Theresa Rock at King Abdullah University of Science & Technology

I am a graduate student in the Research Unit Analytical BioGeoChemistry (BGC) headed by Prof. Schmitt-Kopplin. One focus of the BGC is the isolation and characterization of new bioactive compounds from natural chemical libraries with particular emphasis on new antiviral compounds against HIV in collaboration with Prof. Brack-Werner at the Institute of Virology (VIRO).

To achieve this aim, we use bioactivity-guided chromatography. Liquid chromatography (LC) connected to a photodiode array detector (PDA) is one of the tools used to generate fractions from various plants and algae that are tested for their activity against HIV. The EASY-HIT screening platform in the laboratory of Prof. Dr. R. Brack-Werner is used to test anti-HIV-1 activity. Structural information is obtained with ultrahigh resolution Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (12T FT-ICR/MS) at the BGC. For confirmation of the anti-HIV-1 activity, selected fractions were tested additionally on a High-Content Screening (HCS) platform setup for this purpose by Dr. S. Kremb at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Red Sea Research Center in Saudi Arabia (Prof. C. Voolstra’s Lab). With this platform, the biological response of the fractions can be clustered to well-defined biological cell responses of standards which were added to the same cell system previously (e.g. reverse transcriptase inhibitor, etc.). The combination of these biological assays and high-resolution analytical tools will give us the possibility to characterize novel bioactive scaffolds or single compounds against HIV or with unexpected biological activities.

I was at KAUST for 2 months (Jan. – Feb. 2015) to perform HCS measurements and learned about sample preparation, data mining and analysis, which will now be continued in Munich. Prof. Schmitt-Kopplin and Dr. Müller (members of my thesis committee) also came to KAUST for one week. We had a number of constructive meetings with all members involved in this project and could effectively structure the following steps.

Beside the laboratory work, my knowledge about bioactive compounds was extended by talking to the students and postdocs at the Red Sea Center. During my stay I gained new insight into the topic, and we had interesting discussions about it. Of course, there was also time to discover the Saudi Arabian culture and natural environments during the weekends, and we took interesting trips through the desert, to a volcano and to local markets. This lab exchange was not only a scientific but also a personal gain, and I can only encourage students to participate in a lab exchange. Many thanks to Prof. P. Schmitt-Kopplin and HELENA for supporting this very successful and effective research stay.


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