On Thursday, February 4th, McMurry played host to Dr. Sung-Kun Kim from Baylor’s Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. Dr. Kim spoke to students and faculty about his research into strategies for inhibiting activity of metallo-beta-lactamases. These enzymes destroy the beta-lactam antibiotics (penicillins, cephalosporins) and thus make the bacteria that produce them resistant to these drugs. Such enzymes are commonly called penicillinases, and pose a threat to effective treatment of patients with many types of infections.
Dr. Kim’s strategy involves the use of small, specific nucleic acid fragments he has labeled “aptamers” as penicillinase inhibitors so that the enzyme is disabled and cannot destroy beta-lactam antibiotics co-administered. Such an approach would mimic that used in the product Augmentin (R), which combines amoxicillin (a penicillin) with clavulanic acid – a chemical that is inhibitory for normal beta-lactamases. Because this approach does not work with the metallo-beta-lactamases, a new inhibitor was sought for this second class of beta-lactamases.
Through use of novel screening methods known as SELEX, candidate inhibitor fragments were identified and created. Tests revealed some 10-nucleotide fragments gave enzyme inhibition in nanomolar concentrations. Results from specificity tests and other tests of the molecules show promise for this new class of drugs for providing protection for beta-lactams that has not been available to date.
Dr. Kim’s presentation was entertaining and informing, and was received by an appreciative audience of students and faculty. He reminds us that biomedical science is an ongoing quest to make the next advance in the never-ending war between humans and disease. He stayed around afterward to meet with students interested in graduate programs available at Baylor, and to distribute the “Baylor toys” brought as giveaways – mementos from Baylor of his Abilene visit. More on Dr. Kim’s research can be found at his Baylor webpage: http://www.baylor.edu/chemistry/index.php?id=49300.