Mana Espahbodi has received the 2011 Norbert L. Wiech Outstanding Junior Award. The award, established by Wiech, a 1960 Notre Dame graduate who became a leading biochemist and drug developer, honors academic excellence and accomplishments in undergraduate research.
Espahbodi has conducted significant research in the laboratory of Mayland Chang, where she started as a high school student one summer washing dishes. She was coauthor of an article, "Sulfonate-Containing Thiiranes as Selective Gelatinase Inhibitors", published in ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters. The work is part of her research to find water-soluble forms of the inhibitor that can be used to treat stroke and brain injury. These analogs have improved water solubility and better drug-like properties. Recently, the Chang laboratory has designed a water-soluble injectable inhibitor has been shown to rescue up to 60 percent of brain cells that are destined to die in a mouse model of stroke.
Now Espahbodi is working on a project to advance a new class of antibiotic that shows promise in the fight against Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The potential drug has shown some efficacy in a mouse model of infection, but Espahbodi is part of an effort to improve in vivo activity and optimize its drug-like properties. She expects to work this summer in a National Institutes of Health lab or remain on campus with a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Eventually, Espahbodi plans to attend medical school.