Professor Adrian Whitty has received a Templeton Award for Excellence in Student Advising in recognition of his strong and demonstrated commitment to the personal and academic development of his students. The award is presented each year at the College of Arts and Sciences Class Day ceremony.
In announcing the award, Dr. Steven Jarvi, Associate Dean for Student Academic Life, stated that the theme that emerged from the comments of Professor Whitty’s advisees is his sincerity and genuine interest in the well being of his students.
An international student commented that “he is from Europe, just like me, and he is interested in how my life is and how I’m adapting to America.” Another student mentioned that Professor Whitty “is the most kind-hearted and caring professor that I had the fortune to have class with.”
This 2011 award is the fourth time in a row that it has been conferred on a member of the Chemistry faculty. Previous winners have included, Sean Elliott (2008, an inaugural awardee), John Snyder (2009), and Binyomin Abrams (2010).
The Endowed Fund was established in 2008 with gifts from John and Josephine Templeton as a measure of their gratitude to the dedication shown by members of the Boston University faculty in the personal counseling, guidance, and advice they give to undergraduates.
In March 2011, John Miecznikowski, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Chemistry, received Fairfield University’s Teacher of the Year Award. He was nominated by the Fairfield student body and selected from among 75 undergraduate professors.
Professor Miecznikowski began his teaching career as a Postdoctoral Faculty Fellow (PFF) in the Boston University Department of Chemistry (2004-2007). At BU, Dr. Miecznikowski taught “General Chemistry” (CH101) and “Inorganic Chemistry” (CH 232).
His research was conducted in Professor John Caradonna’s laboratory and focused on the development, synthesis, and characterization of ligand precursors and iron, gallium and zinc model complexes of phenylalanine hydroxylase and other mononuclear nonheme enzymes with N and O atoms bound to the metal center.
Professor Miecznikowski started his tenure track teaching position at Fairfield in 2007.
Professor Sean Elliott has received a second Scialog Award from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement. This very competitive award recognizes the highly innovative nature of his work and its potential to be transformative in solar energy conversion.
The project, “High Spatial Resolution Electrochemistry of Biological Inspired Systems,” is a collaboration between Professor Elliott and two other Scialog Awardees, Professor Stefan Lutz, Emory University, and Professor David Cliffell, Vanderbilt University.
Their goal is to address key bottlenecks in the development of biologically inspired systems for solar to fuel production.
Professor Corey Stephenson and his group have received a 5-year, $1.7 million award from the National Institutes of Health (NIGMS) to develop novel catalytic approaches to the synthesis of alkaloid natural products. These visible light-mediated methods provide innovative avenues toward challenging molecular architectures with broad biological activity.
The Stephenson Group focuses on performing syntheses in an environmentally conscious way. By using visible light, they prepare waste-free, non-toxic “reagent” complex natural products. Since most organic molecules do not absorb visible light, they can use photosensitive catalysts (widely studied for their photophysical properties) to carry out transformations under mild conditions in the presence of otherwise reactive functional groups. These new chemical reactions will enable the synthesis of biologically active natural products implicated in cancer, infection, and cardiovascular disease.
Professor Mark W. Grinstaff has won the inaugural Innovator of the Year Award from BU’s Office of Technology Development, recognizing a faculty member who translates research into innovations that benefit humankind. The Innovator of the Year Award seeks to highlight translational research at BU by recognizing an entrepreneurial faculty member and the potential for commercialization and/or wider adoption of their inventions. It also encourages faculty to become entrepreneurial while promoting role models who can inspire graduate students to pursue entrepreneurial careers.
Professor Grinstaff, who has joint appointments in Chemistry and Biomedical Engineering, co-founded three companies now commercializing his research ideas: Hyperbranch Medical Technology, Flex Biomedical, and recent start-up Acuity Bio that is commercializing a new drug delivery device for the prevention of tumor recurrence after surgical resection – a significant unmet clinical need. His current work includes research into new macromolecule and amphiphile syntheses, self-assembly chemistry, tissue engineering, and drug delivery. As he presented the award, President Bob Brown said that “Professor Grinstaff is an entrepreneurial scientist, whose practical approach to science has led to the formation of three companies producing beneficial products … His accomplishments in the past year include 15 peer-reviewed papers published, two invention disclosures, a patent filing, and more than $1 million invested in Flex Biomedical.”
Professor Grinstaff received a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois and was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology. His honors include the ACS Nobel Laureate Signature Award, NSF Career Award, Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences, Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar, and the Edward M. Kennedy Award for Health Care Innovation.
There are many medically important drug targets that current drug discovery technology is not able to address. Collaborative basic research in Chemistry, Biology, and Biochemistry is key to solving these intractable problems to enable the discovery of new classes of drugs. A multidisciplinary team at Boston University, led by Associate Professor of Chemistry Adrian Whitty, aims to develop new approaches for challenging molecular targets. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences awarded this team a 4-year, $1.6 million grant entitled Design of Macrocyclic Inhibitors of the NEMO/IKKα/β Protein-Protein Interaction.
Only about 10% of the potential drug targets in the human genome have been successfully targeted with marketed drugs. Of the remaining 90%, many are intracellular proteins whose function is critically dependent on their reversible interactions with other proteins. Despite decades of effort by the pharmaceutical industry, developing oral drugs that inhibit protein-protein interactions (PPIs) has rarely succeeded and has become recognized as a major scientific and technological challenge.
