Professor Whitty was awarded a 4 Year grant by the National Institute of Health (NIH) to further his studies of NF-kB Modulators. The title of the Research Project is: Structure and Mechanism of NF-kB Essential Modulator (NEMO).
This funding will allow Professor Whitty and his Co-PIs Professors Karen Allen of Chemistry and Thomas Gilmore of Biology to advance our understanding of the signaling scaffold protein NF-κB essential modulator (NEMO), a component of the inhibitor of κB kinase (IKK) complex, which is a key regulatory node for NF-κB signaling. In addition to NEMO playing a role in the chronic hyperactivity of NF-κB in human diseases, mutations in NEMO are found in several human immunodeficiency diseases. The long-term goals of the project are to understand how scaffolding proteins such as NEMO use conformational change to regulate the functional interactions between the signaling proteins that are bound to them, to elucidate the structural basis for disease-causing mutations in key regions of NEMO, and to identify new target sites for small molecule drugs that modulate NEMO activity.
Congratulations to Professors Whitty, Allen and Gilmore and their research team!
Congratulations to Professor David Coker for receiving a National Science Foundation Grant (NSF) totally $435,000. This project will fund Dr. Coker and his team’s research into two areas. The first project will focus on extending, first principles, excited state quantum chemical methods and conformational sampling techniques to compute the distributions of parameters in models of the biological light harvesting systems that have received much attention in recent ultrafast nonlinear spectroscopy studies. Such models are usually employed to interpret the results of these averaged experiments. These best-fit, average models have many parameters that can be difficult to estimate and they are not generally unique, often leading to ambiguous interpretation. The theoretical methods being developed by the Coker group, however, enable detailed analysis of fluctuations underlying the average and the sampling of an ensemble of unique models that include, for example, highly performing structural outliers whose characteristics will give important understanding for optimal design, rather than mean behavior. In the second project, dissipative quantum dynamical methods are employed to compute spectroscopic properties and study relaxation processes including energy transport and charge separation using the ensembles of computed models. Preliminary work on these projects was featured in a recent publication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Dr. Coker is a Professor of Theoretical and Physical Chemistry and is the Director for BU’s Center for Computational Science (BU CCS). The Coker Group focus their research the development of new theoretical and computational methods to explore how electronic and vibrational excitation of reactant molecules in different environments can influence the outcome of chemical reactions of these molecules. Because electronic and vibrational relaxation of excited reactants is fundamentally quantum mechanical in nature, the methods they use must accurately describe the transfer of energy between the classical environment and the quantal reactive system.
 “First-Principles Models for Biological Light-Harvesting: Phycobiliprotein Complexes from Cryptophyte Algae”, M.K. Lee, K. Bravaya, and D.F. Coker, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2017, 139 (23), pp 7803–7814
|On May 2 BU Nanotechnology Innovation Center (BUnano) held its inaugural symposium “Nanotechnology for Imaging”. The symposium focused on The “Nanotechnology For Imaging” symposium will be focused on highlighting accomplishments of BUnano faculty and students, and featured keynote presentation by 2014 Nobel Prize winner for Chemistry, Professor Stefan Hell.
BUnano Center Director Prof. Mark Grinstaff welcomed the audience in the packed Metcalf Trustee Ballroom. and presented BUnano’s mission to promote a vibrant and dynamic community for nano-related disciplines at BU. What distinguishes BUnano from other nano centers in the Boston area is its connection to the Boston Medical Center and the BUSM. BUnano offers pilot grants to foster and support collaborative research of BU faculty across campuses in their pursuit of finding nano solutions to real life problems in technology and medicine.
