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Jon Bogart

Jon Bogart, Ph.D. candidate in the Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry, was awarded the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy Foundation’s 2017 GlaxoSmithKline Fellowship of $12,000 over one year to support his research into the clinical value of thiopeptides, a class of antibiotics produced by bacteria. Bogart’s adviser is Assistant Professor Albert Bowers, Ph.D.

“Thiopeptides are very complex and hard to make in a lab and this is one reason you don’t see them in the clinic,” Bogart said. “We have developed a method that combines the power of enzymes and synthetic chemistry to access these compounds easily and make them clinically relevant.”

Bogart said he is motivated by the continuing emergence of multi-drug-resistant bacteria.

“We are coming at it from a different angle,” Bogart said. “We use robust chemistry and unique enzymes to make new compounds no one else can make. This allows us to explore new chemical space with a high chance of developing new and improved antibiotics.”

Bogart said the method he uses is not just a tool for drug discovery but for exploring the general biology of natural products and can be used for a wide range of investigations. Bogart defines natural products as compounds made by bacteria, plants or fungi, many of which have therapeutic potential.

Each division in the School is allowed to nominate two graduate students for the fellowship. After a second round of applications, one of those 12 students becomes the next GSK fellow.

Applicants must be able to demonstrate evidence of outstanding research accomplishments, an outstanding contribution to the graduate program and have the potential for a highly successful career that will have a major impact on advances in health care, according to the fellowship application. It is a highly competitive award and Bogart said winning it motivates and inspires him to push his research as far as he can.

Bogart is also a recent recipient of the Eshelman Institute for Innovation Award and the Eshelman Fellowship, among several other academic honors. He volunteers frequently in the community and currently works with high school science students as a DNA Day CONNECT ambassador, in science education seminars at local libraries and as a mentor in the Young Innovators Program at the Eshelman Institute for Innovation.

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