Summer 2009

In Vivo

Dean Molly Jahn

In this issue, you’ll read an update on a topic that has special significance for me. Antibiotics saved my life.

When I was 13, I was diagnosed with a potentially fatal staph infection. This is a sneaky and dangerous bug, and by the time the infection was detected and recognized, I was critically ill, facing major surgery and an uncertain recovery. My only hope for recovery was the drug dicloxicillin, which was prescribed and administered in massive doses. It worked. And I survived, one more life saved by these miracle drugs.

Today, it is hard for most of us to imagine a world without antibiotic pharmaceuticals. And yet it’s been considerably less than a century since they were recognized and introduced into clinical use, thanks in no small part to pioneering work on our campus. But if we are not careful, we may find ourselves much too close to that world again. The rising levels of microbial resistance to our best antibiotics—and the dearth of new antibiotics in the drug pipeline—are a startling wake-up call that could imperil our ability to treat disease in humans and animals.

Fortunately, we’ve heard that wake-up call. At CALS, we have one of the brightest and most creative communities of microbiologists in the world, and they are fast uncovering promising new antibiotic compounds. But they are doing more than that. By taking the next step and refining the compounds that may be significantly valuable in clinical use, they are advancing a new model of drug development that can channel more of these medications into the marketplace, where they can save more lives.

To me, this work offers a wonderful illustration of how our college continues to do what it was invented to do—to create real, lasting change in people’s lives. Research does have the capacity to save millions of lives, and I am living proof of that power.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re pleased to note that Grow has been collecting a little gold recently, winning awards in two national competitions. Grow was judged best magazine by the Association for Communication Excellence, an international group of communicators from land-grant universities and research institutions. Grow writers Bob Mitchell, Nicole Miller and Michael Penn won the top three spots in the competition’s feature writing category. The magazine also won a gold medal for staff writing from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, which represents professionals in alumni relations, communications and marketing. Thanks to everyone who has helped make Grow a success – especially our readers.

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