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Arnold School of Public Health

ENHS Microbial Interactions Laboratory receives $390,000 grant from NSF to develop antimicrobial materials

September 8, 2016 | Erin Bluvas, 

Building on the $1.4 million grant that the Microbial Interactions Laboratory received earlier this year from the National Institutes of Health, the team of researchers has received another grant to further their work. Housed in the Arnold School’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences (ENHS) and led by Professor of ENHS and Associate Dean of Research Alan Decho, the lab will use the $390,000 grant—this time from the National Science Foundation (NSF)—to advance their efforts in designing antimicrobial surfaces and materials.

The grant will be used to fund a three-year project, “Facial Amphiphilic Antimicrobials Biomaterials Containing Fused Multicyclic Structures,” to develop a new class of compounds that target bacterial cell membranes and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The project seeks to design nanostructures for coating surfaces, which may later be used in medical implant devices or other tools to thwart the growth of fouling bacteria.

As with the NIH grant announced earlier in the year, the lab will collaborate with Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Chuanbing Tang on the NSF grant. This time, they will also partner with Senior Researcher Jerry Ebalunode (University of Houston).

“Bacterial infections have now evolved into a global healthcare crisis,” says Decho. “The ever-increasing emergence of bacterial resistance to traditional antibiotics is a puzzling issue in battling infectious diseases.”

This project not only advances the knowledge of a class of antimicrobial agents based on multicyclic terpenoids, but it also uncovers new concepts for designing facial amphiphilicity. In addition, the grant will provide training opportunities to graduate students and undergraduate students in organic polymer synthesis, modeling and antimicrobials—including students from underrepresented groups. Several integrated educational activities for high school, undergraduate and graduate students will be carried out to stimulate their interest in science and technology as well.

“One of the direct outcomes of this program will be the development of prototype antimicrobial compounds and polymers for educational demonstration,” says Decho. “We will continue to expand on the highly successful Project Seed Summer Research Program to high school students from economically disadvantaged families.”

Other activities involving K-12 students include a series of presentations called ‘Small World with Big Impacts: Nanobiology” and biomolecular visualization workshops. These programs will serve as integrated educational experience for academically bound graduate students.

Related: ENHS Microbial Interactions Laboratory receives $1.4 million NIH grant to bolster antibiotics

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