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Undergraduate Researchers

Mike German, Chemical Engineering and Biochemistry

Evaluating Deoxyribozymes as a Novel Antiretroviral Theraphy in HIV-1
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Daniele Fabris 

Due to the rapid emergence of strains that are resistant to one or more of the active agents used in typical multidrug regimens targeting the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), it is necessary to explore the development of novel antiretroviral therapies. As such, we aim to evaluate deoxyribozymes (DZs) as possible therapeutic agents targeting specific, highly conserved domains of the 5’- untranslated region of the HIV-1 genome, such as the packaging signal (Y-RNA) and transactivation response element (TAR), which each play crucial roles during the viral life-cycle. DZs provide substantially more attractive candidates for antiviral applications as compared to their ribozyme counterparts due to their superior chemical stability, lower potential toxicity, and improved catalytic efficiency. While in principle viral infections of any kind might be treated with nucleic acid enzymes designed to cleave essential mRNAs, those viruses that carry an RNA genome, such as HIV-1, appear to be the most promising targets.


How did you know this was the project you wanted to do?

I’ve worked with Dr. Fabris since the fall of 2007 when I wanted to do some biochemistry research. I enjoyed the work I was doing and the people I was working with, and I felt like the research could eventually be used towards the greater good.

How did you find your mentor for this project?

I took CHEM 300- Analytical Chemistry with Dr. Fabris in Spring 2007 and liked Dr. Fabris and asked him if I could do work with him in the fall.

Is this your first independent research project?

I had an internship down in Texas A&M University in Environmental Engineering. It was not so independent and I don’t think we did that much research, but it was something.  

Do/did you get course credit for this work?

I got CHEM 399 credit in Fall 2007. 

How did you hear about the Undergraduate Research Award program?

Probably through a website, email, poster, or teacher. I had heard about it before and had ideas for interesting research, but couldn’t find professors to work with. 

Was the application difficult to do?

No we just wrote about our future plans.

How much did your mentor help you with this?

He was not too involved in the application procedure. Kevin Turner, the post-doc in my lab, has been very supportive of me throughout the time I’ve worked with him. He has really helped me to become a better scientific writer. 

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?

Even if the research areas do not sound too interesting, just go out and try some field. I did not get involved until junior year because I was not interested in the web abstracts I saw for professors.  But reading a web abstract does not fully explain what a professor is doing at the time, it’s best to go and talk to professors you think you can work with. 

What are your career goals?

To never enter the “real world.”  To help save the world, or at least help people to have cleaner water and more plentiful food. To play, have lots of fun, and not lose myself. I would like to have a big family eventually. 

What has been the hardest part about your research?

Being patient. 

How does your research relate to your work in other classes?

It’s related to some topics in biochemistry. I am about to start some modeling work with Dr. Castellanos, and I think deoxyribozymes action and RNA structure could somehow be modeled in an interesting and meaningful way.