Next Science Café turns spotlight on Project Violet

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Sequim Gazette staff

While the next Science Café features an out-of-town speaker, the event has a decidedly local angle.


Damon May, a computational biologist with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, is co-director of Project Violet — a program inspired by the late Violet O’Dell, a former Helen Haller Elementary School student.


May’s presentation is entitled, “Making Medicines from Nature.”


Project Violet is an attempt to “revolutionize drug discovery by turning the process on its head,” May says. “Traditional drug discovery starts by developing a molecule that binds tightly to some target and then making radical changes to it to try to make it act like a drug. The molecule usually doesn’t survive that lengthy and costly process.


“In Project Violet, we’re starting with tough little knotted mini-proteins from nature. These mini-proteins already act a lot like drugs, so we’re making changes to them (like changing their structure, or attaching a flashlight or a cell-killing ‘warhead’ to them) to turn them into medicines. Our proof of concept is Tumor Paint, a scorpion protein attached to a molecular ‘flashlight’ that will revolutionize brain surgery by lighting up tumors in the operating room.”


O’Dell was one of a few hundred children diagnosed each year with brainstem glioma, a rare, deadly and insidious inoperable tumor. She died at age 11.


“Our work is named af-ter her indomitable spirit,” May says.


This Science Cafe will be held at the Sequim High School cafeteria, 601 N. Sequim Ave. A light selection of foods and beverages will be available for purchase, hosted by the high school’s robotics team.


The Science Café is a community service of Sequim Education Foundation. Programs present expert speakers for adult and young adult audiences interested in current developments in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Science Café events are held on the second Tuesday of the month at the Paradise Cafe. Admission is free and food and beverages are available for purchase.


The next Science Café is April 8, with guest Dr. Ian Miller presenting, “Two Dams and the Beach: Dam Removal as Coastal Restoration.” See


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