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On the Trail of a Better Influenza Drug


Inspired early on by watching Neil deGrasse Tyson science shows on television, when Kalvin Nash ’18 entered Hamilton, the question wasn't if he would major in science, but which science? The answer turned out to be biochemistry. (Nash has a second major, French, because he loves the language, especially the grammar.)

He is among several students who worked this summer with Associate Professor of Chemistry Adam Van Wynsberghe on his ongoing research into the ways in which antiviral drugs bind to an influenza protein.

about Kalvin Nash '18

Majors: Biochemistry/Molecular Biology and French

Hometown: Dorchester Center, Mass.

High School: Boston Latin School

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“This is important because the flu has evolved strains that are resistant to current drugs. Understanding the binding mechanism may give ideas to design new, more effective drugs,” Van Wynsberghe explains.

Nash focused on the drug Zanamivir, running and reviewing computer calculations that simulate how the drug binds to the protein. Some mutant strains of influenza are resistant to Zanamivir; something has changed in the protein targeted by Zanamivir that keeps the drug from binding to it.

The team used computer scripts created by student research groups in years past to run the computations, and Nash spent many hours this summer creating a new script for use by future researchers. “I contributed something that will hopefully last when I’m gone,’ he says.

The summer work, Nash says, “astronomically” increased his understanding of scientific research and his ability to communicate his work. “A lot of our research is getting errors and being able to deal with them, and also being able to reason why it’s an error, how it came about, and then explain how I solved it to my professor,” Nash says. The ability to convincingly explain his work is a skill Nash thinks he’ll use in future scientific work. He intends to go to med school.

But first, for his senior project Nash plans to build on his summer research, working with Van Wynsberghe.

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