In this edition of Research Connections, find links to researchers in the news, updates on important deadlines, and more news for University of Rochester researchers.
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Finding needles in chemical haystacks

A team of chemists including Daniel Weix, associate professsor of chemistry, has developed a process for identifying new catalysts that will help synthesize drugs more efficiently and more cheaply. The trick was to do something that has not been attempted before, to examine libraries of drugs to find the cure for bad chemistry: new catalysts.

The work was carried out in collaboration with Pfizer as part of a consortium of pharmaceutical companies interested in finding ways to make drugs using less expensive and less rare metal catalysts. Pharmaceutical companies are increasingly concerned about the use of precious metal catalysts.

"If a single mine closes somewhere in the world, a company might not be able to get the catalyst they need to make a life-saving drug," said Weix. "Using nonprecious metal catalysts, like nickel, iron, and copper, avoids this potential catastrophe."

A major barrier to using nonprecious metal catalysts is that some of the strategies learned with precious metal catalysts do not seem to apply. In particular, metal catalysts typically contain an organic molecule that controls the reactivity of the metal: a ligand.

"For the precious metal catalysts, we have hundreds, even thousands of ligands," notes Weix, "but many of them do not work well for nonprecious metals."

The team at Pfizer suggested searching for new ligands among the Pfizer library of 2.8 million compounds. Chemists identified the minimum critical elements of the best ligands and used that as a reasonable starting point, searching the library for compounds that contained the key elements. That returned more than 1,500 results. A more focused search then took into account more practical concerns about availability and likelihood of being a ligand. That returned a more manageable 82 results. Among that group, nine ligands in three different classes were found to be highly effective. Further refinements of the "hit" molecules led to even better ligands.

"We've shown that it's worthwhile to navigate known libraries of pharmaceutical compounds," said Weix. "What we did was only the beginning, and it's our hope that other chemists and pharmaceutical companies will carry out similar investigations of their compound libraries." Read more here.

Do you have an interesting photo or other image that helps illustrate your research? We would like to showcase it. Send a high resolution jpg or other version, along with a description of what it shows, to Bob Marcotte.

PI oversight: Is CITI training enough?

(This is part of a monthly series to help principal investigators understand their role in ensuring that human subject protection requirements are met in their studies.)

All internal research personnel who conduct human subject research are required to complete and maintain basic training through the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI). However, principal investigators, who are charged with overseeing the training and education of their research staff, must assess whether CITI training is sufficient given the nature of their research.

CITI training is meant to act as a baseline; it is not exhaustive of all research-related professional competencies to conduct research, and does not substitute for study-specific training. Study staff must have a thorough understanding of regulatory requirements, institutional policies, and the expectations and day-to-day activities needed to carry out compliant research. Additional training related to these competencies is available through the Office for Human Subject Protection's Research Education and Training Framework.

Study staff must also have a thorough understanding of details and attributes of the specific protocol — what does the study entail, what are the eligibility criteria, how and when are specific procedures to be conducted, and what types of safety measures are built into the protocol to monitor subjects? Typically protocol-specific training takes place prior to initiating the research and then continues, as necessary, throughout the conduct of the research to address changes to the protocol or to discuss issues that occur. This training often takes the form of study team meetings, conferences, or webinars.

Questions about human subject training opportunities? Contact Kelly Unsworth, director of research education and training in the Office for Human Subject Protection.

Congratulations to . . .

Mary Ann Mavrinac, vice provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly dean of River Campus Libraries, who has been elected as vice president/president-elect of the Association of Research Libraries, a nonprofit organization of 124 leading research libraries in the United States and Canada. In her new role, Mavrinac will help support the association's mission which focuses on influencing the changing environment of scholarly communication and public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. Read more here.

Introducing a new faculty member . . .

Ross Maddox has joined the Department of Biomedical Engineering as an assistant professor. Maddox studies the brain's solutions to the so-called "cocktail party problem," the remarkable ability of the human brain to focus on one sound source while tuning out competing sounds. His research has two main thrusts: to investigate how the visual system interacts with the auditory system to improve selective attention under noisy conditions and to identify and disassociate the neural causes of disabled listening, particularly in people who show no signs of hearing impairment as defined by current audiological testing. During his postdoctoral training University of Washington Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, Maddox earned the Pathway to Independence Award from the National Institutes of Health and an Emerging Research Grant from the Hearing Health Foundation. He also cofounded and hosted Nerd Nite Seattle, a monthly pub lecture series that features a broad array of talks on scientific and cultural topics. Maddox received his PhD at Boston University.

