Antibiotics at work

knox.jpg

James Knox with a background image of penicillinase, the bacterial enzyme he and his lab mapped from X-ray data. Photo by Kim Bova.

Society’s widespread use of antibiotics often causes bacteria to genetically mutate to survive, creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can be deadly. But decades of research by James Knox, Chem’63, has given pharmaceutical companies vital tools to help them design new antibiotics or re-engineer old ones these resistant bacteria can’t elude.

A professor emeritus of molecular and cell biology at the University of Connecticut, Knox has spent his career illuminating these microscopic enemies. In the 1980s and ’90s, the research he conducted in the X-ray diffraction laboratory at the university’s Institute of Materials Science was the first to show penicillin bound to its bacterial target enzyme.

His research was also the first to establish the molecular structure of other enzymes that provide penicillin and vancomycin-type antibiotic resistance.

Knox says investigations were published in the journal Science and were covered by major news organizations. They led to more than 100 invitations to speak around the world.

Knox says his molecular imagescontinue to be used by pharmaceutical and academic scientists to understand antibiotic action and mutational changes, and to design new antibiotics.

“In the old days, it was trial and error — just testing whether a chemical killed the bacteria or not,” Knox says. “Now we can get an atomic-level picture of the enzymes’ molecular structure, then the drugs can be rationally designed to interact with them.”

His archived X-ray data and enzyme structure images are available for free from the Protein Data Bank. “They’ll still be there in 100 years,” he says. “As their methods of analysis grow, scientists and chemists will have new ways of using our basic data in their design of future antibiotics.”

Around the Puck

Pushing the boundaries of space exploration

Space tourism could start in the next  two years, says Jeff Thornburg, AE’96, but it’s going to be expensive.

[Read More...]

EWB completes Guatemala project

After nearly a decade of work, a small Guatemalan village can now count on clean drinking water thanks to the Missouri S&T student chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB).

[Read More...]

Homecoming 2017

The Miner Alumni Association honored a select group of alumni during Homecoming for their accomplishments and their devotion to the association, the campus and its students.

[Read More...]

Dissolving electronics

Electronic devices that can not only be implanted in the human body but also completely dissolve on their own — known as “bioresorbable” electronics — are one of medical technology’s next frontiers.

[Read More...]

Automated kiosk speeds travel security

Your wait time at the airport could drop significantly thanks to a new automated security kiosk developed by Nathan Twyman, assistant professor of business and information technology.

[Read More...]