PhD Study Investigates Factors Inhibiting Malaria Treatment

Dr Gideon Femi Tolufashe who graduated with a PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry.

Dr Gideon Femi Tolufashe graduated with a PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry following a novel study on L,D-transpeptidase 5 (LdtMt5) from Mycobacterium Tuberculosis using computational methods.

‘The aim was to identify potential inhibitors yielding to the treatment of malaria for which new drugs are needed,’ he explained.

The study investigated the inhibition mechanism of LdtMt5 from Mycobacterium Tuberculosis by carbapenems using molecular dynamics and transition state structural models. It employed the computational techniques: Molecular dynamics (Amber), Virtual Screening and Molecular docking using different software namely DFT, and QM/MM ONIOM (Gaussian).

Virtual screening of new compounds was undertaken to propose potential novel leads for LdtMt5. ‘The investigation was adopted to clarify the acylation process of carbapenems, compute their activation energies and propose new ß-lactams inhibitors with lower activation energies in comparison to the known FDA approved carbapenems,’ explained Tolufashe.

The study produced three published articles, one under review and two co-authored articles. Tofulashe’s results were published in reputable ISI journals and he presented oral and poster presentations at different conferences.

Tolufashe said he was motivated to study at UKZN because it is among the top universities in South Africa with a strong scientific core and cutting-edge research and innovation, ‘In addition, good welfare in terms of student bursaries and scholarships attracted me,’ he added.

Tolufashe is currently working on a project funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology at the University of Porto, Portugal, and is also a visiting postdoctoral researcher at the Singular Research Center in Biological and Molecular Chemistry at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

‘I love teaching, reading and listening to music. My driving force is my ever-answering God and doing my best in everything I tackle,’ he said.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied