Current Med Student Got His Start Developing Molecules That May Help Solve Third World Diseases

Andrew Strong
2009 Alumnus, B.S. Chemistry & Chemical Biology, School of Science 

Update: Strong graduated from medical school at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University. He received an M.D. with a special qualification in biomedical research. He is now in a residency program at the Cleveland Clinic in general surgery.

As Andrew Strong begins his first weeks of medical school at The Cleveland Clinic, researchers across the globe are accessing a database of more than 48,000 compounds he helped develop while studying chemistry at IUPUI. They're molecules that may one day take aim at life-threatening Third World diseases like malaria and tuberculosis. In a long list of Strong's accomplishments while on the Indianapolis campus, it's the one of which he's most proud.

Strong spent nearly three years working alongside School of Science professors Dr. Martin O'Donnell and Dr. Bill Scott on their Distributed Drug Discovery program (D3), a promising low-cost strategy to accelerate the identification of drugs to treat often-neglected diseases occurring primarily in the world's poorest countries. Strong's multidisciplinary training in chemistry, biology and informatics made him uniquely qualified to help launch the database.

"It was very interesting to stretch myself and figure out what I could do with the software, rewriting parts of it to do exactly what we wanted; it really added a whole other dimension to the project," explains Strong, who came to IUPUI as part of the Bepko Scholars and Fellows Program, the university's most prestigious scholarship. "Now we have thousands of molecules in a database that is publicly searchable — all compounds we're pretty sure we can make in a laboratory. It really opens the door for collaboration in drug discovery applications targeting Third World diseases."

As a result of Strong's pioneering work on the D3 project, he was a coauthor with Drs. O'Donnell and Scott on two of the team's first three journal articles published by the American Chemical Society's Journal of Combinatorial Chemistry (JCC) — one of the field's premier journals.

A graduate of North Central High School in Indianapolis, Strong says IUPUI was the only college he applied to that was larger than his high school. Initially enamored by the traditionally tight-knit atmosphere of small liberal arts colleges, he was struck by friends' and colleagues' observations of IUPUI's diversity.

Honored to be among a Top 100 group committed to engaging the community and the world, Strong earned a near-perfect GPA during his four years on campus, and left IUPUI grateful for both the recognition and the opportunities he received along the way.

Twenty-four students from the School of Science were among IUPUI's "Top 100" for 2009, including Andrew Strong, IUPUI's Top Male student. The IUPUI Top 100 Student Recognition Awards are sponsored annually by the IUPUI Alumni Council and the Student Organization for Alumni Relations (SOAR).

Are you a former IUPUI School of Science student with a story to share? Email Natalie or call 317-274-0618.