Last Update: 4/12/2016

The principal focus of our research is to use the power of organic synthesis to study problems of biological and medicinal interest.

Our research interests include: Synthesis, study, and design of antibiotics that inhibit bacterial cell wall biosynthesis; peptidoglycan biosynthesis and bacterial cell morphology; development of HBV capsid-binding probes and assembly-directed antivirals; oxidized phospholipids in disease and diagnostics.

News and Announcements

March 2016

Jake Yablonowski successfully completed the committee-meeting requirement for students in the Biochemistry Graduate Program. Congratulations Jake!

Yen-Pang Hsu gave a “Microphiles” lecture entitled, “Investigation of bacterial peptidoglycan synthesis and dynamics in B. subtilis,” at Indiana University/Bloomington.

Alex Mabry joined the VanNieuwenhze group as an undergraduate researcher. Alex is working on the synthesis of D-amino acid fluorescent probes for the study of peptidoglycan biosynthesis in bacteria. Welcome Alex!

February 2016

Lucas Howell joined the VanNieuwenhze group as an undergraduate researcher. Lucas is a sophomore majoring in Biochemistry. Welcome Lucas!

January 2016

Garrett Booher successfully completed the committee-meeting requirement for students in the Biochemistry Graduate Program. Congratulations Garrett!

December 2015

Erkin Kuru successfully defended his PhD thesis and moved on to his appointment in the laboratory of Professor George Church at Harvard Medical School. Congratulations Erkin!

Ziran Li successfully completed his 5th Semester candidacy exam. Congratulations Ziran!

Yen-Pang Hsu passed his PhD preliminary exam. He also received the 2015 Peglow Award from the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry at Indiana University. Congratulations Yen-Pang!

November 2015

Erkin Kuru and Jonathan Rittichier are coauthors on a publication that details the use of FDAAs to study peptidoglycan turnover and cell division in Streptococcus pneumoniae. The full citation of the article is: Boersma, M. J.; Kuru, E.; Rittichier, J. T.; VanNieuwenhze, M. S.; Brun, Y. V.; Winkler, M. E., “Minimal Peptidoglycan Turnover in Wild-Type and PG Hydrolase and Cell Division Mutants of Streptococcus pneumoniae D39 Growing Planktonically and in Host-Relevant Biofilms,” J. Bacteriol. 2015, 197, 3463-3471. DOI: 10.1128/JB00541-15. A link to the article can be found here: http://jb.asm.org/content/197/21/3472.full.pdf+html?sid=a2145f15-713e-461d-b6ae-cbef835d8dc9

This work was also highlighted with a cover image: http://jb.asm.org/content/197/21.cover-expansion

October 2015

Atanas Radkov has joined the VanNieuwenhze research group as a postdoctoral associate. He obtained his PhD in Plant Physiology from the University of Kentucky in October 2015. His graduate career focused on unveiling novel aspects of D-amino acid metabolism in the model rhizosphere-dwelling bacterium Pseudomonas putida KT2440. Welcome Atanas!

September 2015

Mike gave a lecture at the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy at the Ohio State University. The title of the lecture was, “Novel Chemical Probes for Use in the Study of Peptidoglycan Biosynthesis.”

Yen-Pang Hsu received a Poster Presentation Prize at the 4th MicroRetreat Symposium, organized by the Department Biology, Indiana University.

Mike was a plenary speaker at the 2015 Great Wall Symposium. The symposium took place in Florence Italy. The theme of the symposium was, “The Dynamics of Peptidoglycan Structure and Function: New Insights into the Great Wall”

Yen-Pang Hsu presented a poster entitled, “Direct observation of PG synthesis reveals the revolutionary mode of B. subtilis division,” at the 2015 Great Wall Symposium in Florence, Italy.

August 2015

Brennan Murphy joined the VanNieuwenhze research group. Brennan arrived from Brock University where he worked in the laboratory of Professor Tomáš Hudlický. Welcome Brennan!

