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Christopher D. Rae Receives Undergraduate American Society for Microbiology Fellowship

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Christopher D. Rae10 July 2014 – Pennsylvania State University senior Christopher D. Rae has been awarded the American Society for Microbiology's 2014 Undergraduate Research Fellowship (ASM-URF). The award is made to highly competitive students who wish to pursue graduate careers in microbiology. Rae is one of 28 fellows awarded funds for summer of 2014.

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major Rae, is conducting research with Kenneth Keiler, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. The focus of the research project is to identify inhibitors of the trans-translation pathway in methicillin resistant Staph. aureus (MRSA) that one day may be successful candidates for novel antibiotic development. MRSA is a deadly pathogenic bacteria with a strong ability to gain antibiotic resistance. Because of this, MRSA infections are a persistent problem invoking the need for new treatment options focused on previously untargeted mechanisms.

Rae says, “I am testing different compounds for their ability to inhibit a bacterial pathway called trans-translation that is present in many bacteria, including MRSA.  Trans-translation is a quality control mechanism in which a key RNA called tmRNA, and an accessory protein named SmpB, function to release stalled ribosome complexes that would otherwise accumulate within the cell. This pathway is a perfect target for novel drug development because it is essential for bacterial growth yet not found in humans; therefore drug toxicity is expected to be low”.

Rae’s involvement in the project will ultimately aid in the development of a successful trans-translation activity verification assay for MRSA and advance the research of Keiler lab toward one of it's main goals of identifying inhibitors for use in drug development.

Fellows receive a ten-week stipend to conduct full-time summer research with an American Society for Microbiology (ASM) mentor at their home institution. In addition to the stipend, fellowship recipients receive a two-year American Society of Microbiology student membership and travel support for the opportunity to present their research results at the society's 2015 ASM General Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. The American Society for Microbiology, headquartered in Washington, D.C., has more than 40,000 members worldwide. For more information on the fellowship, visit the societies website.