Professor awarded NIH grant to address antibiotic resistance
Associate Professor of Chemistry Tanya Schneider has been awarded $326,801 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for research addressing the problem of antibiotic resistance.
Working at the interface of chemistry and biology, Schneider uses chemical tools to probe fundamental questions connected to bacterial virulence and antimicrobial biosynthesis. With this three-year grant, she is investigating bacterial communication, called quorum sensing, which allows bacteria to detect local population density through the exchange of signaling molecules. Quorum sensing typically allows bacterial populations to become more persistent and can make the treatment of infections difficult. In contrast, bacterial strains with mutated, ineffective quorum sensing machinery show a reduction in virulence. Schneider is working to characterize the key proteins that respond to quorum sensing signaling molecules in gram-negative bacteria and develop new strategies for their inhibition, which could lead to new antimicrobial therapies.
Schneider has been particularly successful in advancing the biochemical characterization of the quorum-sensing regulator protein LasR from Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and this award will support continued research related to this problematic human pathogen. In 2017, the World Health Organization listed P. aeruginosa as “Priority 1– Critical” in their list of global priority antibiotic-resistant bacteria, one of only three microbes with this designation.
“The rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria is a clear public health challenge, and our work on characterizing quorum sensing at the molecular level will increase our understanding of how such pathogenic bacteria flourish,” Schneider said. “I have been fortunate to work with a talented and dedicated group of undergraduate researchers at Connecticut College who have been excited to take on this challenge with me, and this grant will provide opportunities for even more student participation.”
Schneider’s undergraduate research group will be central to this project, contributing to protein expression and purification, small molecule synthesis, assay development, data interpretation, and manuscript preparation. The grant provides funding for nine Connecticut College undergraduate students to work over the summer in Schneider’s lab during the three-year project, as well as support for conference attendance, materials and supplies, and the purchase of specialized equipment.
This grant is 100 percent federally funded by the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). NIGMS supports basic research that increases understanding of biological processes and lays the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention.