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ECU chemist earns NSF grant

GREENVILLE, NC   (July 29, 2004)   —   A $228,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will enable an East Carolina University chemist to research new ways to speed the synthesis of chemical compounds.

Andrew Morehead, an ECU chemistry professor, believes his specialized method could someday prove useful to both pharmaceuticals industries and medicinal chemists.

"What I do, as a chemist, is add to a tool box of techniques by which we can synthesize families of chemical compounds," Morehead said. "What the grant will allow us to do is come up with rapid routes to hit this target and screen as many components as we can."

The complex nature of these types of chemical compounds can yield relatively inefficient paths to their synthesis, he said. During the grant's three-year cycle, he hopes to introduce a more direct route to synthesizing two types of chemical compounds, indanones and tetralones. He has been investigating a catalytic route to these compounds that will result in a more efficient process for the production of these compounds.

These chemical compounds, when synthesized, would include Indatraline, an example of a family of compounds that could be used in treating those who suffer from cocaine or methamphetamine abuse. The compounds, said Morehead, are considered "antagonists" in the chemistry world, which are compounds that selectively bind into a receptor and block certain reactions from happening in the body.

Graduate research assistant Avery Watkins and two undergraduate assistants, Riley Myers and RJ Dilk, will help Morehead in his endeavor.

Morehead has been conducting preliminary research for several years, and has been working for two years to secure funding to further explore his hypotheses. His research started while a faculty member at University of Maryland-College Park and continued when he arrived at ECU in August 2003.

"The grant will allow us to examine this area of chemical synthesis and see what its limits are; we now have the funding to explore the edges of this idea," Morehead said.

 


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