Dr. Maria V. BABAK

PhD (Vienna)

Assistant Professor of Department of Chemistry

Contact Information

Office:   YEUNG-B6527
Phone:   +852 3442-9710
Fax:        +852 3442-0522
Email:    mbabak@cityu.edu.hk
ORCID ID: 0000-0002-2009-7837

Research Interests

  • Drug discovery
  • Medicinal chemistry
  • In vitro and in vivo target identification
  • Proteomics
  • Preclinical development

Dr Maria (Masha) Babak obtained her M.Sc. in chemistry from Higher Chemical College of the Russian Academy of Sciences (2010) in Moscow, where she worked on transition metal organometallic chemistry, mentored by Prof. Dmitry S. Perekalin. She completed her Ph.D in bioinorganic chemistry at the University of Vienna (2014), mentored by Prof. Bernhard K. Keppler and Prof. Christian G. Hartinger. In 2015-2020 Dr Babak worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at National University of Singapore, mentored by Prof. Wee Han Ang, where she developed a true passion for drug discovery and drug target identification. In 2019 Dr Babak joined the High Impact Cancer Research Program at Harvard Medical School in Boston. In November 2020, she was appointed as an assistant professor at City University of Hong Kong.

Dr Babak’s research interests lie at the interface of chemistry, biology and medicine and focus on the discovery and preclinical development of anticancer drugs for resistant and aggressive cancers with limited treatment options, e.g. brain metastases. The anticancer activity of small molecules, nanoparticles or bioactive materials is tested in cancer cell lines and their in vivo efficacy is verified in various animal models of primary tumours and metastases. Dr. Babak’s research group uses proteomic and transcriptomic profiling to unravel the mechanism of action of the drug candidates and performs target validation by functional tests and histology. The lead drug candidates are subsequently tested in patient-derived organoids or xenografts. 


Representative publications:

  • M.J.R. Tham, M.V. Babak,* W.H. Ang.* PlatinER: A Highly Potent Anticancer Platinum(II) complex that Induces Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress-Driven Immunogenic Cell Death, Angewandte Chemie Int. Ed., 59 (43), 19070-19078, 2020 [featured as a frontispiece]
  • G. Kim, H.L. Tan, R. Sundar, B. Lieske, C.E. Chee, J. Ho, A. Shabbir, M.V. Babak, W.H. Ang, B.C. Goh, W.P. Yong, L. Wang, J.B. So*, PIPAC-OX: A Phase I study of Oxaliplatin-based Pressurized Intraperitoneal Aerosol Chemotherapy (PIPAC) in Patients with Peritoneal Metastases, Clinical Cancer Research, in press.
  • M. V. Babak, M. R. Zalutsky, I. V. Balyasnikova.* Heterogeneity and Vascular Permeability of Breast Cancer Brain Metastases, Cancer Letters, 489 (1), 174-181, 2020
  • M. V. Babak, Y. Zhi, B. Czarny, T.B. Toh, L. Hooi, E. K.-H. Chow, W.H. Ang,* D. Gibson,* G. Pastorin.* Dual-targeting Dual-action Platinum (IV) Platform for Enhanced Anticancer Activity and Reduced Nephrotoxicity, Angewandte Chemie Int. Ed., 58, 1-7, 2019 [Very Important Paper, featured in Straits Times and Channel News Asia]
  • K. Ohui, E. Afanasenko, F. Bacher, R. L. X. Ting, A. Zafar, O. Dömötör, D. Darvasiova, É. A. Enyedy, A. Popović-Bijelić, J. Reynisson, P. Rapta, M. V. Babak,* G. Pastorin, V. B. Arion.* New Water-Soluble Copper(II) Complexes with Morpholine-Thiosemicarbazone Hybrids: Insights into the Anticancer and Antibacterial Mode of Action, Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, 62(2), 512-530, 2019
  • M. V. Babak,* M. Pfaffeneder-Kmen, S. M. Meier-Menches, M. S. Legina, S. Theiner, C. Licona, C. Orvain, M. Hejl, M. Hanif, M. A. Jacupec, B. K. Keppler, C. Gaiddon, C. G. Hartinger.* Rollover Cyclometalated Bipyridine Platinum Complexes as Potent Anticancer Agents: Impact of the Ancillary Ligands on the Mode of Action, Inorganic Chemistry, 57(5), 2851-2864, 2018
  • A. Sirbu, O. Palamarciuc, M. V. Babak,* J. M. Lim, K. Ohui, E. A. Enyedy, S. Shova, D. Darvasiova, P. Rapta, W. H. Ang,* V. B. Arion.* Copper(II) Thiosemicarbazone Complexes Induce Marked ROS Accumulation and Promote Nrf2-mediated Antioxidant Response in Highly Resistant Breast Cancer Cells, Dalton Transactions, 46, 3833-3847, 2017 [inside cover article]
  • M. S. Benjamin, M. V. Babak, C. G. Hartinger,* Paul J. Dyson.* The Development of RAPTA-compounds in the Treatment of Tumors, Coordination Chemistry Reviews, 306 (Part 1), 86-114, 2016
  • M. V. Babak, S. M. Meier, K. V. Huber, J. Reynisson, A. A. Legin, M. A. Jacupec, A. Roller, A. Stukalov, M. Gridling, K. L. Bennett, P. J. Dyson, G. Superti-Furga, B. K. Keppler, C. G. Hartinger*, Target Profiling of an Antimetastatic RAPTA Agent by Chemical Proteomics: Relevance to the Mode of Action, Chemical Science, 6(4), 2449-2456, 2015
  • M. V. Babak, D. Plazuk, S. M. Meier, J. H. Arabschahi, J. Reynisson, B. Rychlik, A. Blauz, K. Szulc, M. Hanif, S. Strobl, B. K. Keppler, C. G. Hartinger,* Half-Sandwich Ruthenium(II) Biotin-Conjugates as Biological Vectors to Cancer Cells, Chemistry – A European Journal, 21(13), 5110-5117, 2015