Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dr. Courtney Aldrich - Design of Antibiotics That Target Biotin Metabolism

Hello to my fellow CH351 students (and Dr. Petersen),

Unable to attend the beer brewing lecture earlier in the month, my schedule decided (for me) that I was going to attend the 15 November lecture. Fortunately for me, Dr. Courtney Aldrich was giving the lecture! Dr. Aldrich (related to NBA player Cole Aldrich?? Sorry, didn't ask him) works at the University of Minnesota as an associate professor in the Center for Drug Design.

One thing that stuck out to me from his lecture was that he had five majors before deciding that he wanted to be a chemistry major. He knew he was in the right field when he took his first class of Organic Chemistry, which obviously must have been taught by someone like Dr. Petersen.

Prior to antibiotics, people often died when they came down with a virus. Since antibiotics were introduced in 1935, the average life span has increased by 25 years! 1945-1961 was known as the Golden Age of Antibiotics, as a plethora of antibiotics were being discovered. But the last antibiotic that was discovered occurred in 1987. Since then, no new antibiotics have been found. Dr. Aldrich is seeking ways to change that through his research with the biotin metabolism. There are three strategies for discovering new antibiotics, which Dr. Aldrich believes should all be continued to be used. The one strategy that he is using with biotin is the cofactor biosynthesis as drug targets. As he went through his lecture and showed the incredibly complex molecules he was using, I would catch a glimpse of something that I learned in class, such as stereochemistry or cis/trans isomers, and try to understand where he was going.

Dr. Aldrich was extremely knowledgeable about the subject of antibiotics and how chemistry plays a role in their discovery and development. I am fascinated by people who are subject matter experts in any field. I recently watched Somm, a documentary about nerdy wine lovers. I don't know anything about wine, but their intense devotion to what they were studying was captivating. Listening to Dr. Aldrich speak about something that he has devoted his life to was very humbling. I am extremely happy that we have people like him working to find cures for diseases and improving the quality of everyone's lives.

Go Chemistry!

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