People

Kenichi (Ken) Yokoyama, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, PI

Email: ken.yoko@duke.edu

Research Focus:  My research interest is centered on mechanisms of enzymes with complex and unique functions and catalytic mechanisms.  I am also interested in the mode of action of natural products.  These biochemical questions shape our unique and highly interdisciplinary programs. Outside the lab, I enjoy playing sports, such as skiing and tennis.

 

Hai P. Nguyen, Ph.D.                    

Postdoc fellow

Email: hai.nguyen “AT” duke.edu

Research Focus:  I am developing a chemical biology program to address fundamental questions in fungal cell wall biosynthesis by combining my expertise in carbohydrate synthetic chemistry from my graduate study with enzymology and cell biology. In particular, I am designing and synthesizing small molecule probes to investigate the mechanism of catalysis and inhibition of β-1,3-glucan synthase (GS). The study will provide a critical basis for the future development of novel antifungal drugs.  I will also participate in developing chemical tools to study the mechanism of molybdenum cofactor deficiency disease.

 

Anyarat Thanapipatsiri

Postdoctoral associate

Email: anyarat.thanapipatsiri “AT” duke.edu

My current research focuses on biosynthesis and genome mining of peptidyl nucleoside antifungal antibiotics, particularly, in actinobacteria. I study mechanisms by which the molecules of interest are biosynthesized by investigating functions of genes in their biosynthetic pathways, biochemically and genetically, and identifying unknown biosynthetic gene clusters that potentially encode the production of novel nucleoside natural products. Ultimately, the methodologies developed in the projects are aimed to be usefully applied for future novel nucleoside natural product screening and discovery. In my spare time, I enjoy cooking, baking, crafting, sports (e.g., badminton, tennis, swimming) and entertaining my son with indoor and outdoor activities.

 

Abhishek Chhetri

Graduate Assistant

Email: abhishek.chhetri “AT” duke.edu

Research Focus:  I am interested in the enzymological mechanisms of beta-1,3-glucan synthase (GS), an enzyme essential for fungal cell wall biosynthesis and a proven target of FDA-approved antifungal agents. GS catalyzes polymerization of Glc using UDP-Glc as a substrate with a largely unexplored mechanism. I aim to provide insights into the catalytic mechanism through product profiling and development of small molecule mechanistic probes.  I am also studying functional enzymology of natural product biosynthesis.

 

Haoran Pang

Graduate Assistant

Email: haoran.pang “AT” duke.edu

Research Focus: My project is focused on the biosynthesis pathway of the molybdenum cofactor (Moco), an essential cofactor for most organisms, including humans. The first step of Moco biosynthesis is the conversion of GTP to cyclic pyranopterin monophosphate (cPMP) catalyzed by two enzymes, MoaA and MoaC, in which mutations were found in over 50% of human Moco deficiency patients. I aim to elucidate the catalytic mechanism of these two enzymes by characterizing potential intermediates in this crucial step. The study is expected to provide bases for the future development of therapeutics for Moco deficiency diseases.

 

Matthew Draelos

Graduate Assistant

Email: matthew.draelos “AT” duke.edu

My research focuses on elucidating the mechanistic details and substrate scope of peptidyl nucleoside biosynthesis. Peptidyl nucleosides display important antifungal properties that may be beneficial in combating life-threatening fungal infections, and I ultimately aim to employ synthetic chemistry and the mechanistic underpinnings of peptidyl nucleoside biosynthesis to develop non-natural peptidyl nucleoside analogs with improved antifungal activity. These explorations will be informed by my prior scientific experience in synthetic chemistry and chemical biology and clinical experience as a student in the Duke University MD/Ph.D. program. Outside of the lab, I am an avid skier, pianist, and woodworker, who is always ready to discuss the finer points of historical trivia.

 

Previous members

Edward Lilla, Ph.D. (graduate student 2012 – 2017, currently at the KBI Biopharma)

Anna Loksztejn, Ph.D. (Tri-I MMPTP fellow, postdoc associate 2012 – 2017)

Daniel Dumitrescu (undergraduate student 2015 – 2017, currently a graduate student Yale University)

Brad Hover, Ph.D. (graduate student 2011 – 2015, currently a postdoc at Rockefeller University)