The morning session featured a lineup of talks by BUnano faculty. Dr. Luca Dal Negro opened the scientific portion of the symposium with his talk on “Materials and Fields @ the Nanoscale: Optical Engineering of Resonant Nanostructures,” followed by Dr. Allison Dennis’s talk “Cadmium-free Quantum Dots for Imaging in the Visible and Near Infrared” and the joint presentation by Drs. Joyce Wong and Victoria Herrera entitled “Janus Nanoparticles for Cancer Theranostics.” Dr. Luca Dal Negro is an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, and Physics at BU. He introduced his group’s research related to the development of novel plasmonic materials and nanostructures for spectroscopy. Dr. Allison Dennis, Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor, discussed how her group uses cadmium-free Quantum Dot chemistries for applications in fluorescent biosensing and improved biomedical imaging. Dr. Joyce Wang, a Professor in Biomedical Engineering and Professor of Medicine Dr. Victoria Herrera discussed their interdisciplinary collaboration on developing theranostic Janus USPION for enhanced MRI imaging and targeted nucleic acid therapy to treat non-druggable cases, especially in pancreatic cancer.
After lunch break, Dr. Selim Unlu, a BUnano affiliated faculty and professor of Electrical Engineering introduced the keynote speaker of the symposium, Prof. Stefan Hell. He is the current Director at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Germany. In 2014 Prof Hell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his pioneering work in the field of ultra high resolution fluorescence microscopy. Stefan Hell succeeded in radically overcoming the resolution limit of conventional optical microscopes – a breakthrough that has enabled new ground‐breaking discoveries in biological and medical research.
Prof. Hell’s exciting talk on flurorescence nanoscopy featured his recent research on how to neutralize diffraction in order to achieve imaging of cells and tissues at the nanoscale. For close to an hour, Prof Hell held the audience’s attention captive, transforming them to the realm of STED microscopy infecting them with the possibility of capturing images of the nanoworld.
Twenty students and postdoctoral fellows were selected to present their posters at the symposium. Ms Qianyun Zhang, a student in Dr. Bjoern Rheinhard’s Lab, received $500 for her poster “Illuminating EGFR clustering and its Effects on Signal.”
The symposium concluded with BUnano’s version of the popular show Shark Tank, “Terrier Tank.” The competition was moderated by Dr. Ahmad Khalil, Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor at BU. Five finalists presented their innovative translational research idea to a panel of judges. The panel included BUnano Entrepreneur-in-Residence Dr. Jill Becker (CEO and Founder of 02139 Inc), Dr. David Coleman, Chair of the Department of Medicine at BUSM, Peter Marton of BU’s Questrom School of Business and Buzz Lab, Jess McLear of Launchpad Venture Group, and Dr. Terry Russell, Managing Director of Interface Ventures. It was truly exciting to see undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral associates striving to take a nascent idea and translate into a marketable product which would provide tangible benefit to our society.
After careful consideration, the judges awarded the $10,000 prize to CatchAu – an environmentally conscious wastewater treatment idea by a team of graduate students, Mingfu Chen, Uros Kuzmanovic, and Nicolas Shu.
On Friday, May 5th, 2017 the work of 11 students was spotlighted in this year’s Undergraduate Research Symposium (URS). The outstanding quality of the projects presented underscored the importance of the hands-on, challenging research that is the hallmark of BU’s Chemistry major. The even was organized by the Undergraduate Programs Committee, Professor John Snyder and coordinated by our Undergraduate Coordinator, Lauren Jett.
URS was first instituted in 1987 by then Director of Undergraduate Studies, and now Emeritus, Prof. Mort Hoffman, and has been a much anticipated, spring’s-end annual event ever since. The Symposium is modeled along the lines of talks at an American Chemical Society (ACS) meeting: 12 minutes of presentation followed by 3 minutes of questions and discussion. Capping the day was the announcement of the Departmental Awards, followed by a celebratory BBQ for the students, their faculty advisers, graduate mentors, and their guests. To view URS photos, please click here.
The Department of Chemistry and Chemical Instrumentation Center (CIC) was recently awarded a National Institute of Health Shared Instrumentation Grant (NIH SIG) led by Dr. Norman Lee, Director of CIC, to acquire a MicroScale Thermophoresis (MST) instrument. This instrument will enable investigators in Chemistry, Biology, Biochemistry and others to advance their research in life processes and allow their investigations to move into new areas that would enrich student and postdoctoral training. The instrument’s capabilities will also enhance active research projects involving protein-protein and protein-ligand interactions as well as protein conformation changes. The new MST instrument will enhance our biophysical capability at BU to meet the current and evolving research needs of the faculty and students.