Erkin Kuru, and the VanNieuwenhze group, collaborated with a group at the Laboratory of Bacterial Cell Biology, Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica António Xavier, Universidade Nova de Lisboa (Portugal) that utilized our FDAA probes to study cell shape dynamics during the cell cycle in Staphylococcus aureus. This work was described in a manuscript that was published in Nature Communications. The full citation is: Monteiro, J. M.; Fernandes, P. B.; Vaz, F.; Pereira, A. R.; Tavares, A. C.; Ferreira, M. T.; Kuru, E.; VanNieuwenhze, M.; Brun, Y. V.; Filipe, S. R.; Pinho, M. G., “Cell shape dynamics during the Staphylococci cell cycle,” Nat. Commun. 2015, 6, 8055. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms9055. PMCID: PMC4557339. A link to the article can be found here: http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2015/150817/ncomms9055/full/ncomms9055.html

Dr. Erick Pasciak joined the VanNieuwenhze Research Group as a postdoctoral scientist. He earned his PhD under the guidance of Professor Dennis Peters at Indiana University. His thesis work focused on the electrochemical reductions of various organic compounds and designing electro-synthetic approaches to pharmaceutically relevant compounds. Welcome Erick!

June 2015

Mike gave a lecture to the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Purdue University. The title of the lecture was, “Development and Application of Small Molecule Probes for Studying Peptidoglycan Synthesis Dynamics”

Mike returned to the UK for the second portion of his sabbatical at the School of Life at the University of Warwick (UK). The sabbatical visit was hosted by Dr. David Roper, who specializes in research directed at the study of peptidoglycan biosynthesis, bacterial cell division, and antibiotic resistance signaling systems. More information on David, and research in the Roper lab, can be found at: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/lifesci/research/droper

Mike was invited to present a lecture at the University of Sheffield (hosted by Professor Simon Foster) on the use of fluorescent D-amino acids to study peptidoglycan biosynthesis.

Zachary Wakefield joined the VanNieuwenhze group as an undergraduate researcher. Zac is preparing fluorescent probes to be used to visualize peptidoglycan biosynthesis in E. coli and B. subtilis. Welcome Zac!

May 2015

Mike gave a seminar, at the Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology (University of Newcastle) entitled, “Development and Application of Small Molecule Probes for Studying Peptidoglycan Synthesis Dynamics.”

Mike returned from his sabbatical at the Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology at the University of Newcastle. (UK)

Dr. Ramkrishna De joined the VanNieuwenhze Research Group as a postdoctoral associate. Ram received his MS degree from IIT Bombay. He then moved to the US and received his PhD while working in the laboratory of Professor David Williams at Indiana University/Bloomington. He then joined Natural Products Analytics Group in Bloomington and worked there for just over two years before returning to IU and joining our group. Welcome Ram!

April 2015

The VanNieuwenhze and Brun research groups have collaborated with a group in the Netherlands that have used our FDAA probes to demonstrate, for the first time, that Planctomycetes, bacteria that play a key role in the global nitrogen cycle, have a peptidoglycan cell wall.  This work has been described in a manuscript—van Teeseling, M. C. F.; Mesman, R. J.; Kuru, E.; Espaillat, A.; Cava, F.; Brun, Y. V.; VanNieuwenhze, M. S.; Kartal, B.; van Niftrik, L., “Annamox Planctomycetes have a peptidoglycan cell wall”—that has been accepted by Nature Communications.

Alex West has been selected to receive an Olsen Fellowship, offered through the STARS, program to support summer undergraduate research.  Congratulations Alex!

Mike gave a lecture at BACELL 2015, an annual meeting organized by the European Bacillus community.  This meeting seeks to bring together researchers that perform fundamental and applied research on Bacillus subtilis and related Gram-positive bacteria.

March 2015

Erkin Kuru has accepted a postdoctoral position in the laboratory of Professor George Church at Harvard Medical School.  Congratulations Erkin!

Mike was invited to give a lecture entitled, “Novel Chemical Probes for the Study of Peptidoglycan Biosynthesis,” at Trinity College, Dublin.

February 2015

Mike gave a lecture at Yale University where he talked about recent applications of fluorescent D-amino acids in studying the dynamics of peptidoglycan biosynthesis.

