Washington University biochemist named 2010 Searle Scholar

Will research multidrug resistance in bacteria

Katherine Henzler-Wildman, PhD, has been named a 2010 Searle Scholar, one of 15 U.S. scholars in the chemical and biological sciences to receive the prestigious $300,000, three-year awards.

Henzler-Wildman, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, was chosen because of her innovative research and her potential for making significant scientific contributions in the future.


The award will fund Henzler-Wildman’s research into the molecular mechanisms in bacteria that give them multidrug resistance, in which the bacteria become immune to a broad range of antibiotic drugs. One way that bacteria overcome antibiotics is by pumping drugs out of their systems before they can have an effect. Henzler-Wildman will investigate in detail the transport mechanism responsible for multidrug resistance to see how it might be disabled.

Using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), a technique that can measure physical, chemical, electronic and structural information about molecules, she will create three-dimensional models that illustrate how the transport proteins move and change when transporting drug molecules. She will also study the specific properties that allow the drug transporters to carry many different drugs. Her research could suggest new antibacterial therapies that interfere with transporter motion and prevent drug resistance.

A model of the drug transport protein.

The Searle Scholars Program makes grants to selected universities and research centers to support the independent research of exceptional young faculty in the biomedical sciences and chemistry. This year, 180 applications were considered from recently appointed assistant professors, nominated by 120 universities and research institutions. The final selection of scholars was based on recommendations made by a scientific advisory board of twelve scientists distinguished for their research and leadership in fields of interest to the Searle Scholars Program.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.