Symposium in Honor of Bob Hanzlik

Friday, September 9 and Saturday, September 10 in Lawrence, KS

  • Friday mixer (6:30 - 9:00 p.m.)
  • Saturday symposium session (1:30 - 4:30 p.m.)
  • Saturday mixer and banquet (6:30 - 9:00 p.m.)

This special symposium honors Bob Hanzlik on the occasion of his retirement from KU after 49 years of dedicated service. The symposium, featuring plenary lectures, posters and social activities, will be held on KU's Lawrence campus.

For information, please contact Jane Buttenhoff at

About Bob Hanzlik

Robert P. Hanzlik, Ph.D., is Professor of Medicinal Chemistry in the School of Pharmacy at KU-Lawrence. He earned his B.A. degree in Chemistry and Zoology at the Southern Illinois University in 1966 and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at Stanford in 1970. Following a year of postdoctoral studies working on biomimetic oxygenase systems at Cambridge University, he joined the faculty of the University of Kansas. During his time at Kansas (1971-2020), Dr. Hanzlik maintained a vigorous research program supported by many sources including NIH, the University of Kansas, NSF-NATO, The American Lung Association, Research Corporation, Ethyl Corporation, The American Heart Association, Merck Research Laboratories, Eli Lilly, and Pfizer. His research, conducted with the participation of more than 60 co-workers, has resulted in over 160 peer-reviewed research publications, 14 reviews, and a textbook (Inorganic Aspects of Biological and Organic Chemistry). He also established four Core Laboratories (Mass Spectrometry, Protein Production, Protein X-ray Crystallography, and High-field Bio-NMR), all staffed by experts in their respective fields, to serve the needs of the chemical and biological researchers at KU. For most of his time at KU he ran daily, at noon, with the KU MadDogs faculty running group, and managed to serve the Med Chem department as Interim Chair from 2017 to 2020.

Dr. Hanzlik has trained 24 graduate students and 28 postdoctoral students and sabbatical visitors to his laboratory, as well as numerous undergraduates. In addition to serving as a consultant to more than 14 companies, his leadership and administrative capabilities are evident through his activities as PI of a NIH Pharmacological Sciences Training Grant (1995-2001), as PI of an NIH-COBRE Center in Protein Structure and Function, and through his service to various NIH study sections and scientific societies including the Society of Toxicology, the AAAS, and the International Society for the Study of Xenobiotics which he served as President (1996-97). Dr. Hanzlik is a Fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science, and a recipient of the Sato Memorial International Award from the Foundation for Education in Science and the Pharmaceutical Society of Japan, and the Olin Petefish Research Award in the Basic Sciences from the University of Kansas, among others.

Dr. Hanzlik’s primary research interests are 1) mechanisms of drug metabolism and drug toxicity, and 2) enzyme mechanisms, enzyme inhibition and drug design. He and his students have employed approaches from physical organic chemistry and proteomics to characterize the reactive metabolites from bromobenzene and thiobenzamide, identify their cellular protein targets, and elucidate the contribution of their protein covalent binding to the hepatotoxicity caused by the parent compounds. His group has also studied mechanisms of aliphatic and aromatic hydroxylation, cyclopropylamines as suicide substrates for P450s, and the toxicity and metabolism of transition metal organometallics such as ferrocene.

He is very grateful for the opportunities he has had at KU to work with so many outstanding students, postdocs and faculty colleagues, and thanks them all for everything they taught him as well.

By Brendan M. Lynch

Researcher Robert Hanzlik, a professor of medicinal chemistry at KU since 1971, studies drug metabolism and toxicology.

“I look at simple chemicals that one might encounter in industry, in agriculture, in the environment, or even as drugs, and I ask the question — how do they cause toxic effects on cells?” said Hanzlik. “Despite the commonly over-hyped fears about chemical toxicity, there are good reasons for wanting to understand it on a mechanistic basis, so it can be controlled or avoided as desired.”

In addition to his own research, Hanzlik directs the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence in Protein Structure and Function at the University of Kansas.

The center has two missions, to do basic research on proteins, and to recruit, support and mentor junior faculty in the biosciences at universities around Kansas, including KU, the KU Medical Center, Kansas State University and Wichita State University. Funded by the National Institutes of Health in 2002 with a $10.1 million grant, and renewed last year with another $10.1 million award, the program also receives support from the KU Center for Research and the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation.

Today, this COBRE supports eight outstanding junior scientists. Hanzlik said that recruiting and supporting the best researchers available is his number-one priority. That support includes access to technical experts and sophisticated equipment in the Center's three Core Labs.

“Equipment doesn’t do research," Hanzlik said, "people do research. It’s nice to have great equipment, but it’s really important to support good people on a continuing basis. That’s when real progress gets made — when you have good people and sustain them over a period of time.”

Indeed, Hanzlik’s efforts to recruit and support young researchers in Kansas has helped a number of them establish outstanding reputations for their research programs. Some examples include Brain Blagg, Heather Desaire, Jeffrey Staudinger and Roberto De Guzman at KU’s Lawrence campus; Liskin Swint-Kruse at the KU medical center; Anna Zolkiewska at K-State; and George Bousfield at WSU.

Getting these bright but independent young investigators to interact is probably the most important thing that the Center and I do," Hanzlik said. "It's my mission to get them to challenge each other, learn from each other, and take their research into new directions that they might never have done working alone. It's really very satisfying to see that work out in practice."