In 2017, Hari Akula, then a City College of New York graduate student, and his mentor, chemistry professor Mahesh Lakshman, published a facile approach to the modification of pyrimidine nucleosides. Their work, which has potential to yield compounds that inhibit the virus that causes AIDS, has now been accepted as a protocol in the field. It is the cover story in the current issue of “Current Protocols in Nucleic Acid Chemistry.”
In the natural sciences, a protocol is a predefined written procedural method in the design and implementation of experiments. Protocols are written whenever it is desirable to standardize a laboratory method to ensure successful replication of results by others in the same laboratory or by other laboratories.
The Akula-Lakshman research is notable because nucleosides are an important class of biomolecules and modified pyrimidine nucleosides are at the forefront in the treatment of a number of viral diseases. The compounds prepared in the Lakshman laboratories showed activities against HIV-1, HIV-2, even HSV (herpes simplex virus).
The chemistry attracted the attention of Piet Herdewijn, an editor of “Current Protocols in Nucleic Acid Chemistry” who invited Akula and Lakshman to convert the methodology to a protocol.
According to Lakshman, a Fellow of Britain’s Royal Society of Chemistry,
Current Protocols in the specific subject area provides step-by-step instructions in a clear and detailed manner that is reliable, and reproducible. “A protocol is subjected to a three-stage rigorous review for thoroughness, presentation, clarity, and consistency.”
Akula is now a post-doctoral associate in the lab of chemistry professor Barbara Zajc, in City College’s Division of Science, working in fluorination chemistry, a field of high pharmaceutical importance.
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