Tuesday, March 10

"Bioengineering Molecules to Fight Deadly Infections"

A discussion with 

Annelise Barron, PhD

Associate Professor of Bioengineering
Stanford University

Tuesday March 10, 2009
6:00 to 7:30 p.m.

Since the time when penicillin was made available in the 1940s, bacteria have shown a stubborn ability to develop resistance.  Bacteria thwart antimicrobial drugs by inactivating the drug, pumping it out of the cell, altering the drug's binding site so it is no longer recognized or working around the specific cell part attacked by the drug (video here).

Drug resistant pathogens are having a dramatic impact on healthcare.  Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections were once limited to hospitals.  Now community (e.g. school) acquired MSRA infections in are increasingly common. Vancomycin is a drug of last resort when other antibiotics have failed, but hospitals are now confronting vancomycin resistant forms of Staphylococcus aureus.

Better education, reporting and a pipeline of new antimicrobial agents are needed to confront this issue.  One bright spot on the horizon is an entirely new class of synthetic drugs called antimicrobial peptoids.  These peptoids mimic the action of naturally occurring antimicrobial peptides (AMPs).  AMPs are evolutionarily ancient infection fighters common among all classes of life. AMPs show up everywhere in the human body, from lungs and intestines to sweat and tears. They kill by punching holes through an invaders' cell membrane.

Professor Annelise Barron has been leading efforts to bioengineer antimicrobial peptoids, or “ampetoids”.  Her research has shown that ampetoids can be effective bacterial killers, and more significantly, may not give rise to resistance.  Join Barron for a discussion on “biomimetic” materials and her cutting edge discoveries into how ampetoids work.

Barron received her PhD from UC Berkeley in chemical engineering and did post-doc work at UCSF and Aclara BioSciences in pharmaceutical chemistry and molecular biology.  She was a professor chemical engineering at Northwestern before joining the bioengineering department at Stanford in 2007.