For 12 weeks during the summer, third-year pharmacy student Bryce Adams of Prospect, Ohio, worked at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), an institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in Bethesda, Md. His assignment: test 15 compounds for their ability to treat neurological disorders.
Adams applied in the spring for one of the NIH’s competitive internships. The institute receives, on average, 7,000 applications for approximately 1,200 spots at one of 27 institutes.
“I’ve been doing research with Dr. [Ryan] Schneider since I arrived as a freshman,” said Adams. “I love doing that. I wanted to do a summer of working in research to see if it’s something I’d like to do in the pharmacy field … The NIH is one of the premier research facilities in the world, so I wanted to go there if I could.”
Adams arrived at the NINDS mid-project. Benjamin Free is the staff scientist, and David Sibley is the principal investigator there. “They started with 380,000 compounds and were trying to narrow it down to the best compound. They had triaged it down to 15 out of the original 380,000. I worked on narrowing down those 15 to find the best one,” he said.
The title of Adams’ project is Analysis and Triage of Putative D2 Dopamine Receptor Modulators Discovered Via High-Throughput Screening.
For 12 weeks, Adams completed several experiments on 15 compounds, to determine which ones bind to allosteric or orthosteric sites and their functionality, whether or not they were agonists or antagonists and more.
Specifically, Adams was looking at how the compounds acted at D2 dopamine receptors. There are no known D2 allosteric agonists or antagonists; Adams was working to identify at least one.
“The idea is that if you can isolate the D2 dopamine receptor and find a compound for that specific receptor, you may be able to treat one of these neurological disorders, like schizophrenia,” said Adams.
Working with a team of researchers, Adams did isolate three allosteric agonists and three allosteric antagonists. The team at NINDS will continue to run the experiments to determine if Adams’ results are repeatable.
At the end of Adams’ internship, he participated in a poster presentation, organized by the NIH. It was optional to participate, and he was one of 800 who took the opportunity to present his work to other interns and researchers at the NIH.