Category: Liu, Pinghua
The Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF) uses Collaborative Research Travel Grants to facilitate biomedical research among laboratories in the US and abroad. This February, two Chemistry groups received these competitive awards.
One of the grants will support Professor Pinghua Liu and his graduate student, Jinzhao Shen, to go to Beijing to work in the laboratory of Professor Xiaoping Chen of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. They will collaborate with Professor Chen’s group to develop new anti-microbial drugs, focusing initially on new anti-malaria drugs for multi-drug resistant strains. Specifically, they will build marine natural product libraries and screen them for anti-malaria activities.
The second grant will support graduate student, Daniel Saltzberg, in the Allen Group. Mr. Saltzberg will work with Dr. Hiro Tsuruta’s group at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource to probe the specific interactions governing ligand binding in a large superfamily of metabolic enzymes. These studies will provide insight into the evolution of functional diversity in this superfamily.
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.
Feng (Seymour) Wang has received his CAREER award for his work on “Molecular Dynamics Study of Growth and Dissolution Dynamics of Stable and Meta-Stable Methane Hydrates.” The goal of his research is to gain an atomistic scale understanding of the growth and dissolution processes of methane hydrate, which is an important but little understood part of the global carbon cycle. Methane clathrate has considerable potential as an alternative energy source. At the same time, its stability poses major environmental implications since methane is a greenhouse gas. In providing a fundamental understanding of the formation and dissolution dynamics of methane clathrate, Prof. Wang’s work will shed light on both of aspects of these hydrates.
Prof. Wang’s educational plan aims at using computational chemistry tools to help undergraduate students understand concepts and trends in organic chemistry. Working in collaboration with Prof. John Snyder, Prof. Wang is creating semi-automated tutorials that students can use to set up simple electronic structure calculations. The objective is to demonstrate to undergraduates the practical uses of current computational techniques in different areas of chemistry.
Pinghua Liu has received his CAREER Award for his proposal “Mechanistic Studies of Phosphonates: Biosynthesis and Biodegradation.” The phosphate ion combines with various atoms and molecules within living organisms to form many different compounds essential to life. In this work Prof. Liu will investigate two issues at the forefront of bioscience: 1) determination of the mechanisms of the biosyntheses of natural phosphonates and the role of the metallo-cofactors in catalysis; and 2) indentification of enzymes that can degrade natural or synthetic phosphonates. This work has the promise of increasing our understanding of the biosyntheses of phosphonates and lead to insights about their role in Nature.
The educational component of his award will address significant issues in the training of the next generation of bioscientists such as their need for a global view of the technical challenges faced by society and society’s need for scientists with an interdisciplinary background who can address the challenges faced in the 21st century.
It is with great pleasure that the Department of Chemistry welcomes two new members to its faculty, Professor Pinghua Liu in biochemistry and Professor Feng Wang in theoretical and computational chemistry.
Professor Liu received his Ph.D. in 2001 from the University of Minnesota. Most recently, he was a postdoctoral associate in the laboratory of Professor JoAnne Stubbe at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His laboratory is interested in mechanistic studies of metallo-protein catalyzed processes (with emphasis on radical involving reactions) and their roles in signal transductions. His initial projects are directed at studying proteins involved in isoprenoid biosynthesis and chromatin structural modulations.
Professor Wang received his Ph.D. in 2003 from the University of Pittsburgh after which he became a postdoctoral associate in the laboratory of Professor Gregory Voth at the University of Utah. His group is interested in multi-scale Monte Carlo or molecular dynamics study of large systems at finite temperature using high accuracy force fields. He is also interested in systematic development of such force fields using a revised version of the force-matching procedure. Problems of particular interest include ligand docking, mechanical properties of metal alloys and properties of methane clathrates at different temperature and pressure.