The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a four-year grant to Center for Molecular Discovery researcher Lauren Brown and collaborators Leah Cowen (University of Toronto) and Luke Whitesell (Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT) on “Targeting Hsp90 in crytococcal fungal pathogenesis.” The assembled team combines expertise in fungal biology (Cowen), medicinal chemistry (Brown) and pharmacology/experimental therapeutics (Whitesell) with the goal of developing drug-like small-molecule probes for use in studying disease mechanisms of the fungus Cryptococcus.
Invasive Cryptococcus infections pose a grave threat to human health and have enormous economic consequences. Cryptococcal meningitis, the major clinical manifestation of the disease, has a 100% mortatlity rate if left untreated. Even with the best available therapies, mortality rates remain high at 35-40% due to a limited number of drug classes available, and compromised usefulness of these drugs caused by both dose-limiting toxicity and the emergence of high-grade antifungal drug resistance.
In this project, the team will collaborate to develop small molecule chemical compounds to study a critical molecular mechanism that supports both fungal virulence and the onset of drug-resistance. These compounds will also impact clinical care by serving as promising leads for the future development of new, more effective antifungal drugs.