Mike left for a sabbatical at the Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology at Newcastle University.

January 2015

Mike gave a lecture at the University of Michigan School of Pharmacy entitled, “Novel Chemical Probes for the Study of Peptidoglycan Biosynthesis.”

Our manuscript entitled, “Synthesis of fluorescent D-amino acids and their use for probing peptidoglycan synthesis and bacterial growth in situ,” was published in Nature Protocols.  Congratulations to all that contributed to this wonderful piece of work!  The URL for this manuscript is: http://www.nature.com.proxyiub.uits.iu.edu/nprot/journal/v10/n1/pdf/nprot.2014.197.pdf

December 2014

Mike and Yves Brun delivered a lecture to the Indiana University community entitled, “Shedding Light on the Bacterial Cell Wall.”  The lecture was given as part of a symposium to recognize them as recipients of the 2014 Indiana University Outstanding Faculty Collaborative Research Award.  Congratulations to Mike, Yves, and the outstanding students and postdoctoral associates that have contributed to this work.

Mike gave a lecture entitled, “Novel Chemical Probes for Use in the Study of Peptidoglycan Biosynthesis,” at the Scripps Research Institute, Jupiter, FL.

The VanNieuwenhze and Brun research groups have co-authored a manuscript entitled,”Synthesis of fluorescent D-amino acids and their use for probing peptidoglycan synthesis and bacterial growth in situ.”  The manuscript was published online (December 4, 2014) by Nature Protocols and will appear in print in the first issue of the journal to be published in 2015.  The complete journal citation is:  Kuru, E.; Tekkam, S.; Hall, E.; Brun, Y. V.*; VanNieuwenhze, M. S.,”Synthesis of fluorescent D-amino acids and their use for probing peptidoglycan synthesis and bacterial growth in situ,” Nat. Protoc.  2015, 10, 33-52. DOI: 10.1038/nprot.2014.197. 
URL:  http://www.nature.com/nprot/journal/v10/n1/abs/nprot.2014.197.html

The VanNieuwenhze Research Group (VRG) has collaborated with a group in France that has used our FDAA probes to investigate the organization of the peptidoglycan division machinery in Streptococcus.  A manuscript detailing this work has recently (November 26, 2014)  appeared online in Nature.  The citation for the manuscript is:  Fleurie, A.; Lesterlin, C.; Zhao, C.; Manuse, S.; Cluzel, C.; Campo, N.; Lavergne, J.-P.; Franz, M.; Macek, B.; Kuru, E.; VanNieuwenhze, M. S.; Brun, Y.; Sherratt, D.; Gangreasse, C., “Finding midcell:  MapZ beacons the division sites and positions FtsZ-rings in streptococci,” Nature  2014, 516, 259-262.  DOI: 10.1038/nature13966.
URL:  http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v516/n7530/pdf/nature13966.pdf

November 2014

Jonathan Rittichier (VRG) and Erick Pasciak (Peter’s group) have collaborated of research that has culminated with a publication in the Journal of Organic Chemistry.  The manuscript was published on the web on November 26, 2014.  The complete citation for the manuscript is:  Pasciak, E. M.; Rittichier, J. R.; Chen, C.-H.; Mubarak, M.; VanNieuwenhze, M. S.; Peters, D. G., Electroreductive Dimerization of Coumarin and Coumarin Analogues at Carbon Cathodes,” J. Org. Chem.  2014, DOI: 10.1021/jo502272g.
URL:  http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jo502272g
Garrett Booher has joined the VanNieuwenhze research group.  Garrett is a first-year student in our Biochemistry Graduate Program.  He completed his undergraduate study at Arizona State University and joined our BGP in the fall of 2014.  Welcome Garrett!

Jake Yablonowski has joined the VanNieuwenhze research group.  Garrett is a first-year student in our Biochemistry Graduate Program.  He completed his undergraduate study at Valparaiso University and joined our BGP in the fall of 2014.  Welcome Jake!

October 2014

Our work in collaboration with the the laboratory of Professor Malcolm Winkler has been highlighted with a cover photo in the October issue of Molecular Microbiology (Mol. Microbiol.  2014, 94 (1)).  Click here to view the cover photo.

