Simon Friedman

Curators' Distinguished Professor


Simon Friedman was born and raised in Chicago, where he attended public schools. He entered MIT, and received an SB in chemistry in 1989. During this time he did three years of undergraduate research in the lab of Prof. George Benedek, under the guidance of Dr. John Thomson. His work focused on the development of anti-cataract compounds, and resulted in him being named as co-inventor on multiple U.S. and international patents for these discoveries.

He then pursued his Ph.D. in the department of pharmaceutical chemistry at UCSF, working in the lab of Prof. George Kenyon. There he developed one of the first biological applications of C60 fullerene, as inhibitors of the HIV-1 protease. In 1996, he joined the lab of Peter Dervan at Caltech, where he was an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow. During this time he worked on the design and synthesis of new molecules for targeting nucleic acids.

In 1999, he founded his lab at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, in the Division of Pharmaceutical Sciences. There, he and his team, using the tools of synthetic chemistry, biochemistry, analytical chemistry and molecular biology, have worked on a range of projects that focus on the role of macromolecules in important biological processes.

This work includes the development of new strategies to inhibit important drug targets, including telomerase and reverse transcriptase, as well as the development of biological tools for controlling gene expression with light (Light Activated RNA Interference, or LARI).  Most recently, a major focus has been the creation of the photoactivated depot or PAD approach to allow for the controlled release of therapeutic proteins such as insulin with light.

Professor Friedman’s work has been cited over 2,000 times, featured on the cover or frontispiece of multiple journals, named “Most Viewed” in the area of Chemical Biology by Faculty of 1000, as well as being covered in The Economist, The New York Times, Discover Magazine and NPR.



  • Macromolecular chemistry, light control of RNA interference, targeting therapeutically important polymerases, light control of protein therapeutics (including insulin). Prebiotic evolution.