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Heavy elements in nature: from radionuclide decontamination to targeted radiotherapy

Dr. Rebecca Abergel

Staff Scientist and Career Development & Diversity Officer, Chemical Sciences Division

Deputy Director, Institute for Resilient Communities

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 10:00am to 11:00am
3110 Etcheverry Hall
Spring 2017 Colloquium Series

Recent events have called attention to the persistent possibilities of environmental and human contamination with radioisotopes such as lanthanide fission products and actinides. In parallel, a few actinide isotopes have recently emerged as promising short-lived radionuclides for targeted alpha-particle therapy. However, limited research has been directed to the characterization of f-element chemistry in biologically relevant systems. A combination of biochemical and spectroscopic approaches on both in vitro and in vivo systems is currently used to study the selective binding and recognition of lanthanides and actinides by natural and synthetic platforms. Studying the biokinetics, photophysics, solution thermodynamics, and structural features of f-element complexes has important implications for the development of new decontamination agents and separation strategies, but also for the design of future targeted imaging and radio-therapeutic constructs.

About the Speaker: 

Dr. Abergel’s research program is dedicated to investigating the coordination biochemistry of heavy and f-elements, with therapeutic and environmental applications such as chelation and bioremediation of toxic metals released in industrial processes, engineering of antimicrobial strategies targeting metal-acquisition systems, and design of advanced alpha-immuno theranostic agents. She leads a large collaborative effort on the development of new drug products for the treatment of populations contaminated with radionuclides. One of these products was granted an Investigational New Drug status from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2014. In addition, she has been actively involved in the new Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Initiative for Resilient Communities, the radiological component of which was sparked by the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident. 

Dr. Abergel was raised in France and graduated from the École Normale Supérieure of Paris in 2002. She conducted her graduate studies in inorganic chemistry at UC Berkeley, under the supervision of Professor Kenneth Raymond. Her doctoral work focused on the synthesis and characterization of siderophore analogs to probe microbial iron transport systems and design new iron chelating agents. As a joint postdoctoral researcher between the UC Berkeley Chemistry Department and the group of Professor Roland Strong at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, she investigated the bacteriostatic function of the innate immune protein siderocalin in binding siderophores from pathogenic microorganisms such as Bacillus anthracis, for the development of new antibiotics. Dr. Abergel joined Berkeley Lab in 2009, where she currently serves as the chair of the Radioactive Drug Research Committee and is an associate editor for the International Journal of Radiation Biology and a corresponding member (USA) for Radioprotection. Dr. Abergel is the recipient of a WCC Rising Star award from the American Chemical Society (2017), an Early Career award from the U.S. Department of Energy (2014), and was selected as an Innovator under 35 – France by the MIT Technology Review in 2014. She also received a Junior Faculty NCRP award (2013) from the Radiation Research Society, and a Young Investigator Research Fellowship (2010) from the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation.