Apparently Pieter wasn’t lying to me when he said my undergraduate thesis was on a really important topic. In yesterday’s Tribune, they dug up an apparently old piece of news that I hadn’t heard. The folks at UIUC‘s new IGB received a $7 million grant from the NIH back in April. For what? Apparently to use the technique Pieter and I (mainly Pieter, mind you) helped design for understanding and developing antibiotics.
“The genetic screening method they are using has been available to the scientific community for about three years. Metcalf considers it a powerful aid in his search because it replaces a hit-or-miss screening system in which scientists had to grow the bacteria under a variety of conditions to find out what antibiotics they could produce.”
Of course, this is only getting covered in the Tribune now (7 months after the grant was awarded) because of all the hype about MRSA in the high schools. Considering we specifically designed our method to promote development of new antibiotics that could kill MRSA (and do many other things), it’s no wonder someone decided it might be important around now. I just hope in a few years we hear that their work (and our technique) has paid off and that they’ve got a prospective drug candidate or two. For further reading, see my undergrad thesis below.
One problem I have with the Tribune newspaper article is that it didn’t mention the other 4 researchers. Now Prof. Metcalf may be the lead investigator, but let’s face it, mass spec is the backbone of the technique. A hat-tip to Neil or the Kelleher Group would have been nice, guys. But I guess the public really doesn’t care about the “how”, they just want to know that someone’s on the case. Well folks, the scientists are on it.