Mary O'Sullivan

ProfessorOrganic Chemistry

Postdoc Assoc., Department of Medicinal Chemistry, Purdue University
Ph.D., Organic Chemistry, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
B.Sc. with Honours, Biochemistry, University of Warwick, United Kingdom 2352 Office: HO 205

Dr. O’Sullivan teaches courses in organic and medicinal chemistry. She is especially interested in the application of organic chemistry to understand disease processes.

Dr. O’Sullivan’s research areas involve the synthesis and biological applications of compounds derived from polyamines. Polyamines are present in cells where they are involved in a range of fundamental life processes including protein synthesis. Polyamines bind to DNA and RNA, ribosomes, membranes and they also interact with certain enzymes and receptors, however the precise role of polyamines in many of these interactions is still unclear.

Currently, Dr. O’Sullivan and her team of Canisius students are designing and preparing novel polyamine analogs to inhibit a protein found in certain parasites including trypanosomes and leishmania. This protein target is an enzyme called trypanothione reductase (TR). Inhibition of TR may lead to new therapies to treat the serious diseases caused by these parasites.


  • Faculty Teaching Award, College of Arts and Sciences, Canisius College
  • Educational Excellence Award, College of Arts and Sciences, Indiana State University
  • Principle Investigator of research grants awarded by the National Science Foundation and the World Health Organization.
  • K.N. Welch Award for Ph.D. thesis, Department of Organic Chemistry, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, U.K.


Canisius Undergraduates in Bold

Mary O’Sullivan, Timothy Durham, Hannah Valdes, Kelly Dauer, Nicholas Karney, Andrew Forrestel, Cyrus Bacchi, Jerome Baker “Dibenzosuberyl substituted polyamines and analogs of chlomipramine as effective inhibitors of trypanothione reductase; molecular docking, and assessment of trypanocidal activities”, Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry 2015, 23, 996-1010.

Berger, M.; Bitar, A.; Waitner, M.; Rebernik, P.; O’Sullivan, M., “Polyamines and the NMDA receptor: Modifying the intrinsic activities with aromatic substituents”, Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters 2006, 16, 2837-2841.

Mary O’Sullivan “The Battle against Trypanosomiasis and Leishmaniasis: Metal-based and Natural Product Inhibitors of Trypanothione Reductase”, Current Medicinal Chemistry – Anti-Infective Agents, 2005, 4, 355-378.

S. Pandey, K. Fletcher, S. Baker, G. Baker, J. DeLuca, M. Fennie, and M. O'Sullivan "Solution Aggregation of Anti-trypanosomal N-(2-naphthylmethyl)ated Polyamines", Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology A: Chemistry, 2004, 162, 387.

Z. Li, M. W. Fennie, B. Ganem, M.T. Hancock, M. Kobaslija, D. Rattendi, C.J. Bacchi, M.C. O’Sullivan “Polyamines with N-(3-phenylpropyl) Substituents are Effective Competitive Inhibitors of Trypanothione Reductase and Trypanocidal Agents”, Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters, 2001, 11, 251.