September 2014

Srinivas Tekkam successfully presented and defended his Ph.D. thesis entitled, "Progress Towards the Total Synthesis of the Mannopeptimycins and Design and Synthesis of Dipeptide Probes for Imaging Nascent Peptidoglycan." Congratulations Srinivas! He will now move on to a postdoctoral appointment in the laboratory of Professor M. G. Finn at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Erkin Kuru was named a recipient of a 2014 Gill Graduate Student Award by The Linda and Jack Gill Center for Biomolecular Science. Erkin will receive his award at the 2014 Gill Symposium that will be held on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 in the Wittenberger Auditorium of the Indiana Memorial Union. Congratulations Erkin!.

The VanNieuwenhze lab was awarded a grant by the National Institutes of Health to study novel inhibitors of peptidoglycan biosynthesis targeting Gram-positive pathogens.

August 2014

Mike and our collaborator, Professor Yves Brun, were named winners of an inaugural Indiana University Outstanding Faculty Collaborative Research Award.  Mike and Yves will deliver an award address to the university community during the Fall Semester 2014.  Congratulations to all that were involved in the work to be recognized with this award!

A manuscript detailing the use of our synthetic mimics of malondialdehyde-modified LDL and their use in generating an atheroprotective response has recently appeared in the Journal of Lipid Research:  Gonen, A.; Hansen, L. F.; Turner, W. W.; Montano, E. N.; Que, X.; Rafia, A.; Chou, M.-Y.; Wiesner, P.; Tsiantoulas, D.; Corr, M.; VanNieuwenhze, M. S.; Tsimikas, S.; Binder, C. J.; Witztum, J. L.; Hartvigsen, K., “Atheroprotective immunization with malondialdehyde modified LDL is hapten specific, dependent on advanced MDA-adducts:  Implications for development of an atheroprotective vaccine,” J. Lipid Res., 2014, DOI: 10.1194/jlr.M053256.

A manuscript detailing the use of FDAA and b-lactam probes to study localization patterns of penicillin binding proteins has appeared in Molecular Microbiology.  This was a collaborative effort with the Winkler, Brun, and Carlson laboratories:
Tsui, H.-C. T.; Boersma, M.; Vella, S.; Kocaoglu, O.; Kuru, E.; Perceny, J.; Carlson, E. E.; VanNieuwenhze, M. S.; Brun, Y. V.; Shaw, S. L.; Winkler, M. E., “Separate Localization of Penicillin-Binding Protein PBP2x from PBP2b and Other Peptidoglycan Synthesis Proteins During Later Division Stages of Streptococcus pneumonia D39,” Mol. Microbiol. 2014, DOI:  10.1111/mml.12745.

Our manuscript detailing procedures for synthesis of our “workhorse” FDAA probes, and their use in peptidoglycan labeling experiments, has been accepted by Nature Protocols:  Kuru, E.; Tekkam, S.; Hall, E.; Brun, Y. V.*; VanNieuwenhze, M. S.*,”Synthesis of fluorescent D-amino acids and their use for probing peptidoglycan synthesis and bacterial growth in situ.” 

The Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Warwick (UK) has awarded Mike a Visiting Fellowship for the 2014-2015 academic year.  The fellowship will support a sabbatical visit to Warwick during the summer of 2015.

July 2014

Mike attended the 63rd Gordon Research Conference on Natural Products, July 20-25 at Proctor Academy, Andover, NH.

Erkin Kuru was selected as a recipient of a 2014 Baxter Young Investigator Award.  Information about the award and the program can be found at:  http://www.baxter.com/about_baxter/scientific_excellence/young_investigator/index.html.  Congratulations Erkin!

June 2014

Erkin attended the Metabolic Engineering X Conference (June 15-19) in Vancouver, British Columbia.  While at the conference he was awarded first prize for his poster entitled, “Decorating Bacterial Surfaces by Designer Molecules Advances the Fundamental Knowledge about Bacterial Growth.”  Congratulations Erkin!

