Associate Professor, College of Pharmacy
KEYWORDS: Natural Products Chemistry; Bioorganic Chemistry; Molecular Genetics; Medicinal Chemistry
I. Biologically active natural products from deep-sea vent organisms. Hydrothermal vents are among the most dynamic and extreme environments on Earth, and many vents exhibit a unique range of habitat diversity and a high degree of endemism. The majority of vent invertebrates acquire fixed carbon and nitrogen from microbial symbionts and free-living microorganisms also form extensive microbial mats on chimney spires and within hydrothermal sediments. Bacterial diversity at deep-sea vents spans most of the currently defined lineages, including the Actinobacteria. This is significant since terrestrial actinomycetes are the source of more than 60% of clinical antibiotics and numerous anticancer agents.
II. South African tunicates as a source of new anticancer agents and anti-infectives. The East Cape coast of South Africa, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans mix, exhibits an unprecedented abundance, diversity and high degree of endemism of tunicates. In collaboration with South African scientists, extracts from previously undescribed species of tunicates are being investigated using toxicity to bacteria or human cancer cells to guide rapid, microscale identification of the active components.
III. Synthesis, mechanism of action and in vivo efficacy of the Panamanian cyanobacterial metabolite coibamide A. This anticancer lead compound and analog structures will be tested for in vivo efficacy once we have a reliable synthetic source of the compounds. The synthesis of coibamide A and analogs is part of a collaboration with Dr. Phil Proteau (Pharmaceutical Sciences). Furthermore, we are working to identify the molecular mechanism of action of coibamide A through a collaboration with Dr. Jane Ishmael (Pharmaceutical Sciences). Other Panamanian cyanobacteria from terrestrial/freshwater environments are also being investigated for similar compounds.