Congratulations and a special thank you to Dr. Lee and all faculty who participated on the Departmental grant for their efforts on getting this new MicroScale Thermophoresis instrument!
Melissa Marquez, a second-year graduate student in Professor Deborah Perlstein’s group, has recently received a 2017 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. She earned a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry with a minor in mathematics from Mount Saint Mary’s University and as an undergraduate conducted research in Dr. Eric Stemp’s lab focusing on DNA-protein cross-linking resulting from oxidative damage to DNA. She was introduced to Boston by participating in Tufts University’s NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program in the summer of 2013 and worked in Dr. Mitch McVey’s lab where she focused on determining the lethality stages in Drosophila melanogaster Werner Syndrome exonuclease mutants. Along with chemistry, Melissa enjoys serving others in their journey toward their science aspirations. She is currently a fellow for the BU NSF GK-12 Global Change Initiative (GLACIER) program where she works at Pierce School in Brookline with a 6th grade science teacher, an officer for BU Women in Chemistry, and a co-leader of the BU Graduate Women in Science and Engineering (GWSE) Girls with Goggles club, an outreach program that provides weekly hands-on activities for middle school girls.
Through the support of the NSF, Melissa aims to obtain a greater understanding of how iron cofactors are biosynthesized through the cytosolic iron sulfur cluster assembly (CIA) pathway. This system is responsible for iron sulfur (FeS) cluster biogenesis for proteins found outside of the mitochondria in eukaryotic organisms. Essential processes such as DNA replication and repair, transcription, and translation, are all dependent on at least one FeS cluster containing enzyme. A key question is: how are these DNA metabolizing enzymes, also termed targets, recognized by the CIA pathway? Melissa plans to discern the mechanism of CIA target recognition by investigating Cia2, a vital component of the CIA targeting complex known for executing target identification in the last step of the system. Not only is cluster targeting poorly understood for the CIA pathway, but it is not known how any cluster biogenesis pathway identifies its targets. By examining how targets are recognized, this work can provide a model for how target recognition is executed for other cluster biogenesis systems. Melissa is primarily interested in pursuing a career in which she can simultaneously work on innovative experimentations closely related to therapeutic development and reigniting students’ appreciation for deeper learning and, ultimately, love for science.
Dr. Sean Elliott Receives 4 Year National Institute of Health Grant to study “Structure, Function and Diversity in the Bacterial Cytochrome c Peroxidase Family”
The new grant will enable studies in the Elliott Group to dissect the way in which nature has made use of a common motif of bioinorganic chemistry, the iron-bearing structure known as a c-type heme, and to utilize it for diverse chemistry. While Elliott has a long-running interest in heme and redox chemistry, here the group studies the titular ‘bacterial cytochrome c peroxidase’ (or, bCCP) family of enzymes. While prototypical bCCPs are found in gram negative microorganisms where they detoxify endogenous or exogenous hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), the Elliott group has realized that there exist in microbes novel bCCPs which engage in unknown chemistry. In the work sponsored by the NIH, the Elliott group will use a combination of biochemistry, electrochemistry, spectroscopy and structural biology to elucidate the bCCPs found in under appreciated microbes, and attempt to rationalize why the enzymes work as they do.
The work to be supported is a team effort where the enzymes discovered and produced in the Elliott Group will be examined here at BU, but also in collaboration with structural biologists at MIT and spectroscopists at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Michigan.
As bCCPs are enzymes on the front-line of the native defenses of NIH Select List pathogens including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Burkholderia complex species, Vibrio cholerae, Campylobacter jejuni, and Yersinia pestis, these studies will provide fundamental insight into the long-term development of new antimicrobial compounds that will target the novel features of bCCP structure.”
Dr. Elliott, who is also a two time recipient of the Scialog® Award Research Corporation (2010-2011), and received the 2007 Gitner Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2007 and an NSF CAREER Award in 2005 (among other honors), works with the Elliott Research Group to investigate the interplay between biological systems and redox-active species (e.g., metal ions, organic radicals, disulfide bonds, reactive oxygen species). Their emphasis is on the kinetic and thermodynamic basis for catalytic redox chemistry, as well as the molecular basis of how nature tune redox cofactors do the hard work of Life.
