Steven Van Lanen, a professor in the UK College of Pharmacy‘s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, is working to discover new antibiotics to combat the ever-increasing problem of antibiotic resistance.
Five students – three undergraduates and two students completing a dual Doctor of Pharmacy and Master of Pharmaceutical Sciences degree program – assisted the professor in searching for new antibiotic leads. This led two students to study none other than rotting apples.
While it might seem odd, it has provided valuable research experience for the students and has also advanced a promising research endeavor in the field of natural products.
Van Lanen’s team is collaborating with Lisa Vaillancourt, professor and director of graduate studies in plant pathology in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. While Vaillancourt’s lab is focused on understanding how certain fungal organisms invade plants, particularly those that can plague Kentucky’s apple crops and cause them to rot, Van Lanen’s lab is now looking at the same rot-causing fungi to see if some of the small molecules found growing on the apples could lead to new antibiotics.
“The ultimate goal is to find new antibiotics that can be used in the clinic to treat infectious diseases, but we are not limiting it to that,” he said. “The research could also potentially benefit the agricultural sector, for example, by better understanding how to manage plant diseases.”
While the research is promising, for Van Lanen it is also the opportunity to expose more students to research as early as possible during their educational journey.
“It makes a big difference for the students who have research experience prior to graduate school and can often even change their future path,” he said.
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This content was produced by UK HealthCare Brand Strategy.