Bernard Somers synthesizes cancer-treating drug

ALEX HABER
Staff Writer

Bernard Somers, senior neuroscience major at The University, had the opportunity to present a poster project in Washington, D.C. this past weekend. Somers’s project, titled “Synthesis of Napthoquinone Analogues for Evaluation as Potential Pancreatic Cancer Agents,” resulted from a research experience he had this past summer.

Somers worked with Nouri Neamati, M.D./Ph.D., at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. While there, Somers was part of a 16-person research group that explored pharmaceutical approaches to pancreatic cancer treatment. The team was broken into three groups; Somers worked on the synthesis team. On the synthesis team, he created organic molecules after identifying them via phenotypic high throughput screen. This technique is widely used in the pharmaceutical industry to quickly identify ligands for receptors, enzymes or other pharmacological targets in the cell. The team’s target molecules were ligands that induced apoptosis. Somers’s team then used the results to create an analogue of the identified ligand. Another group in the research team, a team mainly composed of biochemists, then tested the effectiveness of the analogues. At the end of the summer program, Somers and the other participants created a write-up and poster on their work. The student researchers were encouraged to apply for national conventions at which they could present their project.

Somers applied to two conventions; one he participated in last fall, and the other this past weekend. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) sponsors the Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference, in which Somers was one of hundreds of students in attendance. At the conference, Somers presented his work to several professors throughout the day to compete for an award at the conclusion of the conference.

“It’s unfortunate that (I) did not get an award, but it was a very good experience,” Somers said.

Somers presented during the first session of the two-and-a-half day conference, which allowed him to spend his free time exploring the various landmarks in Washington, D.C.

Besides participating in summer research, Somers also has worked since last semester with Michael Fennie, Ph.D., on the synthesis of organic molecules similar in nature to his summer research experience. Somers plans to pursue his doctorate after graduating in May. His plans to study either medicinal chemistry or organic chemistry. Outside of academics Somers also enjoys playing soccer and caring for his saltwater aquarium. Somers is also a founding member of The University’s Chess Club.

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