Ernesto Abel-Santos

Professor, Biochemistry


I obtained a B.S. degree in chemistry in the Dominican Republic. I then trained in synthetic organic chemistry and bioorganic chemistry with professor George Gokel at Washington University Medical School. My interest in applying chemical techniques to biological problems got me to train in enzymology as a postdoctoral scholar with professor Stephen Benkovic at Penn State University. Since then I worked as an assistant professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and as an associate professor at UNLV. Although my training is in bioorganic chemistry and enzymology, I am continuously entering new fields as needed for my research. My laboratory has successfully merged organic chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, and more recently, animal model of disease. By applying quantitative approaches to microbiological problems, we developed new techniques for evaluating mechanisms of Bacillus and Clostridium spore germination. We also used chemical probes to understand the binding sites of Ger receptors in spores. We have been working with bacterial spores for six years and have produced 12 papers in the area. The eclectic mixture of techniques used in the laboratory will be crucial to complete this project. It will allow us to successfully move from synthesis of bile salt analogs to screening for anti-germination compounds in vitro, to determining efficacy, stability, distribution, and toxicity of anti-germination compounds in an animal model of CDI.


Bioorganic Chemistry, Enzymology, Bacterial Spore Germination, Bioterrorism

Area of Interests

Dr. Abel-Santos is interested in research that combines the areas of organic chemistry, biochemistry and microbiology. The Abel-Santos laboratory is currently applying enzymology approaches to the process of Bacillus spore germination. Due to its potential as a bioterrorism weapon, new methods to control B. anthracis (a.k.a ANTHRAX) infections are needed. B. anthracis spores are resistant to most type of antiseptic and antibiotic treatments. Although anthrax spores are resilient, they have to “taste” their environment to determine when conditions are right to germinate (e.g. your lungs) Using the information gathered from the kinetic models, we have developed nucleoside inhibitors against anthrax spore germination. These compounds have proven to be effective in protecting macrophage form anthrax-mediated killing.