William Wuest, Daniel Swern Early Career Development Professor of Chemistry, should be proud right now. He and his team have earned two important grants to help further research in the field of narrow spectrum antibiotics. In particular, he is one of the 94 inaugural recipients to receive the prestigious Early Stage Investigator MIRA grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which recognizes outstanding Young Investigators in biomedical research.
“Antibiotics right now operate on a broad-spectrum, meaning they kill all the bacteria,” Wuest explains. “They kill the beneficial kind you have, the ‘good guys’—such as ones which aid in digestion or oral health—as well as the bad ones that make you sick. We are working on compounds that specifically target and kill the ‘bad guys’.” Based on these findings, the NIH has awarded Wuest and his team a 5 year, $2 million grant to continue this research.
Andrew Steele, a fourth year chemistry graduate student and a member of the Wuest group, learned a lot about conducting research by being involved with both projects from the beginning, “One of the great things about Dr. Wuest is that he encourages ownership of the whole project so I’m not just working in chemistry,” says Steele. “I’m involved in the biology part and all other stages as well.”
The Wuest group is a diverse team, comprised of ten graduate students working alongside two postdoctoral researchers and five undergraduate students. “I worked in a similar system when I was in college,” Wuest explains, “teams tackle the issues from different perspectives while also mentoring and developing the more junior members.”
Wuest and his team also earned a second NIH grant (5 year, $1.9 million) specifically for their work focusing on compounds that kill S. mutans, the causative bacteria of cavities, dental caries, and heart disease. Bettina Buttaro, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, played an important role in the antibiotics research. “Her knowledge of S. mutans and her assistance with confocal microscopy enabled our group to obtain NIH funding,” says Wuest. “She also mentored approximately half of my group in her lab at the medical school so without her none of this would have been possible!”
Says graduate student Steele, “The chemistry department here at Temple feels small as we have frequent access to professors and mentoring opportunities, despite being a large department at a large university.”