Brittany Morgan, John V. O’Connor Assistant Professor in Cancer Drug Discovery, has received a highly-selective Burroughs Wellcome Fund award for her project entitled “Cracking the Molecular Recognition Code: Capturing Dynamic Substructures with Small Molecules.” Less than twelve awards are granted each year.*
Funded through the Career Awards at the Scientific Interface (CASI) program, this recognition provides research support to early career researchers transitioning from post-doctoral positions to independent academic careers. It is specifically targeted toward biological research using transdisciplinary approaches.
Morgan’s research will explore biomolecular condensates which control cellular functions by amplifying cell signals and accelerating biochemical reactions. Since abnormal condensates are implicated in neurological diseases and cancer, they are potential targets for therapeutic treatment. The condensates of interest exhibit dynamic or disordered conformational changes during their biochemical processes. Due to their complex nature and changing conformations, these condensates are difficult to target with small molecule compounds owing to a lack of molecular recognition. Her work will specifically focus on proteins with intrinsically disordered regions and RNA-binding proteins to find covalent ligands with selective binding. These compounds can then be used to probe the assembly and properties of biomolecular condensates in cellulo.
Morgan received her B.S. in biochemistry from Western Kentucky University and then completed her Ph.D. in chemistry from Duke University. After, she was a Michigan May-Walt Life Sciences Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Michigan. She began her independent career at the University of Notre Dame in July 2022.
*Morgan was selected for the CASI Award in 2020 but deferred acceptance until beginning her current position at Notre Dame.
Originally published by chemistry.nd.edu on September 29, 2022.at