Dr. Shana Stoddard and Lab Students Discover Antiviral That Could Aid in COVID-19 Treatment

Professor teaching in front of screen and students

When Rhodes College switched to remote teaching and learning in March, Dr. Shana Stoddard, assistant professor of chemistry, wanted to continue creating meaningful labs for her first-year Foundations of Chemistry course. Instead of showing videos, she decided to charge her students with designing and testing possible therapies for coronavirus. Many of her lab students enjoyed the lab work so much that they continued as part of Stoddard’s Molecular Immunotherapies Research (MIR) lab.

Dr. Stoddard and the lab students found an antiviral compound that may be able to shorten the length of illness for patients with COVID-19. They also discovered how to design the drugs to interact with the coronavirus protein better to facilitate better drug design. The students' work was published in the Journal Viruses on August 26.

“The research work here is significant because we have defined the structural features that will make a better COVID-19 antiviral drug compound and then used those features to design several novel COVID-19 antiviral compounds which we are now pursuing for testing. The remarkable team of students who really took hold of this opportunity, during the remote phase of the Spring ’20 semester, to help find a solution for COVID-19 have really produced seminal contributions to the field of science. This accomplishment of the students just demonstrates the ability of Rhodes College to not only push students to creative and academic excellence but to equip them to become the next generation transformational leaders in society,” says Dr. Stoddard.

There are 14 student co-authors, many of whom were first-years at the time of the project.

“The project was a great way to learn how even the simpler concepts that we learn in Foundations of Chemistry can have a real-world impact on the research of tomorrow. This opportunity allowed me to find my true passion for therapeutics and research medicine,” says student researcher Ben Oelkers ’23.

Their story was covered by The Daily Memphian.

 Student Co-Authors:

  1. Serena Stoddard, College of Veterinary Medicine, Tuskegee University
  2. Benjamin Oelkers '23
  3. Kennedi Fitts '21
  4. Kellen Whalum '21
  5. Kaylah Whalum '21
  6. Alexander Hemphil '23
  7. Jithin Manikonda '23
  8. Linda Martinez '23
  9. Elizabeth Riley '22
  10. Caroline Roof '21
  11. Nowreen Sarwar '23
  12. Doni Thomas '20
  13. Emily Ulmer '22
  14. Felissa “Emma” Wallace, Walnut Hills High School