Marshall advances in next generation sequencing and bioinformatics

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday, Oct. 21, 2011

Contact: Ginny Painter, Communications Director, Marshall University Research Corporation, 304-746-1964, ginny.painter@marshall.edu


Forum to highlight Marshall advances in

next generation sequencing and bioinformatics

Donald Primerano, Ph.D.HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Scientific researchers, computer scientists and engineers will gather next week at Marshall University for a forum to focus attention on Marshall’s research capabilities in the fields of genomics and bioinformatics.

The free forum, called “Next Generation Sequencing and Bioinformatics,” will be held Thursday, Oct. 27, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. in room 402 of the Drinko Library on Marshall’s Huntington campus. The program will include presentations about the university’s resources for advanced research in these cutting-edge scientific fields, current research projects under way on campus, and a discussion about what will be necessary to continue to build momentum.

According to event organizers, the scientific fields of molecular biology and genomics have undergone a spectacular transition over the past 20 years due to technological advances. Research studies have evolved from a single gene approach to genome-wide investigations that generate a massive amount of data to analyze. This change has led to development of bioinformatics – a research field that uses computer technology to help understand biological processes.

Over the past several years, Marshall has made a concerted effort to strategically build its capacity for this type of high-tech research. A new high-performance computing cluster has given Marshall students and faculty access to computing power, data and information previously available only to the most prestigious research institutions, and connection to the advanced Internet2® network that links the university with people, equipment and information at partner institutions around the world. Marshall is also the only institution in the state with a next generation sequencer, which allows scientists to sequence a genome faster and at lower cost than was possible with earlier methods.

Dr. Philippe Georgel, a professor of biological sciences in Marshall’s College of Science, will be helping to lead the forum. He said the university has made great strides recently.

“Marshall University is gathering momentum in terms of securing first-class equipment and building intellectual capabilities to develop competitive next generation sequencing capabilities,” Georgel said. “The decoding of the human genome has not only answered multiple biological questions, it has also opened new research avenues aimed at understanding how the expression of these thousands of genes can be coordinated.”

Another forum participant, Dr. Jim Denvir, assistant professor of bioinformatics and biostatistics at the university’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, agreed, adding, “The acquisition of state-of-the-art genomic sequencing technology has positioned Marshall University to play a leading role in emerging avenues of biological research. These new research technologies reveal both exciting possibilities and big challenges across multiple-scientific disciplines.”

Organizers invite anyone with an interest in the topic to attend the forum. For more information or to register online, visit www.marshall.edu/cegas/ngsbf.

The forum is made possible in part by a National Science Foundation grant that funds “Cyberinfrastructure for Transformational Scientific Discovery in West Virginia and Arkansas (CI-TRAIN),” a partnership among eight higher education institutions in West Virginia and Arkansas.

JCE School of Medicine Faculty Present Research at the National IDeA Meeting

Every two years the National IDeA Symposium of Biomedical Research Excellence (NISBRE) meeting is held in Washington D.C. to bring together faculty, fellows and students that participate in the National Institutes of Health’s Institutional Development Award (IDeA) programs. This year the NISBRE meeting was held June 25-27, 2012 at the Benja Lamyaithong Marshall INBRE studentOmni Shoreham Hotel and was attended by six faculty members from the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, Marshall University in the West Virginia IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (WV-INBRE) program, three from West Virginia University and one each from Bluefield State College, Concord College, West Virginia State University, West Virginia Wesleyan College and the University of Charleston. Several of the Marshall University faculty presented research during the meeting including Drs. Monica Valentovic, Nalini Santanam Nalini Santanam, Ph.D./M.P.H.and Travis Salisbury from the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology and Dr. Donald Primerano from the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology. Also presenting research was Andre Benja Lamyaithong, an undergraduate student at Wheeling Jesuit University, who has been conducting research on antidotes for acetaminophen overdose with Dr. Valentovic for two summers as part of the West Virginia INBRE summer research program. Other JCE School of Medicine faculty members attending the meeting were: Dr. Jim Denvir, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, who co-authored the work with Dr. Primerano; and Dr. Gary Rankin, Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology, who is a member of the Executive Planning Committee for the NISBRE meeting.

 

Monica Valentovic, Ph.D.Dr.Valentovic’s research on how a component of grapes and red wine (resveratrol) can reduce damage to the kidney caused by a commonly used drug (cisplatin) to treat cancer was presented in a regular research session and highlighted in a special session on clinical and translational research. In addition, Dr. Primerano’s research into the genetics of families with high blood cholesterol was highlighted in a special session on cardiovascular disease.

The IDeA program was started in 1993 to help increase the biomedical research competitiveness in states that receive only small amounts of research funding from the National Institutes of Health. The IDeA program is composed of two award programs, one (Centers Of Biomedical Research Excellence; COBRE) that is designed to create centers with a biomedical research focus at larger research schools and a second program (INBRE) designed to build the biomedical research infrastructure at smaller colleges and universities and provide biomedical research training primarily to undergraduate students. Currently, 23 states and Puerto Rico Travis Salisbury, Ph.D.are eligible to compete for COBRE or INBRE grants. Marshall University was awarded an INBRE grant as the lead institution in 2004 with West Virginia University serving as a partner lead institution.  Dr. Gary Rankin, Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology at Marshall University is the Principal Investigator for the WV-INBRE program.

