Taking Charge of Your Health

“Speaker 1: My name is Bryan Mott and we are
at the NIH, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, also known as NCATS.
We’re located in Rockville, Maryland. Lately in the news has been a lot on the Ebola outbreak
and I am working on some compounds for Ebola. I also work on compounds to treat cancer as
well as a variety of different infectious diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis. I was always good at math and science, and
interested in those things. We have a responsibility to promote human health. That’s what the NIH
is for. And it was that environment that really, when the lightning bolt hit me. I’ve lost several close family members to
cancer and I’m, and I’m sure that many folks watching this have been affected by it at
least in some aspect. And diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, and even, again, in
the news is Ebola. These things can spread very rapidly. They can wipe out populations
of humans. It’s something that’s different because it doesn’t necessarily affect our
country as much, but it is very important to global health. And what I do is drug discovery. And drug
discovery is extremely important because, again, something that I make, with my own
hands and my collaborative environment. You know, in our intelligence we can develop a
drug to treat these that could be on the shelf at the pharmacy someday. The bulk of my time in my day is spent planning
out chemical reactions, setting up chemical reactions, doing work up and purification.
Organic synthesis just in general takes place in a flask where we weigh out a fine powder.
I know what I’m putting in here and that can add other solvents right. So we want to do
our reaction in a solution. I can also seal this flask and I have a controlled environment
where I can do a chemical reaction. When the reaction is finished I want to extract
the product that I’ve made. I can go through this whole process of what’s called work up
and purification, just meaning that I’m gonna get rid of all the other things that I don’t
want and just keep the thing that I do want. It’s what’s called nucleophilic addition,
which is a really, really common organic chemistry reaction. And I need to do this reaction under
a very dry and inert atmosphere. So in the air that we breathe is a lot of water, and
also a lot of oxygen, and I don’t want either of those in my reaction. This flask has a rubber septum and it has
a line attached to it. This line is currently attached to a vacuum, and this line is attached
to nitrogen gas. The other thing that I need to do is flame
dry this flask because as I mentioned I don’t want any water in there. In fact, water is
even more detrimental to this particular reaction. And I’m just gonna gently warm this up. It’s
very warm so I do need to let that cool back down a little bit. You can see the bubbling here, and that’s
nitrogen gas bubbling out. So I’m just gonna turn that up so the gas flow is higher. So
then I can open up this valve. And now my flask has been purged of water and of oxygen,
and now has been backfilled with completely dry nitrogen gas. And we also submit all of these compounds
to our colleagues, the biologists that run the biological assays. On a daily basis I
will make something that has never before been made on this planet. We can, you know,
I can share with my colleagues and, you know, I can access stuff from the internet and see
what has been done before. How can I make this reaction better? This peak’s co-alluding. Speaker 2: We probably need to re-purify. Speaker 1: I guess so. Speaker 2: Maybe you should try the ELSD detector. Speaker 1: Now that’s a good idea, the ELSD.
We can actually talk to Rob about shortening that line so that it co-, that it lines up
better. Speaker 2: Right, yeah. That should probably
work. Speaker 1: I love coming to work because I
know that I am working to try to help these problems. And so it’s really two things. I
like the actual work, and I like the meaning of the work. We now have the tools, you know, thanks to
the human genome research project and, you know, many other scientific advances, we now
have the tools to really tweak out the biological pathways that are causing these cancers. They
all have this ability, this innate ability to adapt to their environment. And when you
apply a drug, that is a stressful environment for those diseases. And what happens is, they
start to change and develop resistance to the drugs. These are not static systems. These organisms
are also alive. And so they will try to fight to maintain their ability to live on. And
I think that, you know, it will be this constant battle of developing new drugs and resistance
development, and then developing new drugs. It’ll be a long cycle before we can really
get a handle on honing in on what is gonna be the best treatment to completely eradicate
certain diseases. For me, you know, the most important thing
is persistence. And that’s, especially in this job, we have to be very persistent. It’s
not easy to develop new drugs. We have many more failures than we do successes, just in
my job. And so, you know, Ralph Waldo Emerson said that nothing great was ever achieved
without enthusiasm. And enthusiasm, and dedication, and perseverance I think are the three keys
of success in whatever you endeavor to do.”

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