Colorado College Associate Professor of Chemistry Amy Dounay ’96 is the lead author of an article published in the Journal of Chemical Education.
“Globally Distributed Drug Discovery of New Antibiotics: Design and Combinatorial Synthesis of Amino Acid Derivatives in the Organic Chemistry Laboratory” describes various aspects of the “Distributed Drug Discovery” project, which students in Dounay’s organic chemistry course have participated in for the past several years.
The project was initiated about 10 years ago by two chemistry professors at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis. As part of the multi-institutional collaboration, which includes several colleges and universities in the U.S., Poland, and Cuba, Dounay says students in organic chemistry lab courses synthesize new molecules with potential antibiotic properties.
The molecules are later tested for antibiotic activity in microbiology labs in Poland, Australia, and Indiana.
“Through this collaborative research project, we are working to identify new antibiotic medicines to address the emerging crisis of resistance to available antibiotic medicines,” says Dounay. As part of the collaboration, Dounay traveled to Cuba a few years ago to help run a drug discovery workshop for students at the University of Havana, and some of the educational outcomes from that workshop are also highlighted in the article.
Dounay joined the Colorado College faculty in 2012 and teaches courses in organic chemistry and medicinal chemistry.
Her current research at CC focuses on the discovery of new medicines to treat African sleeping sickness. She also is developing new pedagogical approaches for organic chemistry education, including involving students in introductory courses in research toward new antibiotics. Her research program at Colorado College has been funded by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement Cottrell College Science Award, the Boettcher Foundation Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Award, and a National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation grant.
She obtained her Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the University of Minnesota, where she researched the synthesis of marine natural products. She then completed a National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellowship in organic chemistry at the University of California, Irvine. Her postdoctoral research focused on applications of the intramolecular asymmetric Heck reaction toward the synthesis of alkaloid natural products. From 2004-12, she worked at Pfizer in the neurosciences medicinal chemistry division, where she was a laboratory head and chemistry team leader on numerous drug discovery projects for psychiatry and neurodegeneration.