Roosevelt University professor Oluseye Onajole and eight biology graduates published a research letter in the highly regarded journal Chemical Biology and Drug Design. The article investigates a series of novel drug-like compounds that could be effective in tuberculosis treatments.
“I view research as an essential teaching tool that helps bring chemistry alive to students,” said Dr. Onajole, an assistant professor in chemistry. “I enjoy seeing my students apply literature concepts in the laboratory.”
Learn more about research opportunities at Roosevelt University.
Mastering the “balancing act”
The undergraduate students in Dr. Onajole’s lab attended classes full time while juggling lectures, homework and other responsibilities. Often his students would start a reaction in the lab, leave to attend their lectures and return to their research after their classes let out.
“I am very happy with the dedication and determination that my research students put into this project,” said Dr. Onajole. “They went above and beyond, running with the project to make it a success.”
Several of the article’s co-authors, now alumni, are now studying in elite graduate programs across the country:
- Adrian Flores (BA Biology, ’19), a Roosevelt McNair Scholar, was accepted at an interdisciplinary PhD program in biomedical sciences at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
- Michelle Jaskula‐Dybka (BS Biology, ’19) is working on a master’s in cardiac perfusion at Rush University.
- Ashle C. Scurry (BS Biology, ’18) is a current student in the master’s in computer science program at Northeastern Illinois University.
- Ambernice Zavala (BS Biology, ’18) is continuing her education in the Roosevelt University PharmD program.
“As an undergraduate planning to pursue a graduate degree, research opportunities give students a preview of what to expect at the graduate level,” said Dr. Onajole.
The article’s other co-authors are also pursuing careers in health care. Damkam Y. Langue and Eriel Frazier, who graduated in 2019, are currently applying to medical school. Bryce Pierzchalski (BS Biochemistry, ’18) joined DePuy Synthes Companies’ orthopedic trauma division selling medical devices. And in fall 2019, co-author Karen Arreola earned dual bachelor’s degrees in social entrepreneurship and biology.
Researching treatments for tuberculosis
“Tuberculosis is an insidious disease that mainly affects the lungs,” said Dr. Onajole. He explains that although TB is curable, new strains of the disease are resistant to multiple drugs and do not respond to the first-line treatment options, with few safe therapeutic options available.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tuberculosis is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide and the leading cause from a single infectious agent, above HIV/AIDS.
The WHO estimates that in 2018 there were 484,000 new cases with resistance to rifampicin, the most effective first-line drug.
With a summer grant from Roosevelt, Onajole’s research lab sought to identify and synthesize new compounds with anti-TB properties. The study identified two compounds with “excellent activities” against drug‐resistant strains of tuberculosis.
Read their published results in “Design, synthesis, and biological evaluation of novel imidazo[1,2-a]pyridinecarboxamides as potent anti‐tuberculosis agents.”
Dr. Oluseye K. Onajole completed MSc and PhD degrees from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa, and a postdoctoral appointment in the research group of Prof. Alan P. Kozikowski at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Onajole’s undergraduate research group focuses on cutting-edge drug discovery research aimed at identifying new small-molecule chemical entities with potent anti-bacterial and anti-mycobacterial properties.