molecules and antibody-drug conjugates. This formative experience cemented his desire to pursue dual MD/PhD degrees. He started at Yale’s Medical Scientist Training Program in 2020 and completed two years of medical school before joining the Spiegel lab as an Immunobiology student. His research applies chemistry to understand and treat autoimmune diseases. Meanwhile, he practices sexual and reproductive healthcare at HAVEN Free Clinic. He also enjoys board games with friends, replaying Legend of Zelda video games, and occasionally making noise on the French horn.

Shikun 'Rinco' Wang's picture Shikun 'Rinco' Wang

Born and raised in Guangzhou, China, Rinco attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for her undergraduate degree, where she double majored in biology and chemistry. During her time at UNC-Chapel Hill, Rinco joined Professor Gary Pielak’s lab and worked on protein chemistry, using Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy to investigate the mechanism behind a desiccation-tolerant protein in Tardigrades. Currently, Rinco is pursuing her PhD at Yale University and working in Spiegel’s lab, where she is focused on expanding bifunctional molecules to cross the blood-brain barrier. In her free time, Rinco enjoys reading and working out, which helps her to stay balanced and focused. She is committed to using her skills and knowledge to make a positive impact in the world and is always looking for new opportunities to learn and grow. As a member of this community, Rinco is excited to collaborate with others and contribute to the group’s shared goals.