Professor / PI / Director

Motonari Uesugi Motonari Uesugi

Research Interest

Chemical Biology

Chemical biology is an interdisciplinary field of study that is often defined as "chemistry-initiated biology." As biological processes all stem from chemical events, it should be possible to understand or manipulate biological events by using chemistry. Our laboratory has been discovering or designing unique organic molecules that modulate fundamental processes in human cells. Such synthetic organic molecules often serve as tools for basic cell biology and cell therapy. Our mission is to create new world of bioactive synthetic molecules: their new way to use, their new shapes, and their new sizes. We hope to open new avenues for small-molecule applications in a range of fields, including future concepts in drug discovery and use of small molecules for cell therapy.

What I like about my science

In one word, our research is the “discovery” of new chemical compounds that have unprecedented, amazing biological activity. Many more surprises beyond our current imagination are hidden in chemical compounds.

Researcher Q & A

Where are you from?


Why did you become a researcher?

My least favorite subjects in high school were English, chemistry, and biology. They all seemed life-less and endless memorization to me. Later, I realized the joy of learning English and chemistry, which subjects became my favorite. But I still hated biology even after entering university. When I say hate, I mean “unsatisfied.” Dissatisfaction leaves potential for exploration. That is how I began research on solving biological problems using chemistry, my strongest suit. Opportunities may be hidden in the very things that you do not like.

What is your favorite experiment, theory, device, reagent, lab equipment? Why do you like it?

Having a particular liking towards something is analogous to having a cancer in the brain. I try to let go of my likes and dislikes.

What is your hobby?

It may sound repetitive, but having a particular liking is analogous to having a cancer in the brain, which you want to eliminate.

Teaching the first edX course from Japan, “The Chemistry of Life,” to create a new educational path for millions of learners worldwide.
Researching synthetic chemical compounds that have an amazing impact on the human cell.


Motonari Uesugi  PI / Director
Masahiro Abo  Assistant Professor (Institute for Chemical Research)
Kosuke Nishio  Assistant Professor (Institute for Chemical Research)