Journal collection important to chemist's research
On many Saturdays, SMU Associate Professor of Chemistry John Buynak may be found in the periodicals section of the University's Science and Engineering Library. Buynak studies the library's extensive collection of organic and medicinal chemistry journals to aid in his development of new, highly potent compounds that effectively treat penicillin-resistant infections.
"It's incredibly important to know what's been done, what's been tried, what has worked, and what hasn't worked," he said.
The first line of resources available to researchers at the Science and Engineering Library is the periodical collection that contains the most current scientific information. Additional information is available through electronic journals that can be accessed through the Internet. For information beyond these resources, the library staff can tap into networks that link them with any library in the world, says Dev Bickston, director of the Science and Engineering Library.
"Through our library, John Buynak has access to the world's scientific periodical resources," says Bickston.
"The areas of organic chemistry, medicinal chemistry, and biochemistry are interwoven," Buynak says. "The Science and Engineering Library has the best collection of scientific journals in these areas in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas frequently use the organic chemistry journal collection at SMU."
Buynak's latest research addresses the problem of penicillin-resistant bacteria. "Bacteria have developed a resistance enzyme that destroys penicillin, and the problem is worsening as the bacteria exchange and spread genetic information coding for this resistance," said Buynak.
Penicillin, developed as a therapeutic drug in 1940, is one of the most widely used antibiotics in the world because it kills many of the common bacteria that infect humans. In recent years, however, penicillin-resistant bacteria have begun to evolve, making it more difficult to treat serious illnesses, including streptococcal infections, syphilis, diphtheria, and anthrax.
Buynak has developed four new classes of compounds, called beta-lactamase inhibitors, that can defeat resistant bacteria's protective defenses without resulting in harmful side effects to humans. These compounds are then co-administered, with an antibiotic, to kill the resistant strains.
John Buynak, Department of Chemistry
These inhibitors deactivate the bacterial enzyme beta-lactamase, which destroys penicillins and cephalosporins.
"We have more than a dozen compounds that are much better than anything on the market in terms of their ability to inhibit the isolated beta-lactamase enzymes," Buynak says. "It's now a matter of finding the compound which is best at penetrating the bacterial cell wall and which is most easily tolerated by the patient."
Three of the new classes of compounds have been patented and a fourth has a patent pending.
New information retrieval system to debut June 1
Accessing online information in the libraries soon will be easier after the implementation of the new Endeavor Voyager information retrieval system. The Voyager system will replace the mainframe-based NOTIS software that drives the PONI information system for the University's ten libraries.
NOTIS was designed more than twenty years ago and has remained a popular system among colleges and universities. Although NOTIS has been updated continuously, many of its components are now obsolete and the main frame hardware required to run it is no longer affordable. Voyager is designed to run on UNIX-based workstation hardware, which will provide increased flexibility in data retrieval.
"NOTIS is relatively unchangeable," Systems Librarian Mary Queyrouze says. "Voyager is highly configurable, and we will have considerable flexibility about the look and feel as well as the function."
Staff members from Information Technology Services and all the libraries have worked aggressively to bring the Voyager software online. Library staff members also have worked with representatives from Endeavor to convert SMU's existing data to the Voyager system.
"We have teams working on the implementation issues, and other sites moving from NOTIS to Voyager have shared their experiences with us," Queyrouze says. "Still, it continues to require hours of hard work involving numerous library and information technology services staff."
Central University Librarian Gillian McCombs says the changeover to the new system will be well worth the effort.
"Voyager was designed for a world where the Internet and digital multimedia are routine aspects of life," McCombs says."Voyager will be pivotal in providing integrated access to print and digital materials for members of the SMU community wherever they need them. It should provide the libraries with a platform to incorporate new technological developments as they become feasible."