Every few months, chemist Brian Bachmann sheds his white lab coat, collects his flashlight, helmet, surgical gloves and knotted rope, puts on old clothes and hiking boots and heads to a nearby cave.
Bachmann, an assistant professor of chemistry at Vanderbilt, has combined his industrial experience in natural products drug discovery with his undergraduate hobby of caving to set up the first systematic program to search for novel drugs produced by cave-dwelling microorganisms.
Caving expert John Hickman, who accompanies Bachmann on his underground expeditions, repels down to the entrance of the Snail Shell Cave near Murfreesboro, Tenn. (Photo credit: John Russell, Vanderbilt University)
To most people, caves may be dark, spooky and claustrophobic, but to Bachmann they are a treasure trove – "an untapped source of potential therapeutics," he said.
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