Mike (“Probes for Real-Time Imaging of Peptidoglycan Synthesis in Live Bacteria”) and Erkin (A New Metabolic Labeling Method reveals Peptidoglycan in CHlamydiae”) presented posters at the 2014 Gordon Research Conference on Bacterial Cell Surfaces, June 22-27, Mount Snow Resort, West Dover, VT.

May 2014

Mike gave a series of research lectures during a tour of England.   He gave lectures describing our recent work with FDAAs and peptide antibiotics at The Laboratory for Molecular Biology, MRC/Cambridge; Imperial College London; The Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology, University of Newcastle; and the University of Warwick.

April 2014

The University of Newcastle (UK) has named Mike a University Research Committee Visiting Fellow for the 2014-2015 academic year.  This fellowship will support his sabbatical study in the Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology at the University of Newcastle.

A manuscript detailing the use of our FDAA probes for the study of proteins involved in pneumococcal cell division and elongation has appeared in print:
Fleurie, A.; Manuse, S; Zhao, C.; Campo, N.; Cluzel, C.; Lavergne, J.-P.; Freton, C.; Guiral, S.; Soufi, B.; Macek, B.; Kuru, E.; VanNieuwenhze, M. S., Brun, Y.; DiGuilmi, A.-M.; Claverys, J.-P.; Galinier, A.; Grangeasse, C., “Interplay of the serine/threonine kinase StkP and the paralogs DivIVA and GpsB in pneumococcal cell elongation and division,” PLOS Genetics 2014, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1004275.

March 2014

Eddie Hall successfully defended his Ph.D. thesis entitled, “Fighting Bacterial Drug Resistance by Targeting Peptidoglycan Biosynthesis:  Depsipeptide Antibiotics and Biological Probes.”   He has now moved on to his postdoctoral appointment in the laboratory of Professor Karl Scheidt at Northwestern University.  Congratulations Eddie!

February 2014
Erkin Kuru has been named a recipient of a 2014 Walter Konetzka Fellowship. For information on Professor Konetzka and other Konetzka Fellows, please go to the following link: http://www.bio.indiana.edu/alumni/support/konetzka.shtml Congratulations, Erkin!

Erkin Kuru has been named a recipient of a 2014-2015 Dagmar K. Riley Graduate Fellowship and 2014-2015 Mabel LaDuke Lauder Fellowship. These fellowships, administered by the College of Arts and Sciences, are intended to provide support to an outstanding graduate student during their dissertation year. Congratulations, Erkin!

January 2014
Eddie Hall has obtained a postdoctoral appointment in the laboratory of Professor Karl Scheidt at Northwestern University. Congratulations, Eddie!

Our Nature paper, “A new metabolic cell wall labeling method reveals peptidoglycan in Chlamydia trachomatis,” with Liechti, G.; et. al., was highlighted by the Faculty of 1000 Prime.

December 2013
Michael Priestley joined the VRG.  Michael is a student in the Biochemistry graduate program and he will be co-mentored by Professor Adam Zlotnick.  Welcome Michael!

Yen-Pang Hsu joined the VRG.  Yen-Pang is a student in the Biochemistry graduate program and he will be co-mentored by Professor Yves Brun.  Welcome Yen-Pang!

Jesse Evans joined the VRG.  Jesse is a student in the Biochemistry graduate program and he will be co-mentored by Professor Malcolm Winkler.  Welcome Jesse!

Mike, Eddie, Erkin, former postdoctoral associate, Alvin Kalinda, and collaborator Yves Brun (Department of Biology) are coauthors on two papers, which recently appeared in Nature Communications and Nature that demonstrate, for the first time, the existence of peptidoglycan in the infamous pathogen Chlamydia, the cause of 1 in 10 cases of pneumonia in children and 212 million cases of the blindness-causing disease, trachoma.  It was known that Chlamydia possessed the biosynthetic machinery to synthesize peptidoglycan and that they are sensitive to antibiotics (e.g.; the beta-lactams) that inhibit peptidoglycan biosynthesis. However, because Chlamydia is an obligate intracellular pathogen, the existence of peptidoglycan had never been unequivocally demonstrated (hence, the ‘Chlamydial anomaly’).  The FDAA and dipeptide probes, developed by the VanNieuwenhze and Brun laboratories, were used to visualize the biosynthesis of peptidoglycan in Chlamydia and may provide tools for the identification of novel agents for treatment of infections due to this problematic pathogen.

