The natural product vinaxanthone has demonstrated a remarkable capability to promote nerve growth following injury or transplantation. In rats following total transection of the spinal cord delivery of vinaxanthone enhanced axonal regeneration, remyelination and angiogenesis at the site of injury all leading to an improved reinstatement of motor function. Through the development of a new ynone coupling reaction, chemically edited derivatives of vinaxanthone have been prepared and studied for improved activity. The coupling reaction allows rapid access to new derivatives, wherein n ynone precursors provide n(2) vinaxanthone analogues. These compounds have been tested for their ability to promote neuronal regrowth using laser axotomy, severing axonal connections in Caenorhabditis elegans. This precise microsurgery using C. elegans allows a new in vivo approach for medicinal chemistry based optimization of neuronal growth promoting compounds.