Rising senior chemistry majors Ben Hutcherson from Frankfort, KY and Kyla Tolliver form Greenup, KY have been selected as the first two Georgetown College students to benefit from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Research Program. They will be conducting research into the synthesis of drugs that may be used to fight breast cancer and lymphoma this summer, in the lab of Dr. Patrick Sheridan.

Ben is no stranger to laboratory work. He has worked on biodiesel research at the University of Kentucky’s Center for Applied Energy Research and is currently working on an analytical chemistry project with Dr. David Fraley in Georgetown’s Chemistry Department. Ben anticipates joining a doctoral program in chemistry at either the University of Kentucky or the University of Georgia. Kyla who is very enthusiastic about her research project is interested in pediatric medicine and would like to attend the UK College of Medicine upon graduation from Georgetown.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Research Program – Summer 2009

Research Initiative

Many antibiotics, anti-tumor drugs and other pharmaceuticals are produced by bacteria, fungi or plants. These molecules are often harvested from the environment for clinical purposes. Unfortunately, isolation of compounds from the environment can be an expensive and low yielding process. Furthermore, isolation procedures provide limited opportunities to modify the chemical and biological properties of the natural product.

With such limitations and a voracious need for medications to meet the demands of an ailing, aging and increasingly at risk population, practical laboratory synthesis of medicines must be developed in order to protect and safeguard public health.

Research Fellows

Ben Hutcherson
Project: Synthesis of a Human Lymphoma NF-κB Inhibitor: Cryptopyrone

The nuclear factor NF-κB represents a class of transcription factors that is constitutively active in numerous types of cancers; and is not only essential, but heavily involved in cell development, inflammation and the immune response. Cryptopyrone is a member of a class of compounds that has illustrated an ability to inhibit the activity of the NF-κB complexes in human lymphoma cells and represents a potential therapeutic target.

Kyla Tolliver
Project: Synthesis of anti-cancer analogs of Laurenditerpenol

Laurenditerpenol is an extract of the marine red alga Laurencia intricata. It was the first natural marine product shown to inhibit activation of HIF-1 by hypoxia when tested in breast tumor cells. Laurenditerpenol and structurally similar pharmacaphores could potentially be utilized in the treatment of many other diseases, including a number of cancers such as: liver, throat, lung, prostate, colon, stomach, cervical, esophageal, tongue, oral, pancreas, thyroid, leukemia, and myeloma.

Principal Investigator

Patrick G. Sheridan, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Tulane University (2005)
Advisor: Prof. Harry E. Ensley