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Creighton Chemist Receives Major NIH Grant

Creighton Chemist Receives Major NIH Grant

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded Juliane K. Strauss-Soukup, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry and Clare Booth Luce Faculty Chair for Women in Science, a three-year, $215,250 research grant.

Soukup will continue her studies of bacterial riboswitches. Riboswitches are RNA (ribonucleic acid) control elements that turn genes on or off depending upon their direct interaction with small molecule metabolites in the cell. Thus, the normal role of a riboswitch is to sense the cell’s environment and respond appropriately.

Because riboswitch function is important to normal bacterial metabolism, they represent novel biological targets for compounds that mimic the actions of the natural metobolites. Such compounds might perturb the metabolic state of bacteria and thus inhibit bacterial cell growth. The increasing need for new antibiotics due to the emergence of drug resistant bacteria makes riboswitches an attractive target for drug development. One aim of the grant focuses on the synthesis of metabolite analogs that might possess antimicrobial activity.

“As resistant super-bugs continue to evolve,” Soukup said, ”the drugs now used to cure bacterial infections will eventually become ineffectiveOur research might provide new drugs that target riboswitch-controlled metabolic pathways in some formidable pathogens, “ she added.

This project involves collaborations with Garrett Soukup, Ph. D., associate professor in Creighton’s Medical School, and David Berkowitz, Ph. D., professor at University of Nebraska at Lincoln, and provides opportunities for undergraduate students to be involved in biomedical research.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infectious diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide, and the number of deaths from infectious diseases in the United States has been increasing. Infectious diseases ranked third among the leading causes of death in 1992 in the United States.