Chemistry and Biochemistry

BYU Alumni Wins ACS Hero Award

Posted: Nov 20, 2013

Zhifeng Ye, who received her MS in Organic Chemistry from BYU, has been honored as an ACS Hero of Chemistry for her work on a new drug to treat cystic fibrosis.

Ye is a senior technical operation manager at Vertex Pharmaceuticals. She and 11 of her colleagues are being recognized for their development of Kalydeco, a revolutionary new drug that targets the G551D mutation of cystic fibrosis.

Kalydeco is the first treatment of its kind to address the defective cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) protein, the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis. The disease seriously affects the lungs, and Kalydeco helps to improve lung function, among other things.

Ye and her team are responsible for optimizing the synthesis of new drugs. Because of the optimized synthetic route that Ye developed, Kalydeco is now made on a very large scale.

Ye received her master’s degree in 2005. She worked with Dr. Merritt Andrus doing asymmetric catalysis development.

“Zhifeng was an outstanding student,” Dr. Andrus said. “She was eager to try new things and apply her understanding.”

The ACS Heroes of Chemistry program began in 1996. The program recognizes "innovation and development of commercial products based on chemistry", according to a press release from the ACS.

Read an article on Ye from College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences here.

By: Ellen Westenhaver