Dr. Arturo Vegas was recently featured in BU Today for his research into Type 1 Diabetes. The full article is called “New Targets to Treat Type 1 Diabetes” and there’s an excerpt from the article by Barbara Moran is below.
“Type 1 diabetes is rare but devastating. A person’s own immune system attacks the pancreas, destroying insulin-producing tissue and the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar. About five percent of people with diabetes—approximately 1.25 million Americans—have this form of the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association. Unregulated blood sugar can lead to blindness, kidney failure, and death.
Scientists aren’t sure what causes type 1 diabetes, though they suspect that a genetic predisposition, combined with an environmental trigger, causes a sudden disruption in the immune system that causes it to attack the body’s own tissue. The only treatment is a lifetime of careful blood sugar monitoring, with insulin injections as needed.
But what if there were a way to block the immune system before the damage was done, preserving at least some of the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin? That’s the goal of Arturo Vegas, a Boston University College of Arts & Sciences assistant professor of chemistry, whose lab combines biology, chemistry, materials science, and engineering to develop targeted therapies for complex diseases like diabetes. He recently was awarded a prestigious $1.4 million Type 1 Diabetes Pathfinder Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to pursue the work.”
Congratulations Dr. Vegas!
On October 5th, 2016 Dr. Arturo Vegas, who is a leader in the development of targeted therapies, discussed the recent progress to overcome challenges in the field including the development of automated insulin dosing, the production of mature insulin-producing cells from human stem cells, and new materials that can be used to prevent the rejection of transplanted insulin-producing tissue to the Coalition for the Life Sciences Congressional Biomedical Research Caucus.
Lynn Marquis, the Director of the Coalition for the Life Sciences Congressional Biomedical Research Caucus, invited Dr. Vegas to present his exciting research on Type 1 diabetes to a varied group of Congressional Representatives from across the country.
Type 1 diabetes, formally known as juvenile diabetes, is a disease characterized by the inability of patients to produce their own insulin hormone. It currently afflicts an estimated three million Americans. While a rigorous regimen of blood glucose monitoring coupled with daily injections of insulin remains the leading treatment, diabetics still suffer ill effects due to challenges with daily compliance and imperfect blood glucose control. The technologies Dr. Vegas is researching and discussed are bringing us closer than ever to mitigating this disease and improving the quality of life for these patients.
“The words of Sir Winston Churchill are applicable regarding the impact of their significant advances on a potential cure for diabetes: ‘This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is perhaps the end of the beginning.’” –Stock et al. Cell Stem Cell 18: 431-433. 2016
Watch his presentation here: “Are We Close to a Cure for Type 1 Diabetes?” – Arturo Vegas Presents to CBRC
Dr. Reinhard recently received 3 Years of research funding for his proposal titled: “OP: Plasmonic Enhancement of Chiral Forces for Enantiomer Separation.”
An object is chiral if it cannot be mapped to its mirror image by rotations and translations alone. Chiral molecules can exist a priori in two nonsuperimposable mirror images, that is, enantiomeric forms. Enantiomers can differ in their chemical behavior and reactivity, which can have drastic consequences. In drugs, for instance, one enantiomer may have a desired physiologic effect, while the other enantiomer can be inactive or even harmful. The most infamous example is thalidomide (“contergan”), for which one enantiomer is an effective sedative, whereas the other is teratogen. Administration of the racemic mix to pregnant women led to the birth of thousands of children with malformed limbs. This example illustrates the need for highly sensitive detection and especially separation of chiral biomolecules in research and drug development.
The proposal will help develop a new general separation scheme that uses chiral light matter interactions enhanced by resonant plasmonic antennas to separate enantiomers through discriminatory chiral forces acting on different enantiomers. The new technique will have important analytical and preparative applications. It will facilitate both to monitor the enantiomeric purity of chiral species and provide the means to separate enantiomeric or diastereomeric mixtures.
Congratulations to Dr. Reinhard and his Group on this award!