Awards Database

Cottrell College Science Awards - 2015

Andre K. Isaacs

College of the Holy Cross
Chemistry

Synthesis of Beta-lactams by a Cu-catalyzed Cyclization Reaction of Siloxyalkynes and Ketenimines

The most widely used antibiotics work by interfering with a bacterium’s ability to construct its cell wall, which eventually proves lethal to the organism.

But there are always a few bacteria with enzymes that resist antibiotic damage, thus allowing them to grow and reproduce. Scientists have identified more than a thousand of these enzymes in various strains of bacteria. And resistant bacteria are gradually becoming more prevalent, resulting in antibiotics growing ever less effective in treating disease.

André K. Isaacs, assistant professor of chemistry at the College of the Holy Cross, has received a Cottrell College Science Award from Research Corporation for Science Advancement to create a novel method for generating a diverse group of new antibiotic molecules that can evade inactivation by these enzymes.

Issacs and his students will employ a variation on a methodology called “click chemistry” because it aims to join small molecular units together quickly, not unlike clicking together modular Leggo© units, to generate many different chemical structures. Specifically, they will be attempting to create variations on the β-lactam (beta-lactam) molecular ring that gives many antibiotics their antibacterial power.

If they are successful, their work could lead to new, highly effective antibiotics, keeping us one step ahead of disease-causing bacteria that have plagued humankind throughout history.

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