Ferris State University Professor Research ‘Rebuilds’ Anti-Cancer Medicine

“This is cutting-edge science. It’s been a dream come true but it’s a lot of work.”

The idea is to re-think the drugs that help treat cancer.

A Ferris State University professor is re-writing cancer medicine in his classroom.

Dr. Eric Nybo, with two students, has put years into making anti-cancer medicine better.

He does it using underground bacteria to rebuild drugs and change what they do.

“There are blueprints that we can take and we can manipulate those blueprints to make rational drugs.”

For FSU associate professor of medicinal chemistry Dr. Eric Nybo, the idea came to life two years ago.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that a lot of the antibiotics you can get from the doctor’s office, a lot of the antibiotics we use as anti-cancer drugs are actually produced by soil-dwelling organisms that live beneath our feet,” Dr. Nybo says, holding up a vial of black-red material. “These microorganisms produce drugs called natural products. These are the actual bacteria we use to produce our drugs and you can see they have a very black-red color.”

That’s right: bacteria producing antibiotics.

With more than $60,000 of ADVANCE Proof of Concept grant money to help, he says he’s rebuilding the way to better cancer treatment.

“We’re looking at the blueprints and we’re saying, okay, can we strip this whole Lego brick pathway down to very basic building blocks and reassemble the whole thing?” Dr. Nybo says.

He says this study, while two years in the making, is bringing real-world experience while keeping students out of just sitting in the classroom and it starts with a treatment that could be right underneath our feet.

“It’s honestly very phenomenal,” says Jennifer Tran, FSU junior working with the same study and biotechnology student. “I love learning everything from Dr. Nybo. He really breaks everything down.”

Dr. Nybo isn’t alone.

Tran and pharmacy student Kayla Maki stand by his side.

“It’s really nice to see and take what I’m learning in the classroom and basically apply to real-world situations,” Tran says.

Dr. Nybo says the work is far from finished but his team will watch his bacteria grow closer to improving treatments forever.

“It’s been very exciting,” Dr. Nybo says. “It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to be a college professor. It’s a pretty ambitious undertaking but that’s the goal.”