Northwestern

Wayne Anderson

Senior Fellow

  • Mathematics and Computer Science, Argonne National Laboratory
  • Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, Northwestern University

Developing new antibiotics to combat bacteria that are resistant to current drugs has eluded biomedical researchers and the pharmaceutical industry. One of their major challenges in the process is the lack of information about the enemy they are facing: what it looks like, how it functions, and how it interacts with other biochemical molecules. Joining Northwestern in 1994, Wayne Anderson, PhD, is a leader in structural genomics, and has made huge strides in the understanding bacteria and their interactions at the molecular level.

He and his team use X-ray crystallography techniques to study the interactions of these proteins with other biochemical molecules. These techniques are made possible through use of the Advanced Photon Source at US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory near Lemont, Illinois. “One of the reasons I came to Chicago was the presence of the Advanced Photon Source. My move to Chicago was around the time that it was being completed, so I knew I wanted to be close to Argonne Lab.” He and his team work with multiple beam lines at this impressive facility.

Dr. Anderson is also the director of the Center for Structural Genomics of Infectious Diseases, a consortium of nine institutions, each with a specific role, committed to bringing these protein structures and the data related them into focus. This center is supported by one of the largest NIH awards in Northwestern University history. The work of the CSGID has made it possible to study the structure and function for proteins of more than 40 human pathogens – including anthrax, salmonellosis, cholera, tuberculosis, influenza, and the hospital-borne pathogen Enterococcus faecalis.

And for all the extraordinary expertise and technology that goes into producing these images, their purpose is fairly simple. “If you know what you’re trying to fit, you can chemically tailor new compounds or optimize existing compounds to get the desired outcome,” says Dr. Anderson. By removing some of the trial and error element of bringing an effective drug into being, this work can save years of time and millions of dollars, as well as get infectious disease researchers closer to life-saving solutions.

Dr. Anderson, who is also a member of the Center for Genetic Medicine, the Center for Molecular Innovation and Drug Discovery, and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, feels that the Feinberg academic medical center environment offers an inquisitive and collaborative environment for his work, “Northwestern is a good place for interactions. I enjoy the questions that arise from other people’s work.”

Learn more about Dr. Anderson’s work in Feinberg’s Research section.

Wayne Anderson