A link to the IU press release:   http://news.indiana.edu/releases/iu/2013/12/cell-wall-labeling-peptidoglycan.shtml

A link to the Nature Communications paper:  http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2013/131202/ncomms3856/full/ncomms3856.html

A link to the Nature paper:   http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/pdf/nature12892.pdf

This work was described in a Research Highlight, “Chlamydiae play by their own rules,” that appeared in Nature Reviews Microbiology, that was published online December 23, 2013.  Link:  http://www.nature.com/nrmicro/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nrmicro3198.html

Highlighted in, “Revealing Bacterial Building Blocks,” Inside Life Science, published online by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, December 24, 2013.  Link:  http://publications.nigms.nih.gov/insidelifescience/holiday-season-cells.html

Highlighted in, “IU Researchers Solve Chlamydia Bacteria Mystery,” posted December 26, 2013.  Link:  http://indianapublicmedia.org/news/iu-researchers-solve-chlamydia-bacteria-mystery-60561/

November 2013
Mike attended the 2013 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Nashville, TN.

October 2013
Ziran Li joined the VanNieuwenhze Research Group (VRG). Welcome Ziran!

September 2013
Mike visited the Southern Research Institute, in Birmingham, AL, and gave a seminar entitled, “Real-Time Imaging of Peptidoglycan Synthesis in Live Bacterial Cells.”!

July 2013
Mike attended the 62nd Gordon Research Conference on Natural Products at the Proctor Academy, Andover, NH.

Eddie Hall received the Eli Lilly Fellowship in Organic Chemistry. Congratulations Eddie!

June 2013
Erkin was selected to attend a summer course entitled, “Physiology:  Modern Cell Biology Using Microscopic, Biochemical and Computational Approaches,” at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.  Congratulations Erkin!

May 2013
FDAAs were the topic of a ‘Sightings’ story in American Scientist.
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(5/3)  Gu Peng successfully defended his thesis (Studies toward the Total Synthesis of Nogalamycin and Menogaril) and has accepted a postdoctoral appointment at AAT Bioquest, Inc., Sunnyvale, CA.  Congratulations Gu!

April 2013
(4/23)  Randall Binder successfully completed his thesis defense (Studies toward the Synthesis of the Amphomycin Antibiotics:  Total Synthesis of Lastpartomycin C) and has accepted a postdoctoral appointment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  Congratulations Randall!

(4/26)  Mike gave an invited presentation (Real-Time Imaging of Peptidoglycan Biosynthesis in Live Bacterial Cells) in the Department of Chemistry at Baylor University.

March 2013
A paper describing the use of REDOR NMR for investigating the mode of transglycosylase inhibition by plusbacin A3 has appeared in Biochemistry!
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A collaborative paper leveraging use of our FDAA probes has appeared online in Molecular Microbiology!
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Our FDAA work was the topic of a vignette (3/25/13), entitled “Bacterial Portrait Sessions,” on the PBS series A Moment of Science.
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February 2013
(2/20)  Mike gave an invited presentation (Real-Time Imaging of Peptidoglycan Biosynthesis in Live Bacterial Cells) to the Vanderbilt University Department of Chemistry and the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology.

January 2013
The utility of our FDAA probes was highlighted in Nature Chemistry!
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December 2012
Our FDAA paper has been published in Angewandte Chemie.  It was designated a ‘hot paper’ by the journal and the work was highlighted on the inside cover.
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Nature Reviews in Microbiology highlights our FDAA work!
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October 2012
Our upcoming FDAA paper was highlighted in Chemical and Engineering News!
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(10/24)  Mike gave an invited talk (Bacterial Resistance, Peptide Antibiotics, and the Bacterial Cell Wall) to the University of Louisville Department of Chemistry.