Project seeks to investigate molecules that are potential therapeutic agents based on modulating gene expression
(Oct. 12, 2004) GENEVA, N.Y.— Justin Miller, assistant professor of chemistry at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, received a $30,000 start-up grant from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation to initiate a chemistry research program with HWS students. The program is designed to allow undergraduates the ability to produce valuable scholarly contributions in the fields of bioorganic synthesis and peptide chemistry, among others. Two students have begun research: Greg Sand, a Hobart senior from Tonawanda, N.Y., and Brooke Denslow, a William Smith senior from Lyons Falls, N.Y.
The research students will develop and implement a new, enhanced method of synthesizing proteins and other natural protein-like molecules. The new technique focuses on solid-phase synthesis, which is faster and easier to do than the traditional technique, called solution-phase synthesis. Solid-phase synthesis refers to a laboratory procedure in which the chemical reactants are attached to small beads, thus making the reaction products easier to handle and purify for use in subsequent reactions.
“What makes this research exciting is the possibility of transforming powerful techniques already available as solution-phase methods into readily accessible solid-phase methods,” said Miller. “The solid-phase protocol will unleash the potential to create in the laboratory proteins and other natural products that were difficult or even impossible to make using older techniques. Moreover, the protocol will be modular, meaning molecules can be constructed from a group of building blocks-much like building a house from a bunch of pre-built rooms, rather than brick by brick.”
In addition, students using the modular protocol will be able to synthesize unnatural analogs that might exhibit greater pharmaceutical potential than the parent compounds. The molecules to be studied are potential therapeutic agents.
Miller received his bachelor's degree from Princeton University, his doctoral degree from MIT, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research.
The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, Inc., seeks to advance the science of chemistry, chemical engineering and related sciences as a means of improving human relations and circumstances around the world.