Innovative research by two University of Wisconsin Oshkosh scientists will get a boost from the Applied Research—WiSys Technology Advancement Grant program in 2016-2017.
Physical chemist Jonathan Gutow and environmental microbiologist Sabrina Mueller-Spitz received the applied research grants for their respective studies: “Experimental Testing of Computationally Designed Inhibitors of Rhinovirus Infectivity,” and “Short Circuiting Bacterial Communication To Prevent Plan Disease.”
These latest grant awards bring the total support from WiSys for research studies at UW Oshkosh to nearly $345,000 in the past five years.
“Our partnership with WiSys connects us to research funding that allows our professors to continue to innovate in their fields,” said Robert Roberts, UWO’s grants and faculty development director. “This innovation transfers to our classrooms where our students benefit by having professors whose research expertise sets the mark for how excellence is recognized on our campus.”
Gutow’s work with recent UWO graduate Brandon Brummeyer, who plans to attend medical school at UW-Madison in the fall, seeks to prevent spread of the common cold with a cost-effective treatment. Using computational chemistry, the researchers have identified a number of small molecules that could stick well to the part of the rhinovirus used to attach to the cell.
“We estimate that at easily obtainable concentrations in a nasal spray, the most promising molecules would block more than 99 percent of the viral binding sites, significantly reducing the infectivity of the viruses,” Gutow said.
If the molecules work as theoretically predicted, this approach would prevent the spread of the infection instead of just alleviating symptoms as many over-the-counter treatments do.
Mueller-Spitz’s research, in partnership with UWO chemists Christopher Bianchetti and Kevin Crawford, seeks to develop a novel way to disrupt bacterial communication and prevent the bacterial destruction of valuable food crops.
Despite being microscopic, single-cell creatures, bacteria can “talk” to each other through chemical signals. More often than not, bacteria are sharing information about their surroundings and where to obtain food.
“While scientists have known that bacteria can communicate for some time, we are just beginning to understand how to use this bacterial ‘language’ against them,” Mueller-Spitz said. “The targeted destruction of the bacterial communication could prevent them from rotting stored food or allowing them to cause disease.”
The grant allows the scientists to pursue this cutting-edge research, which is in its early stages, through an interdisciplinary collaboration and to develop public-private partnerships related to the project.
The WiSys Technology Foundation is an independent, nonprofit, supporting organization of the UW System and serves as the designated technology transfer office for the 11 four-year comprehensive campuses and 13 two-year colleges, as well as UW-Extension.