UND student receives grant for research
Neville Forlemu said he's always wanted to have an impact in medicine. But the UND chemistry graduate student said that becoming a doctor wasn't really an option he considered as an undergraduate in Cameroon, Africa. Instead, he pursued a degree ...
Neville Forlemu said he's always wanted to have an impact in medicine.
But the UND chemistry graduate student said that becoming a doctor wasn't really an option he considered as an undergraduate in Cameroon, Africa.
Instead, he pursued a degree in biochemistry, where his research of very small particles could make a huge difference in future drug development, Forlemu said.
Forlemu's ambitions just received a huge boost.
He is among 38 scholars nationwide to be awarded a UNCF-Merck Science Initiative Award, from the pharmaceutical company Merck, Inc., and the United Negro College Fund.
Forlemu will receive as much as $52,000 to pursue his research.
The award allows Forlemu to focus on his research, gives him more tools to use in the research and opens a wide door for him to have access to others in his field -- connecting him to others who have received the award in the past and to those who are working in the profession.
At an early age, Forlemu watched as friends and family, including his mother, became ill with malaria year after year, fueling his desire to figure out a way to effectively treat the disease.
In his studies, Forlemu uses a computer program that simulates the processes and interactions of enzymes. This gives him the opportunity to study whether this interaction includes substrate channeling, where the product of one enzyme passes onto another enzyme without being released through a solution but through another pathway. If substrate channeling can be pegged down, it can make the transfer process more efficient, Forlemu said."These are very important fields for developing an understanding of the way the enzyme proteins in the body work," he said. "There are so many things it would be applied to potentially."
For example, there's malaria.
"One of the questions I'm trying to answer is: Are the enzymes of humans compartmental? What are the differences between the enzymes of humans and the parasite that causes malaria? Can you use the differences? Are there things that can inhibit the enzymes of the malaria parasite without inhibiting the enzymes of the other pathway?" he said.
Basically, Forlemu is trying to find out whether molecules can attack malaria without harming the host.
"It can have huge applications in drug discovery," he said.
The possibilities, considering his research so far, are endless, Forlemu said.
The road to UND
Forlemu moved to Grand Forks four years ago, following the advice of a friend from Cameroon who already began study here.
"I was lucky. My adviser (Dr. Kathryn Thomasson) has a lot of confidence in me to bring me all the way over here to do research, which has been working well," he said.
Forlemu hasn't been back to Cameroon since moving here. He and his wife, Joyce, and their 2-month-old daughter, Phoebe, live in Grand Forks.
His nearly 2-year-old daughter, Courtney, is visiting his mother in Cameroon.
When asked what his mother thinks of his research, considering her own frequent battles against malaria, Forlemu says "she's ecstatic."
"She doesn't understand a lot of what I'm doing, but she's very happy I'm doing it," he said.