The primary goal of this project is to determine whether the use of a class of natural product-inspired compounds called macrocycles constitutes a broadly applicable method for developing oral drugs against PPI targets. As a first challenge, the team is attempting to develop macrocycles that block the activity of NEMO, a key component of the IKK complex that activates NF-κB signaling. Chronic hyperactivity of the NF-κB pathway is associated with many human inflammatory diseases and cancers. Thus, the development of drug-like inhibitors of this pathway is highly relevant to public health.
The work will determine whether appropriately designed synthetic macrocycles can inhibit PPI targets while maintaining good drug-like properties. In terms of NF-κB and disease, their work will provide a means for testing whether inhibiting the interaction of NEMO with IKK—as a more targeted alternative to completely ablating all IKK activity—represents a useful new approach for attenuating inflammation.
In addition to Professor Whitty (quantitative biochemistry and drug discovery), the multidisciplinary research team comprises Professors Sandor Vajda and Dima Kozakov (computational chemistry), John Porco and Aaron Beeler (macrocycle synthesis), Karen Allen (X-ray crystallography), and Tom Gilmore (NF-κB pathway biology).
The Ignition Award Program provides funds to evolve BU research to the stage where it can be licensed, form the basis of a new company, or be used to create a new, non-profit social enterprise. In June 2010, two Chemistry faculty, John Porco and John Snyder, received these highly competitive awards for their respective commercially promising projects.
Professor Porco’s research is the “Development of Novel Protein Synthesis Inhibitors as Chemotherapeutic Agents.” The work will involve synthesis of novel silvestrol (rocaglate) derivatives and their evaluation as protein translation inhibitors in the Pelletier laboratory at McGill University. Promising derivatives will be tested in the National Cancer Institute’s 60 cancer cell line panel and then advanced to animal models for B-cell leukemias and other cancers that are highly susceptible to translational control.
Professor Snyder’s research focuses on the “Development of New Anti-Tuberculosis Agents.” Three synthetic compounds from the Center for Chemical Methodology and Library Development (CMLD-BU) were determined to be “hits” against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the tuberculosis-inducing microorganism. The preliminary biological activity data against M. tuberculosis, coupled with the unique structures of the lead compounds have justified advancing these compounds toward commercialization through the biological assays needed to establish the scope of activity and bioavailability.
This award will reinforce our Life Science research infrastructure on the Charles River Campus by renovating space on the 4th floor in the East Wing of the Metcalf Science and Engineering Center Department of Chemistry space. Started in April, 2010, the one-year effort will renovate 6,700 square feet of laboratory and office space to create four laboratory modules for state-of-the-art research in synthetic organic chemistry and supporting laboratory space for analytical chemistry. The flexible laboratory layout will enable technology-facilitated medicinal chemistry. Complementary faculty and meeting space will be developed to fully support real and virtual conferencing that facilitates engagement and collaboration among research scientists on the Charles River and Medical campuses as well as sites outside of BU. These renovations of four research laboratories will provide the infrastructure for the chemical sciences to realize BU’s biomedical research vision, which has been constrained by outdated and inflexible infrastructure available in the Metcalf Center for Science and Engineering (renovated in 1983). It will bolster BU’s leadership position in translational science by providing a robust environment for multidisciplinary research efforts bridging chemistry and biology. This NIH facilities renovation award is the first federally funded renovation grant on the Charles River Campus in BU’s history.
Boston University has again recognized Chemistry’s distinction in teaching and advising by conferring a 2010 Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching on Professor John Caradonna and the 2009/2010 Templeton Prize for Excellence in Student Advising on Dr. Binyomin Abrams.
Student’s have found John Caradonna’s teaching to be the most remarkable and enriching academic experience of their undergraduate careers. In “exit interviews” with graduating seniors, Professor Caradonna was consistently recognized as one of the most respected and valued faculty members in the Department of Chemistry.
When asked to recall their very best experiences as chemistry majors, many students named their time in his CH232 Inorganic Chemistry course as a truly inspiring educational experience. His contributions to Chemistry’s educational mission also include great teaching in first-year Chemistry courses and in graduate program, his work as a mentor to undergraduate and graduate research students, his strong voice for excellence and rigor in our academic programs, and his leadership as Director of Undergraduate Studies. John Caradonna is the fifth Chemistry faculty member to receive a Metcalf Award.
Previous recipients have included
To learn more about Professor Caradonna and his philosophy of teaching, please go to the article about him in BU Today.
NIH funds Pinghua Liu and his group to perform mechanistic studies of enzymes in isoprenoid biosynthesis
The goal of this award ($1.9 million over 5 years – 2010-2015) is to characterize the mechanism of a key enzyme in the deoyxylulose biosynthetic pathway as well as identify its key partner proteins. This pathway, identified only in bacteria and plants, produces the required compounds for isoprenoid synthesis. The results of this work could eventually lead to new broad-spectrum antibiotics or toward more efficient bioengineering based isoprenoid production. The work has developed an enzyme preparation that is many times more active than those previously reported, providing a crucial piece to illuminating enzymes. These isoprenoid biosynthetic studies will guide the development of mechanism- based inhibitors of the DXP pathway enzymes, which can be used as broad-spectrum antibiotics. The public health benefit will result from the development of effective new treatments for drug-resistant strains of pathogens (e.g., tuberculosis), currently of increasing concern worldwide.