Photo of smiling male undergraduate student Waymon Whiting.
2021 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant and 2022 Cohort Lead

Home Department: Human Biology
Mentor: Laura M. K. Dassama (Chemistry)

2021 Research Project: “Mechanistic Investigations of Divergent Multidrug Transporters”

Multidrug resistant (MDR) bacteria pose a challenging human health problem. One of the mechanisms driving MDR is the secretion of antibacterial drugs by multidrug efflux pumps. Drug efflux pumps are poorly characterized and therefore difficult to develop inhibitors for. Waymon’s project focuses on a divergent group of efflux pumps belonging to the multidrug and toxin efflux family that are thought to transport drugs as well as secondary metabolites. The mechanisms of drug and metabolite binding and efflux are not known. Waymon is using structural, bioinformatic and biochemical approaches to elucidate the mechanism of these proteins, with the goal of helping to disable efflux pumps in the context of MDR.

2022 Research Project: “Using a Probiotic Yeast to Secrete a Lysin Antibiotic Against Clostridioides dificile Infection”

Waymon will develop a yeast-based delivery vehicle for the antimicrobial enzyme, lysin PlyCD1-174, to target recurrent C. difficile infection. Saccharomyces boulardi is generally recognized as safe, has showed promise as a probiotic to ameliorate C. difficile infection and has been used to secrete antibodies to neutralize C. difficile toxins. He will first clone the recombinant lysin PlyCD1-174 into a vector and transform this into S. boulardi. After confirming expression via an SDS-PAGE gel, he will perform multiple assays evaluating the crude extract antimicrobial ability against C. difficile and other commensal bacterial strains to validate this proof of concept in the lab. This project will provide insight into a novel antibiotic delivery system aimed to address C. difficile infections, one of the most importunate threats of antibiotic resistance today.