Alumnus Timothy Wencewicz Wins Sloan Fellowship

Author: Rebecca Hicks

Dr. Timothy Wencewicz (Ph.D. '11), Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Washington University in St. Louis, is the recipient of a 2018 Sloan Research Fellowship. He is one of 126 researchers selected this year from the United States and Canada. Dr. Wencewicz was also featured in the January 9 issue of Biochemistry as one of the early career scientists representing the “Future of Biochemistry,” chosen based on success at “combining an ever diversifying set of skills and backgrounds to tackle problems of biochemical relevance.” These awards follow his 2016 selection as one of three winners of the inaugural ACS Infectious Diseases Young Investigator Award. That award recognizes researchers who have made significant contributions in the field of infectious diseases.

Dr. Wencewicz’s research focuses on antibiotic drug discovery, natural product biosynthesis, mechanism-based enzyme inhibitors, and targeted drug delivery across bacterial membranes. Wencewicz investigates new antibacterial scaffolds and drug delivery systems that can work against novel biological targets and overcome mechanisms of resistance. His recent work examined siderophores, or multidentate iron chelators used by bacteria for iron uptake, of the MDR A. baumannii bacterium. A. baumanni produces three siderophores, including the highly virulent acinetobactin. His results demonstrated that the spontaneous isomerization of the acinetobactin siderophore allows the bacterium to effectively sequester iron over a broad range of pH, indicating the need for antibacterial agents to account for both isomers in order to effectively shut down this pathway.

While at Notre Dame, Dr. Wencewicz worked under the advisement of Prof. Marvin Miller. His doctoral research focused on sideromycins, which are siderophore-antibiotic conjugates, used to deliver “Trojan Horse” type toxic antibiotics to bacteria via siderophore uptake pathways. Wencewicz was the recipient of the Jeremiah Freeman Award for Teaching Organic Chemistry (2010), the Rohm & Haas Outstanding Graduate Student Award (2011), and the Eli J. and Helen Shaheen Research Award in Science (2012). After leaving Notre Dame, Dr. Wencewicz completed a post-doctoral research fellowship at Harvard Medical School under the guidance of Christopher Walsh.