Biomedical sciences doctoral students take top awards at regional conference


Contact: 
Ginny Painter, Communications Director, Marshall University Research Corporation, 304-746-1964, or  Leah C. Payne, Director of Public Affairs, Schools of Medicine & Pharmacy, 304-691-1713

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Two biomedical sciences doctoral students from Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine captured first place in both categories of a research competition held earlier this month in conjunction with the first Appalachian Regional Cell Conference.

They were among more than 40 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows from Marshall, West Virginia University, University of Kentucky and Ohio University competing at the conference, which was held Oct. 12 at the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center at Charleston Area Medical Center.

Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine biomedical sciences Ph.D. students Johannes Fahrmann, standing, and Rounak Nande, seated, captured first place in their respective categories at a research competition held earlier this month in conjunction with the first Appalachian Regional Cell Conference. Fahrmann won the oral presentation category and Nande took first place in the poster category.

Marshall biomedical sciences Ph.D. candidate Johannes Fahrmann received first place in the oral presentation category of the competition for a presentation about his research to explore the effects of omega-3 fatty acids in late stage chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Rounak Nande, who is also a doctoral student in the university’s biomedical sciences program, was awarded first place in the poster category for a poster describing his project to help develop a delivery system for targeted gene therapy to improve the treatment of prostate cancer. 

Fahrmann said the conference was a valuable experience and he hopes to continue his involvement with the event in the future. 

“The conference was aimed at networking, collaborations and showcasing the research being conducted by students at the attending universities,” he added. “I was given the honor and privilege to represent Marshall University through an oral presentation describing my cancer research, and was very pleased to receive the overall award. Neither the award nor the conference itself could have come to fruition without the dedicated work of the organizing committee, which included our own graduate student Allison Wolf.”

He also expressed appreciation to his faculty mentor, Dr. Elaine Hardman, Marshall professor of biochemistry and microbiology. 

Hardman praised Fahrmann’s work, saying, “Johannes is an outstanding senior graduate student who will do well in research. The presentation he made was completely his own work—he developed the idea, wrote a grant, obtained the funding to do the work and has excellent results. His work has clear clinical relevance and, we hope, will apply to enhancing cancer therapy in the near future. He is a leader in the department and an outstanding role model for the younger graduate students. I am delighted with his success and to have him for a student.”

Nande said of the experience, “I, too, felt privileged to take part in the first-ever ARCC conference put together by the four universities. I would like to thank my mentor at Marshall, Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio, and my collaborators from the Tri-State Regional Cancer Center in Ashland, Ky., Dr. Michael Gossman and Dr. Jeffrey Lopez, for having confidence in me to present our research.”

Claudio, who is an associate professor of biochemistry and microbiology and director of the McKown Translational Genomics Research Institute, said he was pleased with Nande’s success at the conference and emphasized the potential importance of the student’s research.

“A major challenge for effective gene therapy is the ability to specifically deliver nucleic acids and potentially toxic gene products directly into diseased tissue. This system Ron helped develop in our lab allows for the specific delivery of smart biological drugs to diseased tissues using the blood stream. The advantage of this technique is that the therapeutic viruses are released in a concentrated manner in the diseased tissue, eliciting an enhanced therapeutic effect while minimizing complications,” added Claudio.

Two additional Marshall graduate students, Kristeena Ray and Sarah Mathis, were selected as winners in their categories of the poster competition—Ray for a poster showcasing her research into the role of epigenetics in endometriosis-associated pain and Mathis for a poster describing her work to help develop a test that could make possible individualized chemotherapy treatments. Ray works in the lab of Dr. Nalini Santanam, Marshall professor of pharmacology, physiology and toxicology. Claudio serves as Mathis’s faculty mentor.

The conference was organized and hosted by the four institutions with the goal of expanding the field of cell biology research and fostering interactions among scientists at the universities in the Ohio Valley/mid-Appalachian region. In addition to the oral and poster presentations, the program featured keynote speaker Dr. Vinay Pathak, a senior investigator in HIV drug resistance at the National Cancer Institute, and networking opportunities for more than 80 students and faculty members who participated in the program. The conference was funded through a grant from the American Society for Cell Biology.

