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In this issue:
Identifying New Targets to Extend the Effectiveness of HIV Protease Inhibitors
New Cell Tower a Boon for Grass Fire Alert
Ashley Fellowship Applications Due August 13

SLAC Today

Wednesday - July 28, 2010

Identifying New Targets to Extend the Effectiveness of HIV Protease Inhibitors

Surface rendering of the HIV protease structure showing clefts into which the fragments bind. (Image courtesy the researchers.)

The enzyme HIV protease is a common and critical drug target for combating HIV infection and AIDS. Most of the HIV virus mutations that lead to drug resistance cluster in the active site of the protease, so scientists are interested in molecules that may bind other, less changeable places on the enzyme. Computer simulations aid the design of drugs and "fragments," therapeutic molecules that are smaller than typical drugs, to bind the enzyme's surface in a way that complements the activity of traditional drugs that bind at the active site.

A team of scientists led by Dave Stout at The Scripps Research Institute has used beamlines at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource to crystallographically screen fragments binding to HIV protease. They screened 400 fragments and evaluated 800 crystals using SSRL's high-throughput robotic sample automounter system. They found two new surface-binding sites that induce the protease to change shape, potentially affecting its activity.

Their study shows that applying this high-throughput method can identify new potential drugs and drug targets that work in combination with existing drug therapies. This may allow current drugs to continue being effective, despite viral mutations. This work was published in the March 2010 issue of Chemical Biology and Drug Design.

To learn more about this research see the full scientific highlight.

SLAC emergency crews respond to yesterday's grass fire.
(Photo by Brian Sherin.)

New Cell Tower a Boon for Grass Fire Alert

Yesterday morning a quarter acre of grass on the hill above the Alpine Gate burned due to an arc flash on a power transmission line. SLAC's emergency services responded quickly and were able to control the situation in minutes, due in part to the improved cell phone signal provided by the recently erected AT&T tower.

Last year, a fire broke out in the same location, but witnesses couldn't reach 911 by cell phone. SLAC emergency response personnel also had difficulty making phone calls due to inadequate cellular signal in the area. Ultimately, employees at the adjacent Portola Valley Training Center were able to phone for help using a land line, and provided a water truck to wet the surrounding land until local emergency vehicles arrived.

During yesterday's fire, the improved cell signal allowed witnesses to contact emergency services immediately and send real-time photographs of the incident to SLAC management. This enhanced communication allowed emergency responders to contain the fire to an area half the size of last year's fire, and to extinguish the blaze within five minutes.

The fellowship was created in honor of Alonzo W. Ashley, who retired from SLAC after 30 years of dedicated and exemplary services, particularly in the area of diversity in the sciences and engineering.

Ashley Fellowship Applications Due August 13

The submission deadline is fast approaching for 2010-11 Alonzo W. Ashley Fellowship applications. Recent college graduates in a scientific or engineering field, and in-house candidates with at least three years of full-time experience at SLAC are invited to apply. Submissions are due August 13.

The fellowship is a one-year job rotation and on-the-job training opportunity accompanied by time off to attend related coursework. A successful candidate for the Ashley Fellowship is one who can align his or her career objectives to the current scientific effort at SLAC, and who is committed to promoting and exemplifying the importance of diversity in science and engineering.

Further information application instructions are available in the Alonzo Ashley Fellowship Web page.

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