Carston R. Wagner, PhD

Distinguished Teaching Professor & Department Head, Department of Medicinal Chemistry
Carston R. Wagner


Office Phone
Office Address

2-220 CCRB
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States


Distinguished University Teaching Professor and Endowed Chair in Medicinal Chemistry, Department of Medicinal Chemistry
Director, Chemical Biology Initiative College of Pharmacy Institute for Molecular Virology


PhD, Duke University, 1987

University of North Carolina, 1981

PostDoc, NIH Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Chemistry, Pennsylvania State University, 1987-1991

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Wagner Research Lab

The Wagner Lab seeks to apply the principles of organic chemistry, enzymology analytical chemistry, molecular & cellular biology, biophysics and nanotechnology to the development of new methods for drug design and delivery, chemically engineered cellular therapies and tissue engineering. The laboratories primary therapeutic focus has been on the development of new anti-cancer and antiviral therapies, as well as novel non-opioid pain medications. Fundamentally, we are interested in understanding and applying the principles of enzyme catalysis and macromolecular and cellular interactions. Our hope is that by creatively applying our expanding knowledge of these areas, we will continue to impact the design of future more selective and powerful medicines.


Protein design, drug design, Anti-cancer, anti-viral, chemical biology, neuropathic pain

Awards & Recognition

  • Fellow, University of Minnesota Academy of Distinguished Teachers (2020)
  • University of Minnesota Award for Outstanding Contributions to Graduate and Professional Education (2020)
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (2012)
  • University of Minnesota, College of Pharmacy Excellence in Graduate Education Faculty Award (2012)
  • 3M University Relations Award (2002)
  • Teacher of the Semester, Pharm.D. II (Fall 1999)
  • N.I.H. First Award (1993)
  • N.I.H. National Research Service Award (1987 – 1990)
  • NSF Student Fellow to NATO Advanced Study Institute (1986)
  • Dreyfus Undergraduate Research Scholar (1980)

Research Summary

In general the use of anticancer drugs is associated with a variety of toxic side-effects. To tackle this important problem, our laboratory is devoted to the development of approaches that will deliver anticancers drug, proteins and nucleic acids to cancer tissues and not normal tissues. This challenge is being met by exploiting discoveries from our laboratory in prodrug design and nanobiotechnology. The experimental approach taken by our laboratory is highly multidisciplinary, relying on the tools of synthetic chemistry, medicinal chemistry, enzymology, molecular biology, biochemical pharmacology, X-ray crystallography, molecular modeling and spectroscopy to address our goal.



  • Wang Y, Wagner CR, Distefano MD. Manipulating Cell Fates with Protein Conjugates. Bioconjug Chem. 2022 Oct 19;33(10):1771-1784. doi: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.2c00226. Epub 2022 Aug 15. PMID: 35969811; PMCID: PMC9799062.
  • Wang Y, Rozumalski L, Kilic O, Lichtenfels C, Petersberg J, Distefano MD, Wagner CR. Engineering Biomimetic Trogocytosis with Farnesylated Chemically Self-Assembled Nanorings. Biomacromolecules. 2022 Dec 12;23(12):5018-5035. doi: 10.1021/acs.biomac.2c00837. Epub 2022 Nov 23. PMID: 36416233; PMCID: PMC9869669.
  • Strom A, Shah R, Dolot R, Rogers MS, Tong CL, Wang D, Xia Y, Lipscomb JD, Wagner CR. Dynamic Long-Range Interactions Influence Substrate Binding and Catalysis by Human Histidine Triad Nucleotide-Binding Proteins (HINTs), Key Regulators of Multiple Cellular Processes and Activators of Antiviral ProTides. Biochemistry. 2022 Dec 6;61(23):2648-2661. doi: 10.1021/acs.biochem.2c00506. Epub 2022 Nov 18. PMID: 36398895; PMCID: PMC9854251.
  • Mews EA, Beckmann P, Patchava M, Wang Y, Largaespada DA, Wagner CR. Multivalent, Bispecific αB7-H3-αCD3 Chemically Self-Assembled Nanorings Direct Potent T Cell Responses against Medulloblastoma. ACS Nano. 2022 Aug 23;16(8):12185-12201. doi: 10.1021/acsnano.2c02850. Epub 2022 Jul 25. PMID: 35876221; PMCID: PMC9885520.


  • Nucleosides with Antiviral and Anticancer Activity, U.S. Patent #6,475,985, issued 11/05/02
  • Small Molecules for Inhibition of Function and Drug Delivery to Leukocytes, U. S. Patent, #6,881,747 B2; issued 4/19/05
  • Nucleoside Phosphoramidates and Nucleoside Phosphoramidases, U. S. Patent, #7217523; issued 5/15/07
  • Protein Nanorings, U. S. Patent (pending)