Dr. Quentin Michaudel, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry at Texas A&M University, has been awarded a $1.8 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) to support research aimed at synthesizing and assembling functional molecules for use in drug discovery and drug delivery systems.
The MIRA program was established in 2015 by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) as a pilot experiment in funding science by better supporting investigators’ overall research programs through a single, unified grant, rather than multiple individual awards. By increasing funding stability, NIH officials hope to improve investigators’ ability to take on ambitious challenges and approach problems creatively while also giving them more flexibility to follow important new research directions as opportunities arise. The overall goal is to increase scientific productivity and improve the odds for important breakthroughs by providing funding that is distributed more widely among the nation’s most promising and highly talented investigators whose time, in turn, is less encumbered by the grant writing and management process.
Working at the interface of organic chemistry and polymer science, the Michaudel Laboratory seeks to design new polymerization and synthetic methods capable of producing materials with unprecedented electronic and mechanical properties, in addition to bioactive small molecules for therapeutic applications. When it comes to multidisciplinary endeavor of inventing new therapeutics, Michaudel describes the role of chemistry, from basic to applied, as nothing short of critical.
“Following the discovery of a target responsible for a disease — generally a protein — chemists are tasked to provide small-molecule inhibitors capable of selectively binding to the target receptor and inducing a cascade of molecular events responsible for improving the patient’s condition,” he said. “Identification of a drug candidate combining potency, efficacy, low toxicity and desirable pharmacokinetics requires an intense synthetic effort during which thousands of molecules are created by diversification of a bioactive scaffold.”
Michaudel and his research group work to create such novel molecules and scaffolds using sulfur fluoride exchange (SuFEx) chemistry, a modular, next-generation family of click reactions geared toward the rapid and reliable assembly of functional molecules with application in nearly all areas of modern chemistry, from drug discovery to materials science. Click chemistry refers to a fast, versatile, high-yield method of generating products that closely follow examples in nature.
For his part, Michaudel plans to use SuFEx chemistry and the MIRA funding to further his related work with animes, a ubiquitous functional group present in a myriad of molecules and consisting of a nitrogen atom bonded to one or more carbon atoms. By capitalizing on their innate reactivity and forging bonds built on their most basic elements, the Michaudel Lab hopes to transform amines into a variety of sulfamide-based bioactive small molecules and polymer architectures that will lead to the discovery of new drug candidates and methods of drug delivery while also shedding light on underexplored reaction mechanisms.
“There is a constant need to invent new methods allowing for selective modifications of complex molecules, including peptides, carbohydrates and other natural products,” Michaudel said. “Once a drug candidate is nominated, chemists need to devise a scalable process route that meets cost, safety and FDA requirements, which is another opportunity for chemical innovation. Some pharmaceuticals might have poor physical properties and/or stability, which might necessitate the development of polymeric drug-delivery systems to fully achieve their potential. These intricate macromolecules represent another type of synthetic challenge since they are designed to release their cargo upon external stimulation, for example, via a subtle pH or temperature change.”
Michaudel joined the Texas A&M Chemistry faculty in 2018 after obtaining his Ph.D. in organic chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute in 2015 that was partially funded by a Bristol-Myers Squibb Graduate Fellowship in Synthetic Organic Chemistry and completing a three-year postdoctoral research fellowship at Cornell University. While at Cornell, he developed photocatalytic systems to enable control over polymer architectures through light irradiation and worked on the synthesis of sustainable polymers from biorenewable monomers. At Texas A&M, Michaudel also holds a joint appointment in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. He recently was selected for a 2021 Thieme Chemistry Journals Award.
A native of La Rochelle, France, Michaudel earned both bachelor’s (2008) and master’s degrees (2010) from the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, which included a previous six-month research internship at Scripps. In addition, he was named one of 20 SciFinder Future Leaders in Chemistry in 2015.
To learn more about Michaudel’s research, visit https://www.michaudellab.org/.
For more information about the MIRA program, go to https://www.nigms.nih.gov/Research/mechanisms/MIRA/Pages/default.aspx.
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Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or email@example.com or Dr. Quentin Michaudel, (979) 458-2079 or firstname.lastname@example.org