Dr. Ciesla awarded NSF grant to study a novel magnetic separation method to isolate compounds for drug discovery

Natural products are rich in biologically active (bioactive) compounds and serve as great sources for drug discovery. One of the major challenges in screening drug leads from natural products is the lack of effective tools to identify and separate the bioactive compounds. This project with PI Dr. Yuping Baio (CBE) will develop and characterize a new magnetic separation approach based on cell membrane-encapsulated iron oxide superparticles (a cluster of nanoparticles) for the separation and identification of bioactive compounds from natural products, which are a research area of co-PI Dr. Lukasz Ciesla. This method overcomes limitations of costly and time-intensive conventional approaches and the nonspecific binding problems of magnetic bead separation techniques. The new approach is also broadly applicable to many different types of transmembrane drug targets. The success of this project will advance industrial processes for identification and extraction of new drug leads from complex samples. The impact of this project will be further enhanced through student-led educational and outreach activities, including: (a) establishing a goal-oriented training mechanism and relevant course work for undergraduate researchers and (b) developing a STEM lead the way program with an emphasis on math concept building. Specific science outreach projects to be developed are Science middle school-targeted Olympiad training modules and magnetic fishing experiments for elementary school students through the “Science Party for Kids” program.