Mr. Djade Soumana, a third-year graduate student in Dr. Celia Schiffer’s laboratory, was awarded a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards for Individual Predoctoral Fellows (F31) from the National Institute of General Medicine at NIH to support his doctoral research. The project titled: HCV PROTEASE: FROM ATOMIC MECHANISM FOR DRUG RESISTANCE TO NOVEL DRUG DESIGN – addresses the Hepatitis C pandemic that infects an estimated 170 million people worldwide, new drugs called protease inhibitors are coming on the market but are only effective on patients in the west. Djade plans to study the molecular interactions of these drugs in forms of the virus that predominantly infect the rest of the world, with the hope of developing more effective drugs. In particular crystal structures of the protease domain of HCV NS3/4A from various genotypes prevalent globally will be determined in complex with their natural substrates and inhibitors. This is with the goal of getting one step closer to designing an inhibitor that satisfies two major properties: 1) the inhibitor must fit within the overall substrate envelope of all HCV NS3/4A protease; 2) the inhibitor must exhibit a very low susceptibility to drug resistance.
In addition, Djade was awarded the prestigious Hope Scholarship. Hope scholarships are awarded to New England minority students, enrolled in high school, college, medical, graduate or professional school, who have demonstrated an interest in biomedical, biotechnology or other science-related fields. The two-year award of $7500 will be awarded during the annual “Evening of Hope” on May 9th.