Research on New Antibiotics at WSU Gets a Fresh Boost

PULLMAN, Wash. — Research at Washington State University on developing new classes of antibiotics has been given a boost with a recent grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to purchase a high powered nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer.
According to Jeremy Evans, director of the WSU Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Center which will house the equipment, the new, more powerful instrument will permit the study of larger molecules and advance the study of structural biology. “Increased knowledge of the structure of molecules will significantly reduce the time needed to develop new drugs and herbicides,” he said.
Current work being done in Evans’ laboratory is focusing on an enzyme in plants that is the target for the popular Roundup herbicide. Recent work has shown that this enzyme, which is unique to plants and bacteria, might also be a useful target for the development of novel antibiotics.
“As we enter the next century, the need for new classes of antibiotics is becoming a serious health issue, and we hope that with the new NMR spectrometer, we can do the structural biology necessary to help discover a new class of antibiotics,” Evans said. Other work in the NMR Center includes the use of structural biology in helping the development of novel anti-cancer and anti-AIDS drugs.
The $475,000 Murdock grant is the final funding needed for WSU to obtain a $1.4 million NMR spectrometer. The high-power, liquids and solids spectrometer will be the first in the Pacific Northwest and one of only three in the United States. A vendor is being selected to build the unit to order.
“This is an excellent opportunity for us, with the generous help from the Murdock Charitable Trust and the National Institutes of Health, to take an outstanding program and help it become one of the best in the world,” said WSU President Samuel Smith.
Evans said, “WSU is extremely fortunate to have the support of the Murdock Trust in this venture. The new 600 MHz wide-bore spectrometer will broaden the scope of research possibilities for scientists in more than 13 academic departments from four WSU colleges.” WSU’s leadership in structural biology attracts researchers and research dollars from across the country, he added.
The grant from the Murdock Trust is the latest in a long history of support for WSU.