Cambridge Rindge and Latin School
Cambridge, MA

Donald Raymond
Center for the Development of Therapeutics 

A wider variety of affordable drug treatments to malaria is required as the World Health Organization works to globally eradicate the parasite.  All drugs work by targeting specific proteins and inhibiting their function; this hopefully leads to cell death. One particularly attractive class of drugs, known as suicide inhibitors, irreversibly bind to their target proteins by forming covalent bonds to cysteine residues in the protein active sites, accelerating cell death.  Nia’s project worked to determine whether or not a series of newly-synthesized drugs based on rapamycin acted as suicide inhibitors for a protein found in malaria called FKBP35.  Using differential scanning calorimetry, mass spectrometer, and X-ray crystallography, Nia gathered a wealth of evidence to suggest that the bond formed between two of her drug candidates and the target protein was significantly stronger than that formed by the control drugs, suggesting that her compounds are, indeed, suicide inhibitors.  

“I had always seen science as this complex, interesting and beautiful field but it wasn’t until a few years ago, the beginning of high school, that I realized that this is something that I could continue with as a career,” said Nia.  “This program more than anything has influenced my decision to pursue science as a career and what major to choose. Without this program, I could not have realized the passion I have for this field and the paths I can take to get where I want to be.”