When 62 Nobel laureates from around the world gather this summer in the Lindau, Germany, Shana Stoddard, a University of Mississippi graduate student in chemistry will be there. She is among 77 young U.S. researchers (500 worldwide) chosen to participate in the Lindau meeting. As a separate recognition, Stoddard is among 50 of the 500 students at Lindau chosen for a fellowship to attend the Euroscience Open Forum sponsored by the Robert Bosch Foundation in Torino, Italy.
“I hope to gain valuable insight on how to make contributions that will benefit society,” said Stoddard, who specializes in biochemical research. “It is one thing to do research that gets published and creates new information; it is another thing to do research that generates positive change in peoples’ lives.”
Stoddard’s research focuses on developing specific inhibitors for carboxylesterase, an enzyme that catalyzes chemical reactions, as in activation of the colorectal cancer drug Camptosar. At least two carboxylesterases are present in humans, one in the liver and another in the small intestine, both of which can activate the drug.
“We know that a side effect associated with Camptosar happens because the carboxylesterase enzyme in the small intestine activates a very large percentage of the drug very fast compared to the liver carboxylesterase enzyme,” Stoddard explained. “The importance of developing specific inhibitors for carboxylesterase is to control which enzyme activates the drug. The end goal is to develop a drug that could be given at the same time as Camptosar and would eliminate the side effect.”
Stoddard’s dream is “to fix paralysis.” She began this focus in high school after one of her best friends was paralyzed as a result of corrective surgery for scoliosis.
“There is a very important connection between my dream and my current research, which is equipping me to understand how to develop enzyme inhibitors through various techniques,” she said. “I can take all of the tools I learn from this project and apply them to other biological systems.”