 ###

Photo by Rick Haye/Marshall University

BMS Program celebrates Seventh Annual Biomedical Sciences Research Retreat

Students attending the research retreatOn August 19, the faculty, staff, and students of the Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Graduate Program gathered together for the Seventh Annual Biomedical Sciences Research Retreat. Held at the Ramada Limited in Huntington, the retreat served as an excellent opportunity to socialize in an informal setting over a tasty lunch, share research projects and advancements, welcome a guest alumni speaker, and present awards for outstanding service and research. Dr. Elsa Mangiarua organized the event, as she does every year. Thanks to her guidance the event, as always, went smoothly and was a great success.

The event began with a buffet lunch, followed by time to mingle and view research posters. After lunch, a lively discussion commenced as research students and faculty members discussed their research projects with each other. Although this is a small group that interacts frequently, events such as this still evoke quite a bit of exchange and interest.

George Kamphaus, Ph.D.The poster presentations were followed by a seminar delivered by Dr. George Kamphaus, a graduate of the Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. Program who completed a Post-Doc at Harvard. He delivered a seminar entitled “Fc-Fusion of Clotting Factor IX: Development of a Long-acting Clotting Factor.” Dr. Kamphaus is currently a Senior Scientist working for Syntonix Pharmaceuticals. There is currently only one drug on the market targeted to treated Hemophilia B, and his company is working diligently to change this fact. Currently, Hemophilia B patients must receive injections of this drug twice weekly to treat their disease. The drug that Syntonix is developing is a clotting factor that has a longer duration of action, enabling patients to instead receive weekly injections. According to Dr. Kamphaus, there are patients in India suffering from this condition who must currently travel more than 12 hours to receive their injections; a drug that can be injected once weekly will make a significant difference in the lives of such patients.

During his seminar, Dr. Kamphaus spoke highly of the BMS Ph.D. Program, expressing that it prepared him well for a career in the pharmaceutical industry. Unlike more established academic programs that may employ a silo structure, pharmaceutical companies are often smaller start-ups that require researchers to frequently interact. According to Dr. Kamphaus, the interdisciplinary nature of the BMS Program prepared him well for this. He also spoke fondly of the level of concern from BMS Program instructors: “They care about their students, and this really comes across. The individual attention to students is extraordinary, and much different than what you would find in other programs. I think this sets up BMS graduates well for success.”

After the seminar, a representative from each research cluster delivered a short presentation covering current cluster research. Ben Owen, a Ph.D. student in the Neuroscience and Developmental Biology Cluster, discussed his research on action potentials; Aileen Marcelo, a Ph.D. Candidate in the Cardiovascular Disease, Obesity, and Diabetes Cluster, spoke of her work focusing on VEGF; Johannes Fahrmann, a Ph.D. Student in the Cancer Biology Cluster, discussed the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on downregulating NFkB within early-stage chronic lymphocytic leukemia; Dr. Gary Rankin of the Toxicology and Environmental Health Sciences Cluster updated the group on his work on genetic polymorphisms and unexpected methodone mortality; and Dr. Wei-ping Zeng of the Infectious and Immunological Diseases Cluster elaborated on his work with CD4 T cell differentiation.

Paula KounsThe cluster updates were followed by the presentation of awards for the 2010-2011 school year. Miranda Carper, President of the BMS GSO, presented the faculty awards. Awards were given to Dr. Travis Salisbury for Faculty Appreciation and Paula Kouns for Staff Appreciation. Dr. Salisbury was lauded for his accessibility to students. A student who nominated Dr. Salisbury remarked, “I appreciate the fact that he talks to me like an equal or a colleague.” In praise of Paula Kouns, another student stated: “Outside of being a genuinely nice and caring person, Paula goes above and beyond as our department secretary.”

 

Dr. Richard Niles presented the graduate student awards. The following students received awards: 

Sunil Kakarla, Ph.D. candidateBest Research Performance (Plaque and a paid trip to a national meeting up to $2,000): Sunil Kakarla

 

 

 

 

Anne Silvis, Ph.D. candidateBest Overall Performance as a Graduate Student (Plaque and a paid trip to an international meeting, up to $3,500): Anne Silvis

 

 

 

 

Highest GPA for a First Year Medical Sciences student (Plaque): Ross DeChant, Brittany Wall

Highest GPA for a First Year Research student (Plaque): Steven Rogers

Lotspeich Award ($1,000): Jesse Thornton

Best Creative Title for the Inaugural Issue of the BMS Magazine ($100): Miranda Carper

Thank you to our participants, speakers and award-winners. Also, a big thank you goes out to Dr. Mangiarua for doing such a great job in organizing the event! We look forward to seeing everyone at the gathering again next year.