Diseases of the world may have a tougher time proliferating in the future thanks to the work of scientists like Dr. Chaitan Khosla, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Stanford University. He spoke to faculty, staff and students of Iowa State University February 26 with a presentation entitled “Assembly Line Biosynthesis of Polyketide Antibiotics,” as part of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering’s L.K. Doraiswamy Honor Lectureship Series, named in honor of a former Iowa State chemical engineering faculty member.
Khosla discussed ongoing and evolving research in the “assembly line” functions of enzymes in polyketides – chemical compounds with antibacterial, immunosuppressant and anticancer activity. The work has an impact on medications such as antibiotics. Scientists may be able to engineer new antibiotics using this knowledge; an important function, given the recent emergence of drug-resistant pathogens.
Khosla reported the study of this topic began in 1994, with one assembly line known to researchers. Today, close to 1,000 assembly lines are known. He said understanding of the structures and mechanisms involved in the processes offers a challenging and exciting opportunity for researchers as the world heads deeper into the 21st century.
Each year one internationally renowned scientist or engineer is selected to provide the L. K. Doraiswamy Honor Lectureship in Chemical Engineering. This individual presents a lecture at Iowa State University and the National Chemical Laboratory in Pune, India, the home of L.K. Doraiswamy, a former Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in the Iowa State University chemical engineering program (1989-2001) and director of India’s National Chemical Laboratory (1978-89). Doraiswamy was a global leader in chemical reaction engineering, having written six highly acclaimed textbooks and published over 170 articles. He received many top awards and honors, including election to the National Academy of Engineering in 2010 and the Padma Bhushan – the Republic Day Award of the government of India, in 1990. Doraiswamy died in 2012 at age 85.
Khosla pointed out that coincidentally, he also hails from Pune, India, the home of Doraiswamy.