Problem is, you can't actually see a protein molecule or the thousands of chemical reactions that take place within it over nanoseconds of time. However, researchers can develop computerized models of the molecules to predict their behavior and zoom in on possible targets. Damian Allis, research professor in the chemistry department, will be developing models for both projects. "The simulations allow us to view the process and identify sticky ends of the proteins that could potentially be used as binding sites for transport molecules," Allis says.
Unlike the tetanus vaccine molecule, the rotavirus molecule Doyle's team will be working with is not a protein; it is a viral capsulethe outer core of which is coated with proteins. "It's a totally different problem," Doyle says. "We need to deliver the viral capsid to the wall of the small intestine and keep it there long enough to trigger an immune response directly in the intestine, which is the first line of defense against the disease."
Current oral rotavirus vaccines use tiny amounts of weakened, live bacteria. The vaccines' possible side effects limit distribution in countries where access to health care is not readily available, according to the World Health Organization. Doyle's aim is to develop a vaccine that does not contain live bacteria and has fewer side effects. The results could lead to wider distribution in low-income countries, ultimately saving hundreds of thousands of lives.
"We have some strong ideas and some good people on our team who bring very different skill sets to these projects," Doyle says. "The University has been very supportive of this
|Contact: Judy Holmes|