Green chemistry guru

Yesterday’s online has a story on Brandeis Chemistry alum Paul Anastas (PhD ’90), currently Assistant Administrator of the U.S. EPA’s Office of Research and Development, describing him as a “‘Green Chemistry’ Guru Charting [a] New Course for EPA Science”, who advocates that companies can make money while making chemicals using environmentally safer approaches throughout the lifecycle

Trimethoprim decorated beads for magnetically manipulating mammalian cells

Brandeis grad students Yue Pan (Chemistry) and Marcus Long (Biochemistry), together with postdoc Hsin-Chieh Lin and Professors Lizbeth Hedstrom and Bing Xu, have extended their previous work on 6 nm diameter magnetic nanobeads (comparable in size to a globular protein). They’ve shown that when decorated with the ligand trimethoprim, the nanobeads can be used to selectively bind to target E coli DHFR fusion proteins, and in addition can be used to manipulate live cells with a magnetic force. This work entitled “Cell Compatible Trimethoprim (TMP)-Decorated Iron Oxide Nanoparticles Bind Dihydrofolate Reductase (DHFR) for Magnetically Modulating Focal Adhesion of Mammalian Cells” is now online in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS).

These small, magnetic beads are the first example of solid supported trimethoprim and have numerous advantages over larger traditional beads, including rapid purification, and ultra low non-specific binding. It is, however, their ability to affect live cells that is most important. In the paper they first show that Cos-1 and HeLa cells can be incubated with the beads for over 5 days with little cell death. These cells can subsequently be manipulated by transfection. Finally when exposed to a magnetic force, the focal adhesion of bead-treated Cos-1 cells can be manipulated.

See also: recommendation at Faculty of 1000

Sprout Grant Winners 2011

Entrepreneurship is alive and well at Brandeis.

Last week, fourteen teams of Brandeis scientists presented their research to a panel of industry experts to compete for funding from the Brandeis University Virtual Incubator Sprout Grant Program.  The Virtual Incubator seeks to nurture and support entrepreneurial scientists at Brandeis by providing education, mentoring, networking and seed grants to help move their discoveries from the laboratory to the market.

Judges were impressed by the team presentations. The teams ranged from biologists who have projects that could be ready for licensing as early as next year, to computer science / IT entrepreneurship students with a web application that already has 1200 users.

“We were overwhelmed by the phenomenal proposals we received” says Irene Abrams, Associate Provost for Innovation.  “The response was incredible – with only a few weeks notice, 23 teams applied for Sprout Grants and 14 presented their proposals to the panel of judges.  I was impressed by the level of creativity among the applicants, and by the hard work the teams put into the presentations.  We only had $50,000, so we had to turn down many excellent applications, which we would have funded if we had more money.”

The 2011 winning projects are:

  • Generation Of A Rapid And Efficient Protein Knockout System, Lead Scientist:  Erin Jonasson (with Satoshi Yoshida)
  • Identification Of Molecules For Stabilizing DJ-1, A Protein Involved In Parkinson And Alzheimer Diseases. Lead Scientist: Joey Salisbury (with Brian Williams, Ala Nassar, Jeff Agar and Greg Petsko)
  • Targeting Oncogenic Ras For Protein Degradation, A Novel Approach To Therapy. Lead Scientist: Rory Coffey (with Marcus Long, Ruibao Ren, and Liz Hedstrom)
  • Identifying Pharmacological Chaperones that Promote Survival in Mouse Models of ALS, Lead Scientist: Jared Auclair (with Joey Salisbury, Dagmar Ringe, Greg Petsko, and Jeff Agar)
  • A Novel, Low Cost, Highly Sensitive Form Of Suppression PCR, Lead Scientist: Ken Sugino (with Sean O’Toole and Sacha Nelson)
  • Zen.Do, Team: Bill DeRusha, Joshua Silverman, Jason Urton (Computer Science)

see also: Brandeis NOW

2010-2011 Outstanding Teaching Fellows in Chemistry

Chemistry graduate students Mark Bezpalko, Xiachuan Cai and Fan Zhao will
be awarded Outstanding Teaching Fellow Awards this week for their excellent
work in general chemistry, organic chemistry, and advanced chemistry lab
sections, respectively. Their efforts were appreciated in many dimensions:

Mark was very effective, extremely reliable, and always well prepared and
patient with his students. During the lab he was very attentive, making sure
that his students were on the right track and showing a genuine interest in their
progress and development. He consistently did an excellent job evaluating
student work and providing advice and guidance to help them improve.

Xiaochuan had the highest numerical ratings of the graduate TFs in organic
chemistry and garnered such positive comments such as “Being very easy going
and always being ready to help a student in need” and “Very approachable and
knew the material to be covered”. Moreover, he was able to accomplish this while
still challenging his students and grading at the appropriate level.

Fan undertook the challenge to be the TF of a completely new lab course
focused on a frontier of chemistry—materials chemistry. He not only diligently
prepared each experiment, but also helped students with discussions of
background information and potential applications of the products targeted in
each experiment. He communicated well with the students, and the students
liked him very much.

Yeast genetics and familial ALS

In a recent paper in PLoS Biology, “A Yeast Model of FUS/TLS-Dependent Cytotoxicity“, Brandeis postdoc Shulin Ju and coworkers applied yeast genetics to examine the function of the human protein FUS/TLS. The gene for FUS/TLS is mutated in 5-10$ of cases of Familial ALS. The yeast model expressing the mutant protein recapitulates many important features of the pathology.

A particular feature of interest is that  FUS/TLS form cytoplasmic inclusions of this protein which is normally localized to the nucleus. Over-expression of a number of yeast proteins rescues the cells from the toxic effect without removing the inclusions. The results are suggested to implicate RNA processing or RNA quality control in the mechanism of toxicity, which I find really interesting in light of the talk Susan Lindquist (an author on this paper) gave at Brandeis about yeast prions and regulatory proteins earlier this month.

Other authors on the paper include Brandeis professors Dagmar Ringe and Gregory Petsko, and Brandeis alumni Dan Tardiff (PhD, Mol. Cell. Biol.,  ’07), currently a postdoc in the Lindquist lab at the Whitehead Institute,  and Daryl Bosco (PhD, Bioorganic Chem, ’03), currently on the faculty at U. Mass. Medical School.

For more information, please see the paper itself or the longer article about the research on Brandeis NOW.

Daniel Graham ’10, and Aaron Gell ’10, and Jeffrey Dobereiner ’09 awarded 2011 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Former chemistry majors Daniel Graham ’10, Aaron Gell ’10, and Jeffrey Dobereiner ’09 have been awarded National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. These Fellowships, geared towards ensuring the vitality of the country’s scientific workforce, support the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant achievements in scientific research.  Dan and Aaron are currently first year graduate students at MIT, pursuing Ph.D.s in inorganic chemistry.  Dan received highest honors in chemistry for thesis research conducted in the lab of Professor Christine M. Thomas, and is currently continuing to investigate chemical approaches to renewable energy strategies in the lab of Professor Daniel Nocera at MIT.  Aaron, also an inorganic chemist, conducted undergraduate research in the Brandeis chemistry department under the supervision of Professor Bruce Foxman. Jeff was a double major in anthropology and chemistry at Brandeis and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Archaeology at Harvard University, where he is applying his chemistry knowledge to the analysis of ancient artifacts. In addition, Delora Gaskins, a 2011 incoming graduate student in the area of physical chemistry, was awarded an NSF Fellowship.  Delora is completing her undergraduate degree at Cal. State. – Long Beach and hopes to join the lab of Professor Irving Epstein in the fall of 2011.

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