Marshall investigators to help lead Research Challenge Fund projects for energy, cancer studies

The following story from the Marshall University Research Corporation highlights the cancer research of two professors from the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, Dr. Richard Niles and Dr. Donald Primerano. It also provides a spotlight on the WV Cancer Genomics Network,  which these two faculty members helped launch as Principal Investigators.


HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Researchers at Marshall University are among the lead investigators on two projects to be funded through the state’s Research Challenge Fund, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission announced today.

Photo of Dr. Thomas WilsonMarshall faculty members Drs. Thomas Wilson, Richard Niles and Donald Primerano will help direct the projects—one to develop better electronics and the other to learn more about cancers affecting West Virginians. The projects began this month and will be conducted in cooperation with researchers at West Virginia University (WVU). Each project will receive a total of $1,350,000 over the next five years.

The Research Challenge Fund was established by the state legislature in 2002 to provide seed money for new research. Projects funded through the program support the creation of research centers and start-up businesses, and foster economic development and work force advancement.

Announcing the awards, Dr. Paul L. Hill, the commission’s chancellor, said, “The primary goal of the Research Challenge Fund is to sponsor innovative research at our colleges and universities while improving the institutions’ ability to compete for federal and private funding on the national level.”

Dr. John M. Maher, Marshall’s vice president for research, said, “Marshall University is pleased to have been selected to receive funding through this important program. The Research Challenge Fund is one of the state’s largest investments in research and innovation, and the application process is always quite competitive. The fact that our investigators are integral to two of the projects announced today speaks volumes about the quality of research being done at Marshall. I look forward to watching these projects develop over the coming years.”

The funding to create a Center for Energy Efficient Electronics at Marshall and WVU will be used to investigate and develop devices that will lead to next-generation electronics that are smaller, faster and more energy efficient than current technology allows. The principal investigators on the project are Wilson, who is a professor of physics at Marshall; Dr. David Lederman, a professor of physics at WVU; and Drs. Alan Bristow, Mikel Holcomb and Tudor Stanescu, associate professors of physics at WVU.

According to the investigators, there is strong interest in the research community in the concepts of spintronics and magnonics, where spin degrees of freedom and magnetic excitations are used for information storage and processing. Spintronics and magnonics are expected to result in electronic devices that are faster and use substantially less power than current electronics because spin and magnetic excitation currents do not dissipate nearly as much energy as charge currents.

“In my lab at Marshall, I will be probing the effects of applying uniaxial stress to the magnonic devices to adjust their frequencies,” said Wilson. “This proof-of-concept experiment will permit us to determine whether it is feasible to use strain to fabricate THz magnonic devices for ultrafast communication applications.”

The second research project will further develop and expand the West Virginia Cancer Genomics Network to involve Marshall, WVU and Charleston Area Medical Center. Network partners will develop a genetic database for cancers with a higher incidence in West Virginia. Researchers will use the data in studies and clinical trials funded by federal and/or private grants and to help develop start-up biotechnology companies. Principal investigators for this study are Niles, who is a professor and chairman of Marshall’s Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology; Primerano, who is a professor of biochemistry and microbiology at Marshall and the director of the university’s Genomics Core Facility; Dr. William Petros, a professor of biochemistry at WVU; and Dr. Todd Kuenstner, the director of pathology at Charleston Area Medical Center.

Photo of Dr. Richard Niles

Niles said, “We started the Cancer Genomics Network several years ago with money from the federal stimulus, to collect genetic information about cancers that have a high prevalence in West Virginia—namely lung, colorectal and ovarian cancers, and acute myeloid leukemia. Through this award, along with our network partners at WVU and CAMC, we’ll be working to identify new diagnostic/prognostic markers and new targets for cancer therapy.”

 

Primerano added, “At our Genomics Core Facility, we will be sequencing and analyzing the tissue samples collected through the network, allowing us to gain information critical to understanding, preventing and treating cancer in future patients.”

Photo of Dr. Donald Primerano

The grants announced today are the third round of Research Challenge Fund awards made since the program began. According to the Higher Education Policy Commission, the first round—a state investment of $8.4 million—produced more than $20 million in external funding, helped create five startup companies and led to 10 patent applications. Results from the second round of grants, awarded in 2007, are being analyzed and will be reported to the governor and legislature by the end of the year.

More information about the Research Challenge Fund program and other research initiatives is available at www.wvresearch.org.


Contact:  Ginny Painter, Communications Director, Marshall University Research Corporation, 304.746.1964

Pathogenesis cluster announces a name change

In order to align its name with that of other research departments and to better capture the interest of prospective research students, the Pathogenesis Cluster has undergone a name change. One of the five research clusters in the Biomedical Sciences Program, this cluster will now be known as Infectious and Immunological Diseases.
The primary emphasis of the Infectious and Immunological Diseases Cluster is the study of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of diseases. Faculty research interests are diverse and include: induction and regulation of immune responses in autoimmune disease; characterization of leukocyte response to Streptococcus infections; developmental regulation of gene expression; mapping and cloning of human disease genes; epigenetic control of pathogenesis; epigenetic and genetic control of myeloid progenitor cell maturation as pertaining to leukemia; respiratory infection mouse models for cystic fibrosis; and control of mucoid Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms.

Dr. Hongwei Yu is the Research Cluster Coordinator. Faculty members performing research in this cluster also include Dr. Susan Jackman, Dr. Donald Primerano, Dr. Vincent E. Sollars, and Dr. Wei-ping Zeng.