2018 July 2018 News

Crunching data to crush bacteria

Peng Tao, assistant professor of chemistry, received the prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award to support his innovative computational strategy for fighting “superbugs.”

Peng Tao, assistant professor in SMU’s Department of Chemistry, received the prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award to support his research in fighting antimicrobial resistance. Tao’s innovative strategy involves developing computational methods and an advanced theoretical framework to predict protein evolution.
“There are a special group of proteins called beta-lactamases in bacteria causing infections,” explains Tao. “The main function of these proteins is destroying antibiotics. And these proteins evolve very quickly leading to so-called ‘superbugs’. We are developing theoretical models to understand how these proteins carry out their functions as machines and predict how these machines may evolve when encountering new antibiotics. If successful, our models could be used by other researchers and pharmaceutical companies to develop new generation of antibiotics with low or even no antimicrobial resistance.”
The insight this research yields will have instrumental applications in the advancement of biomedical and pharmaceutical development.
In addition, Tao and his team are equipping and encouraging future scientists by developing online educational tools and conducting social media outreach to make science education more widely available for students and general public.
Read more at the National Science Foundation.

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