Research Assistant Professor
Department of Chemistry
Modi Wetzler graduated with majors in Chemistry and English from the University at Buffalo in 1999. He then completed his Ph.D. with David Wemmer in the Chemistry Department at the University of California, Berkeley in 2007. After post-doctoral research in bioengineering at Stanford University with Annelise Barron, he joined the Clemson University Chemistry Department in 2011. At Clemson, Modi is working with four graduate students on research projects ranging from design of new ligands for actinide chemistry (collaboration with Drs. Brian Powell and Lindsay Shuller-Nickles in Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences) to the rapid synthesis of highly monodisperse multiblock polymers (collaboration with Dr. Jeremiah Johnson at MIT), to several health-relevant research directions detailed below. In collaboration with Drs. Susan Chapman (Biological Sciences) and Charles Schwartz (Greenwood Genetics Center) funded by the Self Research Foundation and the NIH, Modi is synthesizing creatine analogs for the treatment of creatine transporter deficiency, a debilitating intellectual disability affecting more than a million people worldwide. He has also developed PEGylated amino acids that can be used to synthesize long-lived analogs of important peptide hormones, including oxytocin, vasopressin, and GLP-1. An international patent application was recently submitted for this work, and Modi was also an inaugural recipient of a CURF Technology Maturation Fund grant for this research. In a nascent collaboration with the Greenville Hospital System, Modi is working with Drs. Bill Kelly and Jennifer Meredith as well as Mary Lane and Connie Steed to develop a new approach for endoscope sterilization.
Due to the word limit, Modi is focusing on the first health-relevant project from above. Intellectual disability has historically been “brushed under the rug” socially and has received far less rigorous scientific attention than other disorders. Medically speaking, the treatment of intellectual disability has focused on managing symptoms instead of remediating the cause. In the case of creatine transporter deficiency, South Carolina holds a strong advantage with Dr. Charles Schwartz at the GGC having identified the responsible mutation and leading research on this disease for fifteen years. Analogs of creatine that can cross the blood-brain barrier despite a non-functional creatine transporter protein could overcome the underlying cause of this intellectual disability disorder. This approach has been demonstrated as feasible in mice with a single therapeutic candidate that has not been improved upon in the past fifty years. The potential for this collaboration between Modi, a chemist making novel analogs of creatine to cross the blood-brain barrier; Dr. Chapman, a developmental biologist capable of evaluating these analogs in cells and zebrafish; and Dr. Schwartz, who can develop test systems from cells of patients with the actual mutation to improve health care for these patients, was originally recognized and funded by the Self Research Foundation. Recently, an extension of this collaboration was funded by the National Institutes of Health, with additional collaborators: Drs. Brian Dominy (Chemistry) and Kevin Champaigne (GGC).
Creatine Transporter Deficiency, Rett Syndrome, Peptide Hormones, Endoscope Sterilization, MRI Contrast Agents, Radiopharmaceuticals