Skip to Content

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

  • Emerging Researcher Award, USC College of Pharmacy, 2024
  • Dean’s Excellence Award for Research, USC College of Pharmacy, 2021
  • Dean’s Excellence Award for Service, USC College of Pharmacy, 2021


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). 2021 John Wiley & Son, Inc. (ISBN: 978-1-119-53030-5). DOI: 10.1002/0471266949.bmc216.pub2. 

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.

Chaurasiya N, León F, Muhammad I, Tekwani BL. Natural Products Inhibitors of monoamine oxidases-potential new drugs leads for neuroprotection, neurological disorders, and neuroblastoma. Molecules 2022, 27 (13), 4297. DOI: 10.3390/molecules27134297. PubMed PMID: 35807542. PubMed Central PMCID: PMC9268457.

Schotte C, Jiang Y, Grzech D, Dang T-TT, Laforest LC, León F, Mottinelli M, Nadakuduti SS, McCurdy CR, O’Connor SE. Directed biosynthesis of Mitragyna stereoisomers. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 145(9), 4957-4963, 2023. DOI:10.1021/jacs2c13644. PubMed PMID: 36883326. PubMed Central PMCID: PMC9999412.

Spínola-Lasso E, Montero JC, Jiménez-Monzón R, Estévez F, Quintana J, Guerra B, Elokely KM, León F, del Rosario H, Fernández-Pérez L, López MR, Díaz-Chico BN, McNaughton-Smith G, Pandiella A, Díaz-Chico JC. Chemical-proteomics identify peroxiredoxin-1 as an actionable target in triple-negative breast cancer. Int. J. Biol. Sci. 19(6), 1731-1747, 2023. DOI: 10.7150/ijbs.78554. PubMed PMID: 37063429. PubMed Central PMCID: PMC10092761.

Castillo-Arellano JI, Canseco-Alba A, Cutler SJ, León F. The polypharmacological effects of cannabidiol. Molecules 28, 3271, 2023. DOI: 10.3390/molecules28073271. PubMed PMID: 37050032. PubMed Central PMCID: PMC10096752.

Larit F, León F. Therapeutics to treat psychiatric and neurological disorders: A promising perspective from Algerian traditional medicine. Plants. 12(22), 3860 2023. DOI:10.3390/plants12223860. PubMed PMID: 38005756. PubMed Central PMCID: PMC10674704.

Castillo-Arellano JI, Stryker Z, Wyatt MD, León F. Synthesis and monoamine oxidase inhibitory activity of halogenated flavonoids. ACS Med. Chem. Lett. 15(5), 610-618, 2024. DOI:10.1021/acsmedchemlett.3c00573. PubMed PMID: 38746894. PubMed Central PMCID: PMC11089559 (available 2025-05-09).

See more

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.