We examine how proteins interact with each other and with small molecules such as drugs. Enzymes are proteins that speed molecular reactions in cells and other biological systems. Our research focuses on the enzyme, retroviral protease. Some viruses require this enzyme to grow and reproduce. These include HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The most current HIV treatments include at least one drug that blocks this enzyme’s activity. Although the treatments are effective, viruses can rapidly develop resistance to these drugs. Our research may help develop new treatments that fight drug-resistant viruses.
Prior to 2007, I studied the chemistry of environmental pollutants that cause cancer. We examined how these chemicals are changed by processes that occur in the body. The changes enable them to interact with DNA. These interactions damage DNA and can trigger cancer.