Benjamin Swarts
Benjamin SwartsAssistant Professor
Dow Science Complex 257

  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Bertozzi Group, University of California, Berkeley, 2010-2013
  • Ph.D., Organic Chemistry, Guo Group, Wayne State University, 2010
  • B.A., Chemistry, College of Wooster, 2004
Research Interests
Bacterial pathogens possess cell walls rich in exotic and essential glycoconjugates that are both structurally distinct and absent from the human host. These features make bacterial glycoconjugates attractive potential drug targets and disease biomarkers. Additionally, glycoconjugates serve as key participants in host-pathogen interactions that drive disease progression. Our lab's research will focus on Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the etiologic agent of tuberculosis, which infects 2 billion people and is responsible for 2 million deaths a year. In an effort to develop new antibiotic, diagnostic, and proteomics tools for M. tuberculosis, we will focus on the unique and complex mycobacterial cell wall, which has numerous potential targets for these purposes. Targeting glycoconjugates for biological inquiry and therapeutic intervention is very challenging using traditional genetic and biochemical methods, but chemical approaches offer a powerful alternative. Thus, the overarching theme of our lab will be to develop chemical tools that facilitate the study of bacterial cell-wall glycoconjugates. Representative project areas include: 
  • New methods for chemical/chemoenzymatic synthesis of modified carbohydrates
  • Chemical reporters for probing glycoconjugates in live mycobacterial cells
  • Synthetic tools for dissecting the glycan-mediated host-pathogen interactions of 
    M. tuberculosis
Our lab's work will be at the interface of chemistry and biology; while our primary focus and enabling tool will be organic synthesis, techniques from biochemistry, microbiology, and proteomics will also be used. The inherently interdisciplinary nature of this work will encourage students to creatively and critically investigate biomedical research topics of global importance.
Teaching Areas
Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry
​​Selected Publications
  • B.M. Swarts, C.M. Holsclaw, J.C. Jewett, M. Alber, D.M. Fox, M.S. Siegrist, J.A. Leary, R. Kalscheuer, C.R. Bertozzi. Probing the Mycobacterial Trehalome with Bioorthogonal Chemistry, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2012, 134, 16123-16126.
  • B.M. Swarts and Z. Guo. Chemical Synthesis of Glycosylphosphatidylinositol Anchors, Adv. Carbohydr. Chem. Biochem., 2012, 67, 137-219.
  • S. Burgula, *B.M. Swarts, and *Z. Guo. Total Synthesis of a Glycosylphosphatidylinositol Anchor of the Human Lymphocyte CD52 Antigen, Chem. Eur. J., 2012, 18, 1194-1201. *Equal contribution.
  • B.M. Swarts and Z. Guo. Chemical Synthesis and Functionalization of Clickable Glycosylphosphatidylinositol Anchors, Chem. Sci., 2011, 2, 2342-2352.
  • B.M. Swarts and Z. Guo. Synthesis of Glycosylphosphatidylinositol Anchors Bearing Unsaturated Lipid Chains, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2010, 132, 6648-6650.
  • Z. Wu, X. Guo, Q. Wang, B.M. Swarts, and Z. Guo. Sortase A-Catalyzed Transpeptidation of Glycosylphosphatidylinositol Derivatives for Chemoenzymatic Synthesis of GPI-Anchored Proteins, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2010, 132, 1567-1571.