Chris Campomizzi, a native of Spencerport, New York, is a trainee in the doctoral program in biochemistry.
He works in the lab of D. Fernando Estrada, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry.
Campomizzi earned his undergraduate degree in biology/biological sciences from Niagara University.
The University at Buffalo has an umbrella program (PhD Program in Biomedical Sciences), which means that when you join the PhD program you can work in labs throughout the medical school regardless of focus.
During the rotation process I worked in labs spanning three departments. We were encouraged to try a lab that was outside of our comfort zone, and I ended up loving the lab and then doing my PhD work in a different field than I intended.
Our lab studies cytochrome P450 enzymes, which are found in all organisms. In humans, they are major players in drug metabolism and are essential for steroidogenesis. In other organisms, they are responsible for a variety of metabolic processes.
My research focuses on CYP121, a cytochrome P450 enzyme from tuberculosis. When the gene encoding this enzyme is deleted from the organism it is not viable, making it a potential drug target. A challenge with this is that inhibitors of this enzyme from tuberculosis can have off-target effects on enzymes that are essential for our physiology.
Our lab’s expertise is in protein nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. During the course of my doctoral work, I have been exploring how our enzyme interacts with its native substrate, to understand the underlying mechanisms by which CYP121 functions.
Behind COVID-19, the World Health Organization lists tuberculosis as a leading global cause of death. While we do have treatments for the disease, there are about 2 million deaths each year.
Typical treatments involve multiple drugs over the span of months, many of which cause unpleasant side effects. On top of this, about 70 percent of new cases are suspected to be rifampicin resistant, the main drug used to treat patients.
Together, this warrants further understanding of this pathogen’s core metabolic processes and the exploration of new drug targets.
I am very happy to have ended up in Dr. Estrada’s lab; his door is always open and he is always willing to discuss science. Dr. Estrada places a large emphasis on attending conferences and networking, and he has taken members of the lab to large meetings like Experimental Biology and smaller ones more specific to our field.
Publishing with Dr. Estrada has been an amazing opportunity and has led to great feedback from other scientists working in the field.
Upon completion of my PhD at UB, I plan to pursue a career in industry. The work I have completed and skill set I have learned in Dr. Estrada’s lab are perfect to pursue a career at a pharmaceutical company since it is focused on understanding the molecular basis by which a major family of drug metabolizing enzymes works.