Award Allows Dounay to Research African Sleeping Sickness Drug
Amy Dounay ’96, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has received a $35,000 grant from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement. The grant will support two summers of research, allowing Dounay and two undergraduate researchers to design, synthesize, and evaluate new drugs for Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT), also known as African sleeping sickness.
Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) threatens the lives of thousands of sub-Saharan Africans annually. Treatment of HAT relies on medicines discovered during the 1920s through ’40s that are expensive and have modest efficacy and unacceptable toxicity. A safe, orally administered drug that is effective against HAT is urgently needed and could set the stage for eradication of the disease, Dounay says.
The project’s primary goal is to identify a new drug class for treatment of HAT that may demonstrate superior potency, safety, or pharmaceutical properties to existing medicines, she says. Dounay anticipates that the project will broadly benefit HAT research and the field of medicinal chemistry.
Dounay explains her lab’s approach: “Using the structure of a recently reported drug candidate as a starting point, we have used computational modeling to hypothesize that an alternate series of analogs displays similar structural features, and should therefore maintain significant anti-trypanosomal activity. Our proposed analogs have never been synthesized, and thus represent a novel approach for HAT.”