The National Institutes of Health have awarded a $305,911 grant to Butler University that will support research into stopping tuberculosis infections before they start.

jeremyjohnson09Associate Professor of Chemistry Jeremy Johnson is principal investigator for the research project, titled “Investigation of mycobacterial hydrolases and their role in lipolysis.”

Tuberculosis (TB) bacterium can live in a patient’s lungs in a non-infectious state for an extended period of time, Johnson said. One-third of the world’s population is estimated to have such dormant TB infections.

“TB survives in this dormant state by secreting essential enzymes, known as serine hydrolases, to extract energy from the host,” he said. “Using a mixture of organic chemistry, biochemistry, and microbiology, our goal is to measure the unique chemical reactivity of TB serine hydrolases and to identify serine hydrolases essential to the survival of dormant TB infections.”

Serine hydrolases could be used to design novel treatments against dormant TB infection and for molecular identification of dormant TB infections, Johnson said.

The grant, which runs through April 2018, will help extend Johnson’s previous Butler- and NSF-funded research in this field.

The grant will also provide summer stipends as well as supply money and travel support for Butler undergraduates whom Johnson plans to involve in his research.

“The research goals will also be integrated into classroom and laboratory teaching with upper-level laboratory students in biochemistry and chemical biology exploring the methodologies utilized in the grant,” he said.

“Professor Johnson’s work has obvious scientific and practical importance. But it also provides our students with an outstanding experiential learning opportunity,” said Provost Kathryn Morris.

“Johnson’s undergraduate students will be actively engaged in the research project. Faculty-mentored projects like this one ensure our students are well prepared for graduate school, professional school, or work experiences upon graduation,” she said.

Media contact:
Mary Ellen Stephenson