Mark L. Nelson

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Mark L. Nelson
EducationBachelor of Science (BS), Chemistry and Microbiology, Ph.D, Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology
Alma materTufts University
Gannon University
Occupation(s)Chemist and inventor
Years active1990-present
Known forDrug Discovery, medicinal chemistry
SpouseJanice Badger Nelson
AwardsACS Heroes of Chemistry Award - 2019, Fulbright Lectureship Fellow, Cairo, Egypt, 1996, Distinguished Alumni Award, 2003 Gannon University

Mark L. Nelson (born 1960) is an American chemist specializing in the field of antibiotics and tetracyclines. His synthesis techniques have resulted in over 40 patents and he conceived and synthesized with Mohamed Ismail along with Laura Honeyman, the tetracycline antibiotic Omadacycline (Nuzyra), the first of the Aminomethylcycline subclass of tetracyclines to reach medical use.[1] Nuzyra is useful against resistant bacteria and used for severe cases of skin infections, ABSSSIs, Community Acquired Pneumonia (CABP) and nontuberculosis mycobacteria. Nuzyra also has demonstrated activity against Anthrax, and was purchased by the US government under a BARDA contract for Project Bio-shield to treat anthrax exposure (Bacillus anthracis), and is now in the Strategic National Stockpile in the US in case of a bioterrorism attack. Nuzyra was also approved for use against the Plague, caused by Yersinia pestis infections.


Nelson is the Vice President of Chemistry and Business Development for Altoris, Inc., in San Diego, California, and uses cheminformatics tools to manufacture and supply chemicals and reagents for all fields of science to their customers worldwide. Altoris creates computational software for drug and chemical discovery, and works with pharmaceutical companies, academics and governmental agencies providing chemical design consultation and the production of screening collections for structure based drug design and pharmaceutical development. Their software, Chem Apps SARVision is used worldwide to study chemical compounds, their biological activity, and uses artificial intelligence and AI-machine language methods to study large chemical data sets and collections of molecules of medical importance.


His current research is directed at modulating alpha-proteobacteria and related mitochondria and their signaling processes, and new compounds are in pre-clinical studies affecting activated immune cells showing promise against the secondary effects of stroke, hypoxia and neurodegeneration, in studies funded by the Department of Defense, with Marc Halterman, Chief of Neurology at SUNY Stonybrook, The Renaissance School of Medicine.

Other tetracycline compounds that are non-antibiotic compounds effective against mitochondrial processes are being studied with Johan Auwerx at EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland, and Andrew Dillin at the University of California, Berkeley. These compounds promote mitochondrial health and fitness, affect immune cell activation, increasing tolerance of the immune system to infectious diseases and promoting mitohormesis, longevity and survival rates in mammals affected by viral, parasitic and bacterial disease states.

In agriculture and with the USDA and the Citrus Research Development Foundation his research has led to series of compounds active against Huanglongbing, known as Citrus Greening, an infectious disease in citrus caused by this invasive species of alpha-proteobacteria that has devastated the Florida citrus industry, and compounds from his labs completed field studies showing potent activity in sparing citrus trees from this pathogen also known as Liberibacter asiaticus (Candidatus).

In the field of archaeobiology Nelson is first author of Mass spectroscopic characterization of tetracycline in the skeletal remains of an ancient population from Sudanese Nubia 350–550 CE,[2][3] published in 2010, which reported that ancient civilizations were producing antibiotics and used them to treat diseases. His work used anhydrous hydrogen fluoride to dissolve mummy bones found in Nubia followed by mass spectroscopic characterization. This research was chronicled in the documentary "How Beer Saved the World" produced by the Discovery Channel.[4][5][6][7]

He also is known for his scientific research into the non-antibiotic uses of the tetracyclines and for his work on the history of the compounds.[8]


Nelson received a Fulbright Lectureship Fellow Award, Cairo, Egypt, for his research into antibiotic resistance mechanisms, the Distinguished Alumni Award in Science at Gannon University (2003) and more recently he received the 2019 American Chemistry Society Heroes of Chemistry award[9] for his synthetic and biological work leading to Nuzyra and Seysara, which were approved by the FDA in October 2018 for use as antibiotics in health and medicine.


  1. ^ "Structure-Activity Relationship of the Aminomethylcyclines and the Discovery of Omadacycline". Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. Retrieved 2016-01-26.
  2. ^ Willingham, Emily (27 March 2011). "Ancient Nubians might have brewed beer for antibiotics". Earth & Sky. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  3. ^ "Antibiotics 1700 Years Ago - In Beer!". Science 2.0. 3 April 2015. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  4. ^ "Ancient brew masters tapped antibiotic secrets". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  5. ^ McNally, Jess. "Ancient Nubians Made Antibiotic Beer". WIRED. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  6. ^ Clark, Carol. "Ancient brewmasters tapped drug secrets". Emory University. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  7. ^ Parry, Wynne (9 September 2010). "Ancient African Cocktail: Beer and a Shot of Antibiotic". Live Science. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  8. ^ Nelson, Mark; Levy, Stuart (1 December 2011). "The history of the tetracyclines". Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  9. ^ "Gannon University Alumni & Friends". Retrieved 2023-11-30.

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