Ulf Nilsson

Ulf Nilsson


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Molecular recognition - Galectin chemistry and biology - Inhbition of bacterial symporters - Chemistry of neural interfaces - Malarial DHODH medicinal chemistry 

The research interest in our group is focused on molecular recognition studies in biological systems and in artificial model systems, biology and medicinal chemistry of galectins, bacterial symporters, and DHODH enzymes, as well as the chemistry at brain-machine interfaces.

One project concerns the synthesis of receptors designed to recognize biomolecules. Mimicking Nature's recognition molecules by de novo synthesis of small and specific receptors would greatly simplify the study of  recognition events in aqueous solution, thus complementing studies of e.g. carbohydrate-binding proteins. A second project concerns the synthesis of ligands for the galectins, a family of 14 mammalian lectins recognizing ß-D-galactose- containing glycoconjugates, playing critical roles in inflammation and cancer. The research on galectin proteins is part of a larger network at Lund University and participating in the EU-funded doctoral program PhD4GlycoDrug. Another project focuses on understanding and inhibiting bacterial sodium solute symporter proteins that transport sialic acid into bacteria. These symporters are needed by bacteria for metabolic processes or for incorporation into polysaccharide structures in order to mimic host glycosylation patterns and thus escape host immune defenses. Furthermore, chemistry for optimizing biocompatibility, mechanical stability, and signal properties of neural interfaces are developed. Finally, two medicinal chemistry projects are pursued in the group. First, exploiting fragment-based design and screening is aiming at developing selective and efficient inhibitors of dihydrooretate dehydrogenase (DHODH), a newly characterized target protein for Malaria. Second, novel glycomimetics targeting bacterial symporter proteins are designed, synthesized, and evaluated for effects on bacteria.

He teaches courses in medicinal (KOKN01 and KEMM20) and organic (KOKN05) chemistry at both undergraduate and graduate level. Professor Nilsson teaches organic chemistry, medicinal chemistry, environmental chemistry, and toxicology at undergraduate and graduate level. He was awarded "Excellent teaching practitioner" by the Technical Faculty (LTH) of Lund University in 2009 and The Students’ Pedagogic Prize “Best lecturer” 2012 from students at the MSc program Environmental engineering at the Technical Faculty (LTH) of Lund University. He was 2009-2016 the assistant coordinator of the MSc program Environmental engineering at the Technical Faculty (LTH) of Lund University.

Fourteen postdoctoral students have been trained, fifteen students have obtained their PhD degree, and fourtysix students have obtained their MSc degree under the supervision of professor Nilsson. He is the author of >150 original research publications in peer-reviewed journals, several reviews and book chapters, one course book, and 20 patent families encompassing 34 patents and 40 pending patent applications. He has given numerous invited lectures at universities, conferences, and in industry and is a board member of the Swedish Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences. In 2017 he was awarded the Wallmarkska prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Engenstromska Gold Medal by the The Royal Physiographic Society. The Wallmarkska prize rewards progress or invention in any remarkable extent promotes the sciences and industry's progress and the Engenströmska Gold Medal rewards for outstanding work within the applied sciences. He was elected  a member of the Royal Physiographic Society, Sweden, in 2018.

ResearcherID: L-3219-2014

OrchidID: 0000-0001-5815-9522 

Web of Science July 21, 2021:

  • Number of citations 5686
  • Number of citations without self-citations 4822 (15% self-citations)
  • Average citations per paper 33.06 and h-index 42

Google Scholar July 21, 2021:

  • Number of citations 8127 (3990 since 2016).
  • h-index 52
  • i10-index 134

Four companies have been co-founded by professor Nilsson. One company, Galecto Biotech AB, has taken two compounds discovered in professor Nilsson's group to clinical trials.

Ulf Nilsson obtained his PhD at Lund University 1995 working with oligosaccharide synthesis under the supervision of professor Göran Magnusson. He did post-doctoral studies 1995-1997 at University of Alberta, Canada, with professor Ole Hindsgaul developing methods for combinatorial carbohydrate chemistry. He initiated his independent research career at Lund University 1998 as an assistant professor. Nilsson was promoted to associate professor/senior lecturer in 2001 and full professor in 2009. 

He enjoys spending free time with his family at their houses. Outdoor activities such as fly fishing, hiking, XC running, nordic skiing, mountain biking, road biking, and sea kayaking are favorites of professor Nilsson.

UKÄ subject classification

  • Cancer and Oncology
  • Organic Chemistry


  • Molecular design
  • medicinal organic chemistry
  • galectin


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