Rivas Receives Award to Develop Chemical Tools Using Natural Products for the Understanding of Human Diseases

LSU Chemistry | July 20, 2021


Dr. Fatima RivasBATON ROUGE, LA- Assistant Professor Fatima Rivas received one of 35 Ralph E Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Awards through the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU). The Ralph E Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Awards program provides seed money for research by early career faculty at ORAU member institutions.  The award recognizes Rivas’ project that integrates biochemistry with natural products (NPs) to interrogate biological processes involved in human diseases.

Emerging data from the Rivas group indicates that a family of triterpenoid NPs regulate valosin-containing protein (VCP). Triterpenoids are widely distributed in nature; they may be found in fungi, higher plants, animals, and marine organisms. Triterpenoids can modulate the activity of several signaling networks, serving as promising leads in the prevention or treatment of various pathological states in terms of cell proliferation, inflammation, or toxicity.

The Rivas group uses triterpenoids as a source of inspiration to develop new chemical strategies while generating novel chemical probes. They will investigate how these NPs modulate valosin-containing protein.

"VCP has been implicated in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. The identification and validation of small molecules to selectively regulate the activity of VCP will be of therapeutic value," said Rivas. "With the Powe award funds, we will express the VCP protein to study and validate these triterpenoid NPs as new modulators of VCP, offering alternative therapeutic strategies." 

Rivas joined the faculty at LSU in 2020. The theme of her research is the synthesis of complex natural products as molecular probes to investigate cellular metabolic processes that drive human disease. Her application of chemistry and biology will enable her to systematically develop chemical tools that can be utilized for the diagnosing and treatment of human diseases.  For additional information about Rivas’ research, please visit the Rivas Research Group webpage.  




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