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College of Pharmacy

Faculty and Staff

Juan Francisco Leon, Ph.D.

Title: Assistant Professor
Department: Drug Discovery & Biomedical Sciences (DDBS)
College of Pharmacy
Phone: 803-576-6082
Office: Horizon I Building - 112A
541 Main Street
Columbia, SC 29201
Resources: Curriculum Vitae [pdf]
Juan Francisco Leon portrait


Ph.D.  Organic Chemistry, La Laguna University, Tenerife, Spain
M.S.  Organic Chemistry, La Laguna University, Tenerife, Spain
B.S.  Chemistry, National University of Colombia, Bogota, Colombia

Postdoctoral fellowship, Medicinal Chemistry, University of Mississippi


Juan Francisco León, Ph.D., serves as Assistant professor on the Department of Drug Discovery & Biomedical Sciences. He received his degree in Chemistry from National University of Colombia, Bogota, Colombia. He obtained his doctoral degree in organic chemistry at La Laguna University, Tenerife, Spain. Afterwards, he held several postdoctoral/scientist positions at European University of Madrid, Spanish National Research Council and University of Mississippi. Most recently, he was a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Florida (Gainesville).

Research Interests

  •  Natural Product Chemistry
  • Separation, Identification and Structural elucidation
  • Semisynthesis of Natural Products
  • Total Synthesis of Natural Products/derivatives
  • Medicinal Chemistry/Neuroscience

Research Lab

The Leon laboratory research interest consists of the exploration of the chemistry expressed through natural products from different natural sources, such as, medicinal plants and fungi, as well as the synthesis and semi-synthesis of bioactive natural compounds. Special interest with the medicinal plants with neurological folk use, for example Cannabis sativa (Hemp, Cannabis), or plants in the Rubiaceae family (i.e. Uncaria, Mitragyna genus), and Compositae family. He focuses on the evaluation of extracts/fractions/pure compounds for their ability to interact with different targets - for example, opioid, cannabinoid, serotonin receptors and/or enzymes as monoamine oxidases, acetyl/butyrylcholinesterase inhibitors with the goal of identifying new agents for pain treatment and neurological disorders. 

Awards & Honors

  • Dean’s Excellence Awards for Research, College of Pharmacy, University of South Carolina, 2021
  • Dean’s Excellence Awards for Service, College of Pharmacy, University of South Carolina, 2021


Estévez-Sarmiento F, Saavedra E, Ruiz-Estévez M, León F, Quintana J, Brouard I, Estévez F. Chlorinated guaiane-type sesquiterpene lactones as cytotoxic agents against human tumor cells. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020. 21(24):9767. DOI: 10.3390/ijms21249767. PubMed PMID: 33371413; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC7767465.

Obeng S, Hiranita T, León F, McMahon LR, McCurdy CR. Novel approaches, drug candidates, and targets in pain drug discovery. J. Med. Chem. 2021 64(10):6523-6548. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.1c00028. PubMed PMID: 33956427.

Jahan M, León F, Fronczek F, Elokely KM, Rimoldi J, Khan S, Avery MA. Structure-activity relationships of the antimalarial agent artemisin 10. Synthesis and antimalarial of rac-5β-hydroxy-D-secoartemisinin and analogs: implications regarding the mechanism of action. Molecules 2021 26(14):4163. DOI: 10.3390/molecules26144163. PubMed PMID: 34299438; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC8304634.

Esseid C, León F, Mosset P, Benayache S, Marchioni E, Brouard I, Benayache F. Coumarins and other constituents from Deverra battandieri. Phytochem. Lett. 2021 42:129-133. DOI: 10.1016/j.phytol.2020.08.013

Book Chapter: Pullman M, León F, Cutler SJ. Natural Products as Cytotoxic Agents. In Burger’s Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Discovery; eight ed, Abraham DJ (Ed). 2022 John Wiley & Son, Inc. (ISBN: 978-1-119-53030-5). DOI: 10.1002/0471266949.bmc216.pub2.

Chear NJY, León F, Sharma A, Kanumuri SRR, Zwolinski G, Abboud KA, Singh D, Restrepo LF, Patel A, Hiranita T, Ramanathan S, Hampson AJ, McMahon LR, McCurdy CR. Exploring the chemistry of alkaloids from Malaysian Mitragyna speciosa (kratom) and the role of oxindoles on human opioid receptors. J. Nat. Prod. 2021 84(4):1034-1043. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jnatprod.0c01055. PubMed PMID: 33635670; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC8693998.

León F, Obeng S, Mottinelli M, Chen Y, King TI, Berthold EC, Kamble SH, Restrepo LF, Patel A, Gamez-Jimenez LR, Lopera-Londoño C, Hiranita T, Sharma A, Hampson AJ, Canal CE, McMahon LR, McCurdy CR. Activity of Mitragyna speciosa (Kratom) alkaloids at serotonin receptors. J. Med. Chem. 2021 64(18):13510-13523. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.1c00726. PubMed PMID: 34467758.

Gogineni V, Nael MA, Chaurasiya ND, Elokely KM, McCurdy CR, Rimoldi JM, Cutler SJ, Tekwani BL, León F. Computationally assisted lead optimization of novel potent and selective MAO-B inhibitors. Biomedicines 2021 9(10):1304. DOI: 10.3390/biomedicines9101304. PubMed PMID: 34680421; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC8533211.

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