With some 2 million molecules to screen, that process might have taken 40 years to complete by old methods, Sacchettini said. But it takes his lab just two weeks to process because Sacchettini and colleagues thought of a way to use university computers in off hours while they are not being used by students.
When a blocker is found, he added, the lab buys or makes the compound and creates another 3-D image "with the inhibitor bound to it and try to improve on it," he said. "No matter the disease, the process is always the same."
Repetitious but not boring, said Sacchettini whose enthusiasm extends to a 50-person team. On a recent visit to his lab, technicians and students bustled about like stock floor traders in an up market.
"What's challenging or unusual, that's what keeps my job exciting," Sacchettini said. "Something that strikes you where you think you can make a difference."
In addition to TB and malaria, his team is studying drug design for Alzheimer's, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
"The challenge comes from the differences among proteins," he said. "If I think someone has never tried something, that's the drive for me to get into it.
"Sometimes we try an idea and it doesn't work, but being an academic means we have the freedom to try new ideas and approaches to solve a long-standing problem."
As for his career choice in college, Sacchettini first worked as a bartender.
"I could mix drinks without measuring," Sacchettini recalls. "Turns out that was perfect training for biochemistry."
|Contact: Kathleen Phillips|
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications