On August 8, 2022, a team of Barnard affiliates, including Christina Vizcarra, assistant professor of chemistry, Christian Rojas, professor of chemistry, and Jean Vadakkan, senior lecturer of chemistry, published new research in Scientific Reports, a peer-reviewed open access journal from the publishers of Nature. The work, titled “Alterations to the broad-spectrum formin inhibitor SMIFH2 modulate potency but not specificity,” investigates how altering the chemical structure of a formin inhibitor called SMIFH2 affects the way it functions. Formins are a class of regulatory proteins found in human cells that have attracted much attention for their roles in health and disease.
Other Barnard-affiliated members of the research team include Post-Doctoral Research Associate Marina Orman ’11, Senior Associate Laboratory Director and General Chemistry Laboratory Director Suqing Liu, Laboratory Instructional Support Specialist Judith M. Kamm, as well as students and Barnard graduates: Maya Landis ’20, Aisha Oza ’20, Deepika Nambiar ’22, Joana Gjeci ’22, Kristen Song ’19, Vivian Huang ’18, Amanda Klestzick ’21, and Carla Hachicho ’19.
Their article revealed that several chemical derivatives are more potent formin inhibitors than SMIFH2, though none were capable of distinguishing between different types of formins. The study’s findings will inform the future development of small molecules that target specific formins.
This project was partially run as a CURE (course-based undergraduate research experience) in Barnard’s lab course, “Advanced Chemical Synthesis,” which was led over several years by Rojas and Vadakkan. They synthesized many of the molecules that were studied for this research.