In 2016, the National Institutes of Health increased support for projects in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Tessa Calhoun, assistant professor, received funding for her project “Imaging Amphotericin B’s Mechanism of Action with Transient Absorption Microscopy.” David Jenkins, associate professor, is the PI of awarded project “Catalytic C2+N1 Aziridination from Organic and Carbamate Azides.” The third awarded project, “Labeling of Lipid Products Using Synthetic Tagged Metabolite Probes to Analyze Lipid Biosynthesis and Trafficking,” was directed by associate professor Michael Best.
“We are thrilled to see so many new NIH awards in the Department of Chemistry,” said Taylor Eighmy, Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement at the UT Office of Research and Engagement. “Since implementing a strategic plan to grow UT’s NIH funding in 2014, we have created a number of new resources and development opportunities through the Office of Research and Engagement to support our NIH researchers and help them submit strong proposals. These calculated efforts are beginning to have a noticeable impact on our researchers’ success with NIH, and we hope this trend continues.”
The following are the descriptions of each awarded project:
The dramatic rise of antimicrobial resistance has created the need for new approaches in the design of novel drug systems. Professor Calhoun’s project focuses on the study of Amphotericin B, an important antifungal therapeutic often used as a last line of defense for systemic fungal infections, which has developed limited cases of clinical resistance despite decades of use. A better understanding of how this drug operates within cells could inform our understanding of the design principles of novel drug delivery systems needed to reduce the occurrences of antimicrobial resistance. In her project, Calhoun will use transient absorption microscopy to directly image how Amphotericin B acts in both model and living systems to achieve its effective behavior.
Aziridines are biologically active functional groups found in natural products, such as mitomycins and azinomycins, which are critical in biology and synthetic medicinal chemistry due to their antitumor properties. Despite the myriad uses for aziridines in pharmaceutical products, as well as synthetic intermediates, their efficient synthesis has not yet been achieved. In this project, Jenkins proposes to extend research on catalytic aziridination to include new directions relevant to the medicinal chemistry community—in particular, the synthesis of carbamate protected aziridines and chiral aziridines. Chiral aziridines are a useful tool in the synthesis of single enantiomer drugs.
While lipids control many of the most critical biological processes that lead to diseases (including cancer), tracking the production of these molecules in cells remains a significant challenge. In his project, Best explores novel approaches for the labeling of lipid structures that will enable tracking of the identity and location of lipids in cells, with a focus on cancer cells. These strategies will significantly enhance our understanding of the biosynthesis and movement of important lipid molecules within their native cellular environments.