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Wake Forest Graduate Student Ties for First in National Poster Competition

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Charles W. Pemble IV, a fourth-year graduate student in the Center for Structural Biology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, has finished in a tie for first place in the national student poster competition at the American Crystallographic Association meeting in Honolulu.

His poster was prepared in conjunction with his mentor, Todd Lowther, Ph.D., assistant professor of biochemistry, and Steven J. Kridel, Ph.D., assistant professor of cancer biology.

It described work he is doing to understand the crystal structures involved in aspects of an enzyme called human fatty acid synthase which is responsible for synthesis of long-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids are crucial in human physiology.

“Elevated levels of the human fatty acid synthase protein are found in many human carcinomas including prostate, ovarian, colon and breast and play a pivotal role in the supply of fatty acids necessary for the growth and survival of cancer cells,” Pemble said.

He is focusing on how a newly approved drug called Orlistat halts the rapid production of fatty acids and selectively kills prostate tumor cells. He has just completed solving the crystal structure of Orlistat in combination with one portion of the human fatty acid synthase, which may answer questions on how Orlistat inhibits cancer cell growth.

“These molecular details will enable future drug design efforts and the optimization of compounds that exhibit greater treatment potential,” he said.

Pemble, 29, is a native of Vero Beach, Fla., but grew up in Laurel, Md. He is a 2003 graduate of the University of Florida, summa cum laude, with a degree in microbiology and cell science.

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Media Contacts: Robert Conn, rconn@wfubmc.edu, Shannon Koontz, shkoontz@wfubmc.edu, or Karen Richardson, krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu, at (336) 716-4587.

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. U.S. News & World Report ranks Wake Forest University School of Medicine 18th in family medicine, 20th in geriatrics, 25th in primary care and 41st in research among the nation's medical schools. It ranks 35th in research funding by the National Institutes of Health. Almost 150 members of the medical school faculty are listed in Best Doctors in America.

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