Our People

Tanja Grkovic - Senior Scientist

Tanja Grkovic

Senior Scientist When complete, this will be the largest natural products library in the world...I am incredibly proud of the achievement that our lab did.

Directorate: Applied and Developmental Research

Department or lab: Natural Products Support Group

How many years have you worked at the Frederick National Laboratory? Two and a half

Job responsibilities: As the natural product chemistry laboratory manager, my responsibilities include design and oversight of scientific work conducted in the group and supervision of scientific laboratory staff. Our group’s current research is focused on the development of a pre-fractionated natural product library, as well as the isolation and structure elucidation of natural products sourced from marine, plant, and microbial organisms that display activity against cancer.

Accomplishment at the Frederick National Laboratory you are most proud of: FNLCR is home to the NCI's Natural Products Repository, which, at 230,000 extracts, represents one of the largest and most diverse collections of plants, marine invertebrates, and microbes used for natural product-based research. Natural product extracts are complex mixtures of small and large molecules and are challenging to screen and do follow-up isolation chemistry on. One of the big projects in our group was methods development toward fractionating this complex crude mixture and enabling the library to be screened for a range of disease targets in a high-throughput manner. Over two years, we have developed a fully automated and high-throughput method capable of pre-fractionating the entire repository and creating a library of 1,000,000 fractions available for biological testing. When complete, this will be the largest natural products library in the world. From chromatography methods development to automation programming, every person in our lab had a part in this project and the implementation of the goal. At this scale and scope, this is something that has never been done before, and I am incredibly proud of the achievement that our lab did.

Accomplishment outside of FNL you are most proud of: Before I came to the Frederick National Laboratory, I worked at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. Looking back at my time at Griffith, I am most proud of the work I did with my graduate students. Supervising students was a massive learning curve and was challenging at times, but it was incredibly rewarding to see the students gain confidence, become independent, and—in the end—produce quality, successful results. Most of my former students are building their own careers in science now, and I am happy to have been a part of their career development journey.

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