Jimmy Orjala, Ph.D.Jimmy Orjala

Associate Professor
Departmenf of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy

University of Illinois at Chicago
Molecular Biology Research Building
900 South Ashland (M/C 981)
Chicago IL 60607-7173

Office: 3170 MBRB
Office Phone: 312-996-5583
Lab Phone: 312-996-7262
Fax Number: 312-413-4034
E-mail address:
Personal Webpage:


College of Pharmacy, Oregon State University 1993-1995 Post doc
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, Switzerland. 1993 Ph.D. (Natural Science)
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, Switzerland. 1988 Diploma of Pharmacy

Research Interests:

Research in our lab currently focuses on two major areas, bioactive molecules from cyanobacteria and chemical communication between the cultivable and ‘uncultivable’ microorganisms. A third interest to the lab is novel antineoplastic agents from higher plants.

Project I: Cultured Cyanobacteria as a Source for Bioactive Natural Products.

Cyanobacteria, also termed blue-green algae, occupy a unique phylogenetical position between bacteria and higher plants. Although being prokaryotic organisms they possess the ability of oxygenic photosynthesis. Like many microorganism, cyanobacteria can be grown in culture. Unlike most other microorganisms, cyanobacteria require light to grow. We are currently working to establish a library of cyanobacterial cultures.
Cyanobacteria (both from marine and non-marine sources) have proven to be a rich source of diverse metabolites. Cultured cyanobacteria are slow to grow and the yield of biomass per liter is low. This makes it difficult and time consuming to study these promising microorganisms by traditional phytochemical methods.
Our lab is using modern and sensitive analytical techniques coupled with molecular target assays to circumvent these issues. We employ microcoil NMR in combination with ESI-MS techniques to lower the amount of pure material needed for structure elucidation to 50 -100µg. We also use molecular target assays to verify activity, such as inhibition of the 20S proteasome. These assays also require a miniscule amount of material. This combination enables us to efficiently screen cultured cyanobacteria and isolate the active principle from shake flask size fermentations of 1-2L.

Project II: Chemical signals and ‘uncultivable’ microorganisms.

It has been known for a good half a century that 99% of all microbial species from most environments do not grow in the laboratory. This phenomenon called microbial uncultivability render the majority of all microbial species as largely unavailable for investigation by scientists.
Researchers at Northeastern University in Boston developed a methodology for isolating ‘uncultivable’ microorganisms in a simulated natural environment. These isolates do not grow on standard microbiological media. They can however aquire the ability to grow on standard media once paired with other specific microorganisms and it seems that in order to commit to growth these ‘uncultivable’ microorganisms need to communicate with other bacteria. These interactions are according to our data mediated by chemicals secreted into a medium. We are currently working to determine the chemical nature of these signaling compounds.

Professional Organizations:

American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AAACP)
American Chemical Society (ACS)
American Society of Pharmacognosy (ASP)
Society for Medicinal Plant Research (Gesellschaft für Arzneipflanzenforschung)

Current Courses:

PMPG 510 Research Techniques in Pharmacognosy
MDCH 561 Principals of Medicinal Chemistry
MDCH 562 Spectroscopy in Medicinal Chemistry


  1. The 2003 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for “Serenade®: an Effective, Environmentally Friendly Biofungicide” 2003
  2. The American Chemical Society 37th Western Regional Industrial Innovation Awards for “The Discovery and Development Bacillus subtilis strain (QST 713) into the Highly Effective Commercial Biofungicide Serenade®” 2001


Select Publications:

  1. Jaki, B., Orjala, J., Heilmann, J., Linden, A., Vogler, B., Sticher, O. (2000) Novel Extracellular Diterpenoids with Biological Activity from the Cyanobacterium Nostoc commune. J. Nat. Prod., 63, 339-343.
  2. Hoberg, E., Orjala, J., Meier, B., Sticher, O., (1999) Diterpenoids from the Fruits of Vitex Agnus Castus L., Phytochemistry, 52, 1555-1558.
  3. Jaki, B., Orjala, J., Bürgi, H.-R., Sticher, O. (1999) Biological Screening of Cyanobacteria for Antimicrobial, Molluscicidal, Brine Shrimp Lethality, and Cytotoxicity. Pharm. Biol., 37, 138-143.
  4. Jaki, B., Orjala, J., Sticher, O. (1999) A Novel Extracellular Diterpenoid with Antibacterial Activity from the Cyanobacterium Nostoc commune. J. Nat. Prod., 62, 502-503.
  5. Liu, H. Orjala, J. Rali, T., Sticher, O. (1999) Acylated Flavonol Glycosides from the Leaves of Stenocleana palustris, J. Nat. Prod., 62, 70-75.
  6. Frei, B., Heinrich, M.H.D., Orjala, J., Schmitt, J., Sticher, O. (1998) Phytochemical and Biological Investigation on Begonia heracleifolia, Planta Med., 64, 385-386.
  7. Orjala, J., Mian, P., Rali, T., Sticher, O. (1998) Gibbilimbol A - D, Cytotoxic and Antibacterial Alkenylphenols from Piper gibbilimbum, J. Nat. Prod., 61, 939-941.
  8. Hooper G.J., Orjala, J., Schatzman, R.C., Gerwick, W.H. (1998) Carmabins A and B, new lipopeptides from the Caribbean Cyanobacterium Lyngbya majuscula, J. Nat. Prod., 61, 529-533.
  9. Orjala, J., Gerwick, W.H. (1996) Barbamide, a Chlorinated Metabolite with Molluscicidal Activity from the Caribbean Cyanobacterium Lyngbya majuscula, J. Nat. Prod., 59, 427-430.
  10. Orjala, J., Nagle, D., Gerwick, W.H. (1995) Antillatoxin, an Exceptionally Ichthyotoxic Cyclic Lipopeptide from the Marine Cyanobacterium Lyngbya majuscula, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 117, 8281-8282.

Jimmy Orjala