The National Science Foundation has awarded $800,000 to a team including Emory chemist William Wuest. The grant funds a project that aims to use artificial intelligence to develop next-generation disinfectants against resistant bacteria. The team also includes Emory professor Liang Zhiao from the Department of Computer Science.
The project will draw from machine learning, artificial intelligence and the chemical and biological sciences to address long-standing challenges in molecular biology on a class of molecules called quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs)— small disinfectant antimicrobial compounds, where structural innovation has been lacking and resistant bacteria represent an ongoing threat. Common household antibacterials contain QACs, but these have been losing their effectiveness and strengthening resistance as they spread through groundwater and soil.
Bill and Liang will receive $300,000 over the next three years. The remainder of the grant will be shared by researchers at George Mason and Villanova Universities.