Brittany Brems is only a junior in college, but her research may help scientists develop more effective drugs to treat long-term illnesses.
Brems, a biochemistry major from Long Island, researched ways to strengthen antibody drug conjugates with support from Binghamton University’s Summer Scholars and Artists Program.
When we get sick and take medicine to help our bodies recover, a drug entering our system will attach itself to any cell within our bodies — regardless of whether that cell is infected. Brems’ research aims to create and test drug conjugates that will attach themselves to a specific antibody, which will then only attack infected cells.
This makes the drug more effective; it also has the potential to eliminate the harmful side effects of some medications.
Brems focused on anti-inflammatory drugs that work to combat rheumatoid arthritis and breast cancer, working to optimize the chemical reaction that takes place once the drugs enter the body and to maintain the drug’s overall stability. She was able to decipher the optimal reaction conditions for several drugs in her study.
Brems began her research at Binghamton through the Freshman Research Immersion program, which led to an opportunity to work in a lab studying drug development. That experience has helped her to understand just how much time researchers invest in their work.
“People think it’s a lot quicker than it actually is,” Brems says. “A lot of the reactions I do take days to complete. So I’ll do it and I can’t even see if it worked until a day or even two days afterward.”
Nathan Tumey, assistant professor of pharmaceutical science, mentored Brems in his lab.
“What’s fun for me to see is that she was already in the lab prior to the summer,” Tumey says. “She spent the entire summer in the lab, and by about one-third of the way through summer, she was completely independent.”
Brems has always had an interest in science, which grew throughout high school in her lab courses. She also enjoys taking dance classes at the university, as well as swimming, reading and crochet.
Brems will continue her research in Tumey’s lab through senior year, and she plans to obtain a PhD in medicinal chemistry after she graduates from Binghamton. While she says her love of science led many to suggest she become a medical doctor, she stayed set on becoming a researcher.
“Think about what you would enjoy doing every single day,” Brems says. “The most difficult parts [of research] are the most rewarding. … Do something you enjoy every day, not just because that’s what you’re told to do.”