Kristen Jahr

New approach to discovering drug to protein interactions for pharmaceuticals

Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Dr. Bur
About My Research:

The discovery of pharmaceutical drugs requires investing vast amounts of time and resources into their development. The concept behind my research involves utilizing a more efficient method for the discovery of drugs. Instead of the current method that involves organic chemists synthesizing large libraries of compounds to test against one known defective protein or receptor in the body, our idea is to test one compound already known or suspected to have biological activity against the some thousands of proteins in the body. To do so, we will attach a derivative of the drug nitrofurazone, an antibacterial used to treat burns and skin graft patients, to the solid phase of an affinity chromatography column. We will open up cells to run through the column, and we can observe which proteins interact with the drug by which proteins “stick.” If our method is successful, we hope to test the naturally occurring compounds currently being synthesized in the Bur lab.


This research was supported by the 2009 Merck-AAAS Summer Research Fund.

In the student's own words :

"Interacting with the professors during the summer taught me that there needs to be balance in life—there’s a time to work, but there’s also a time to play. Sure, scientific research requires a great deal of hard work, but if you’re not enjoying life in the meantime, its not really worth it. I learned that life doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, only about chemistry. To quote Dr. Bur, 'If you make chemistry your life, and the chemistry sucks, then your life sucks.'"

Professional Abstract:

As pharmaceutical research typically requires synthesizing a large library of compounds to screen against one known defective receptor or protein in the human body, we propose a method to speed up this time-consuming process by instead allowing the cells to make a library of proteins to screen against one known biologically active compound. By synthesizing and attaching a derivative of the drug nitrofurazone, an antibacterial agent, to an affinity chromatography column and running the proteins from lysed cells through, we can discover where within the structure of the drug the proteins interact and find other possible uses for this drug. We can apply this method to other possibly biologically active compounds being synthesized within the research group to discover any pharmaceutical applications for them.

More student thoughts:

"Gustavus encourages research as early as after your first year as an undergrad, something I doubt one would find much of at a public institution. I was able to begin research after only two semesters of college classes, and the experience gave me a leg up my sophomore year. I not only better understood the concepts I was learning in my classes, I understood why I was learning them in the first place. To have that insight so early in my college career will be a great advantage in my future."