Laura Miller Conrad
Fighting Hospital-Acquired Infections
Growing up, Laura Miller Conrad was in awe of medicine’s power to cure disease, which inspired her to study organic chemistry and conduct chemistry research in search of disease treatments. This work led to her present day pursuit: blocking antibiotic resistant pathways in bacteria that cause hospital-acquired infections.
“The antibiotic colistin is one drug that has effectively treated these types of infections, caused by multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa, but we are now encountering colistin resistance,” she explains. “However, our lab has identified a class of small molecules that make P. aeruginosa more susceptible to colistin-mediated eradication.”
Undergraduate and master’s degree students from Chemistry, Biology, Biomedical Engineering, and Chemical Engineering conduct the research on the project, from the synthesis of the small molecules to microbiological assays to in vitro kinetics. They apply concepts from their academic studies while learning the skills needed to conduct research independently.
“In the long term, we hope that these small molecules may eventually be used in clinical settings to help save the lives of those infected with this bacterium,” says Dr. Miller Conrad. “At the same time, we are trying to develop even more potent drugs to battle hospital-acquired infections.”
Mellanie Gomes, ’20 Chemical Engineering, is adjusting her pipetman in the biosafety cabinet in preparation for diluting the P. aeruginosa culture. Mellanie is a National Institute of Health Research Training Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) scholar.
PI: LAURA MILLER CONRAD
Chemistry, College of Science
SPONSOR: National Institutes of Health