Dr. Merino Biography



             My scientific life started at the University of San Diego. I chose University of San Diego because of its proximity to my family and their excellent chemistry department. There, I did research under the guidance of Dr. Mitch Malachowski that involved the synthesis of copper based oxidants that mimicked blue copper proteins. Most work involved the synthesis of tetra-chelating ligands that enforced a tetrahedral geometry on a copper (II) center. This geometry facilitates the reduction of copper (II) species to the 1+ state. Ligands were based on a ridged biphenyl motif. Under Dr. Malachowski’s suggestion, I applied and was accepted to the chemistry graduate program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. 

            Once a Tar Heel, my chemistry ambitions changed toward biochemistry. At UNC I joined the lab of Prof. Kevin M. Weeks.  I was in the organic chemistry program but soon I my  interests crossed-over into biochemistry. My initial project was to work on novel footprinting techniques of RNA. We synthesized RNA molecules that had substitutions such as the conversion of a ribonucleotide to the 2’-amino-2’-deoxynucleotide. The 2’-amine was reacted with an activated ester to determine if a given position had conformational freedom. What was really needed was a reagent that could react with 2’-hydroxyls, an unmodified ribonucleotide. Using my organic background I was the first to uncover a functional group that could react with a 2’-hydroxyl in water.  Thus the most powerful RNA footprinting method, SHAPE, was born. To this day I am facinated by nucleic acid reactivity. 

            I did my postdoctoral research in beautiful Pasadena, CA. There I worked with Professor Jacqueline K. Barton on DNA-mediated oxidative stress.  The Barton Laboratory investigates a biologically relevant phenomenon termed DNA charge transport. When DNA reacts with an oxidant an initial radical cation is formed that can migrate throughout the large molecule. This radical form is quenched by water or oxygen to give modified DNA bases that are mutagenic or replication stops. Importantly, this means that oxidation of DNA bases is governed by both the DNA molecule and the oxidant. I showed evidence that large biologically relevant genomes, like the human mitochondrial genome, have oxidation prone regions or hotspots for oxidative damage. Importantly, these hotspots overlap with mutation frequency in tumors and implicate DNA charge transport in the pathogenesis of cancers.

            When I moved to UC, I thought hard about applications for someone with my chemical biology skill set. I have established projects ranging from chemical biology and medicinal chemistry. I have been part of research teams that develop molecules to selectively kill cancer cells that have reactive oxygen species, generate new sunscreens to prevent DNA damage, and projects where I am the chemistry lead to develop new bioactive molecules.  My particular interest is molecular design towards new technology, especially through reactivity. My team is comprised of graduate students with strong backgrounds in various areas and many undergraduates. 

          I want to give credit to all my great collaborators and student researchers. They have really helped make my science move up the pipeline.  I am a strong believer in life-long learning. These people have really helped make my science move up the pipeline.  


Pre-science Bio

 I was born in San Diego, CA in the neighborhood of South San Diego. I am the son of a gardener and a homemaker. My family owns a company in San Diego that specializes in pruning trees and other landscaping services.  My parents immigrated to this country from Mexico and I am the third of five sibling (4 brothers and 1 sister). My father would take me to work on weekends from the age of 6 to the age of 17. Truth be told, I took a job at Pizza Hut because it was way easier then working at the company. I am told that since a young age I was interested in science. As a child I read books from the local library on astronomy. In high school I was fascinated by exercise physiology and read all I could on the subject. I have always loved science and it is a great deal of fun. 

I met my wife Renee Rodriguez-Merino in Pasadena, CA during my postdoctoral research. She has been by my side for 12 years. I have a young daughter Natalie that is in the 1st grade.

Welcome to my group’s website and hope you find it useful and infomative.

Dr. Eddie J Merino

© Merino Group 2018