Relly Brandman is a graduate student in the Chemical and Systems Biology Department at Stanford. This department was originally called the Molecular Pharmacology Department and it still has a tradition of being very closely connected to pharmaceuticals and therapeutics. Relly’s work with Folding@home is very much in this tradition.
Relly is interested in studying the ribosome tunnel as a target for novel antibiotics. There are already several antibiotics which target the ribosome tunnel (you may have already taken some, such as Erythromycin). However, these drugs appears to be easily circumvented by the bacteria — they have evolved around the drugs and have become drug resistant. Indeed, drug resistance in bacteria makes sense — as the drugs we take exit our bodies in urine, and sit in the sewers where they interact with bacteria. The bacteria which survive are the ones that aren’t affected, and this causes a selective pressure towards antibiotic resistance — evolution at work!
Relly’s project (joint with Guha Jayachandran, featured in a previous post) is to first predict and understand existing antibiotic behavior, and then predict novel antibiotics. This is part of a Stanford University BioX grant, with two experimental groups. If successful, we should be able to find novel types of antibiotics, which should hopefully be very useful in dealing with the major problem of drug resistance.