Applications sought for cancer research projects

The Wilmot Cancer Institute is soliciting applications for $25,000 grants to support behavioral, clinical, epidemiological, basic or translational cancer research projects. The two RFAs include Collaborative Pilot Studies and Junior Investigator Awards.

Home departments are encouraged to match the awards. All applications are due to Pam Iadarola by December 2, 2016, with an anticipated start date of January 1, 2017.

Proposals should be submitted as a single pdf file with the face sheet attached to the front of the proposal. Contact Pam Iadarola for more information.

PhD dissertation defenses

Richard Bono, Geosciences, "Paleomagnetic Investigations of Deep Time: Evolution and Dynamics of the Core, Mantle and Life." 10 a.m., Nov. 4, 2016. 229 Hutchison Hall. Advisor: John Tarduno.

Xuan Li, Genetics, "RNAi Screens And Follow-up Studies to Investigate the Regulation of the Nrf2 Signaling Pathway And the Mechanism of Action of Sumoylation Inhibitor ML792." 2 p.m., Nov. 9. 1-7619 Adolph (Lower) Auditorium. Advisor: Dirk Bohmann.

Mark your calendar

Today: Donald R. Sadoway of MIT discusses his work on liquid metal batteries, a new technology for storing large amounts of energy on electrical grids at 1:30 p.m., Hopeman 224. All are welcome. For more information, contact Jennifer Steward. Hosted by Center for Energy & Environment.

Today: Center for Integrated Research Computing (CIRC) symposium. Martin Zand from the Department of Medicine will demonstrate the application of network construction algorithms to mapping patient flow and outcomes of hospital care. Vincent Martinson from the Department of Biology will discuss analysis of gut microbiota in Drosophila. 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in URMC 3-6408 (K-307 Auditorium).

Today: 5 p.m. deadline to apply for Program of Excellence Awards of up to $50,000 each from the Center for AIDS Research for collaborative projects involving co-PIs from the School of Nursing and from the School of Medicine and Dentistry. Click here for the full pilot announcement.

Oct. 24: "Pathways Discovery Resource High-Throughput Screening Mini-Symposium," sponsored by the Center for AIDS Research. Guest speaker Sara Cherry, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. 1 to 3:30 p.m., CEL 2-7536. View the flyer at the Center for AIDS Research Events page for more information.

Oct. 27: CTSI town hall meeting on new federal requirements for clinical trials. Hosted by Carrie Dykes. Noon to 1 p.m. Class of '62 Auditorium (Medical Center, G-9425).

Oct. 31: Applications due for awards from Health Sciences Center for Computational Innovation. Awards are for short-term, early-phase work by lab staff to allow investigators to translate their ideas into computer code or models, and to get new biocomputational and health-related scientific projects up and running. Click here to view the full RFA.

Nov. 1: Deadline to apply for a CTSI Population Health Research Postdoctoral Fellowship. Click here for more information and application instructions.

Nov. 3: Phelps Colloquium: Alexander Pena, instructor with Eastman Community Music School and director of ROCmusic, presents "Transforming our At-Risk Community through the Power of Music." 4 p.m., Max of Eastman Place. For more information or to RSVP, contact Adele Coelho at 273-2571 or at

Nov. 12: RocHD3: Rochester Healthcare Deep Data Dive, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saunders Resesearch Building. Read more here.

Nov. 14: Initial abstracts due for Incubator Program awards of up to $125,000 per year for each of two years to foster interdisciplinary research collaborations in biomedical research, through the Scientific Advisory Commmittee of the School of Medicine and Dentistry. Click here for more details. Contact Anne Reed for more information. Dec. 2: Applications due for Collaborative Pilot Studies and Junior Investigator Awards from the Wilmot Cancer Institute. Contact Pam Iadarola for more information.

Please send suggestions and comments to Bob Marcotte. You can see back issues of Research Connections, an index of people and departments linked to those issues, and a chronological listing of PhD dissertation defenses since April 2014, by discipline.

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Rochester Connections is a weekly e-newsletter all faculty, scientists, post docs and graduate students engaged in research at the University of Rochester. You are receiving this e-newsletter because you are a member of the Rochester community with an interest in research topics.