​A four-year, $425,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health is helping Sacramento State students contribute to the fight against HIV.

The grant, recently awarded to Professor Katherine McReynolds in the Department of Chemistry, aims to synthesize complex dendritic carbohydrate-based macromolecules that could serve as a topical barrier between potential host cells and the HIV virus.

The goal is to find a group of molecules that can bind to protein structures on the virus surface, preventing it from invading and infecting potential host cells. Dr. McReynolds' research specifically targets the GP120 protein, which masks the identity of the virus, thereby preventing its interaction with the target cell.

"I think it's a great strategy that could potentially have a huge impact in decreasing the number of new cases of HIV," says Dr. McReynolds. "It's meant to be a preventative agent, something that can be used in advance of an HIV exposure."​

One of the benefits of the funding is that it will allow Dr. McReynolds to expand the number of students on her research team—adding at least two immediately with more to possibly follow.

"We really try to push the students to get that hands-on experience outside the classroom," she says. "Having a strong research background can help them get that first job or get into a competitive graduate program."