Anna Jutla is currently in her fourth year of her undergraduate studies in the Faculty of Science majoring in Chemistry. She is working with Dr. Michael Overduin as a summer student on an oncogenic phosphatase, SHP2, and is using an array of biophysical methods to assess binding affinities between the protein and different drug fragments.
A phosphatase is an enzyme which removes phosphates from different proteins, effectively altering signalling pathways. Mutations in this phosphatase lead to cancers such as Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia (JMML), which affects 1/1 000 000 children. Currently, this cancer lacks an effective treatment, where fifty percent of children experience a relapse.
With the help of a new open innovation drug fragment library, Anna strives to find an array of drug fragments which bind to and block novel binding pockets along the phosphatase, with greater specificity. Using this information, novel drugs specifically targeting the protein may be developed, resulting in effective drug interventions for cancers which currently lack effective treatments.
Anna always had an interest in aspects of medicinal chemistry such as synthetic organic chemistry and pharmacology during high school. With a major in Chemistry, she aspires to learn techniques regarding protein production and drug screening, and apply them to dynamic diseases such as cancer.
She hopes these acquired skills will assist her in finding effective treatments for diseases such as JMML, which are currently deemed untreatable. Work done in the Discovery Lab will help shift the way we approach cancer treatments, along with developing new and effective drug therapies while minimizing treatment side effects.