Postgraduate Biochemistry student won first prize at SASBMB

Posted on October 10, 2014

Dina Coertzen, a PhD student in the Department of Biochemistry in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, recently won the first prize (award for the most meritorious poster) at the 24th Conference of the South African Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (SASBMB).

The poster title was ‘Novel S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase inhibitors as potent antiproliferative agents against Plasmodium falciparum’. Dina is part of the Malaria Parasite Molecular Laboratory (M2PL) under supervision of Prof LynMarie Birkholtz (DST/NRF South African Research Chair in Sustainable Malaria Control). This work falls under the UP Centre for Sustainable Malaria Control where Dina served as the student forum chairperson.

During her PhD she discovered unique structural properties of the AdoMetDC protein in P. falciparum malaria parasites. Her work enabled the first functional descriptors of the core structure of this protein and revealed the potential of AdoMetDC as a drug target. Exploitation of these structural and functional characteristics allowed the candidate to identify a highly active compound specifically targeting P. falciparum AdoMetDC. The combination of this compound with a novel nanovector-based delivery system significantly improved the potency of this new compound against P. falciparum parasites, which can lead to the development of this nanodrug as a novel antimalarial therapeutic strategy.

- Author Martie Meyer

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