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.Travis Salisbury, Ph.D. Currently, 23 states and Puerto Rico 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.

Dr. Piyali Dasgupta awarded NIH grant for lung cancer research

Piyali Dagupta, Ph.D., and Monica Valentovic, Ph.D.HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – A Marshall University faculty member has been awarded a three-year, $426,000 grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to further her lung cancer research.
 
Dr. Piyali Dasgupta, associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology in the university’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, will use the grant to continue her work to determine if the nutritional agent capsaicin—the active ingredient in chili peppers—can improve the anti-cancer activity of the commonly used chemotherapy drug cisplatin in patients with small cell lung cancer.
 
Dasgupta received the funding through the National Cancer Institute’s Academic Research Enhancement Award program. The program supports research projects in the biomedical and behavioral sciences that strengthen the research environment of the institution and expose students to research. Her co-investigator is Dr. Monica Valentovic, a professor in the same department.
 
“Small cell lung cancer is characterized by a high rate of growth, early metastasis and a dismal survival rate,” said Dasgupta. “Although chemotherapy works well initially in these patients, they often relapse quickly and become unresponsive to chemotherapy. Since the preliminary data in our laboratory shows that capsaicin manifests anti-cancer activity in this type of cancer, we are hopeful our studies under this new grant may lead to new treatments.”
 
She continued, “I am thrilled to receive this funding and I am grateful to a lot of people who have been instrumental in our success to this point. My collaborator Dr. Valentovic is a fabulous scientist to work with. I am also grateful to all the members of my lab for their hard work and dedication.”
 
Dasgupta also acknowledged the support of the chairman of her department, Dr. Gary Rankin, and acknowledged Dr. Marcia Harrison and the MU-ADVANCE program, which she says made it possible for undergraduate students to work in her lab. MU-ADVANCE is a National Science Foundation-funded program to help increase the number of female science and engineering faculty at the university.
 
Dasgupta says she believes her proposal was selected for funding at least in part because the grant program’s focus on student research made it a good match for her lab. Undergraduates working in her lab have a track record of receiving research grants, authoring publications and presenting their findings at international conferences.
 
Dr. John M. Maher, Marshall’s vice president for research, congratulated the researchers, saying, “NIH grants are extraordinarily competitive, and I applaud Drs. Dasgupta and Valentovic for having a successful application. They are doing vital research that may very well have a positive impact on human health in the not-so-distant future. In addition, the grant will allow them to continue to give students hands-on, meaningful research opportunities in the lab.”
 
In addition to receiving the new NIH funding, Dasgupta recently was notified that her grant from the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute has been renewed for an additional two years. The renewal, which extends the original three-year award, makes the total grant worth nearly $550,000. That grant is funding Dasgupta’s study of how nicotine, the active component in cigarette smoke, facilitates the progression of lung cancer. Valentovic is also the co-investigator on that award. 

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Marshall scientist awarded NIH grant for lung cancer research

The following story from the Marshall University Research Corporation highlights two researchers within the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program: Piyali Dasgupta, Ph.D., and Monica Valentovic, Ph.D.


Piyali Dagupta, Ph.D., and Monica Valentovic, Ph.D.

 HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – A Marshall University faculty member has been awarded a three-year, $426,000 grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to further her lung cancer research.

Dr. Piyali Dasgupta, associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology in the university’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, will use the grant to continue her work to determine if the nutritional agent capsaicin—the active ingredient in chili peppers—can improve the anti-cancer activity of the commonly used chemotherapy drug cisplatin in patients with small cell lung cancer.

Dasgupta received the funding through the National Cancer Institute’s Academic Research Enhancement Award program. The program supports research projects in the biomedical and behavioral sciences that strengthen the research environment of the institution and expose students to research. Her co-investigator is Dr. Monica Valentovic, a professor in the same department.

“Small cell lung cancer is characterized by a high rate of growth, early metastasis and a dismal survival rate,” said Dasgupta. “Although chemotherapy works well initially in these patients, they often relapse quickly and become unresponsive to chemotherapy. Since the preliminary data in our laboratory shows that capsaicin manifests anti-cancer activity in this type of cancer, we are hopeful our studies under this new grant may lead to new treatments.”

She continued, “I am thrilled to receive this funding and I am grateful to a lot of people who have been instrumental in our success to this point. My collaborator Dr. Valentovic is a fabulous scientist to work with. I am also grateful to all the members of my lab for their hard work and dedication.”

Dasgupta also acknowledged the support of the chairman of her department, Dr. Gary Rankin, and acknowledged Dr. Marcia Harrison and the MU-ADVANCE program, which she says made it possible for undergraduate students to work in her lab. MU-ADVANCE is a National Science Foundation-funded program to help increase the number of female science and engineering faculty at the university.

Dasgupta says she believes her proposal was selected for funding at least in part because the grant program’s focus on student research made it a good match for her lab. Undergraduates working in her lab have a track record of receiving research grants, authoring publications and presenting their findings at international conferences.

Dr. John M. Maher, Marshall’s vice president for research, congratulated the researchers, saying, “NIH grants are extraordinarily competitive, and I applaud Drs. Dasgupta and Valentovic for having a successful application. They are doing vital research that may very well have a positive impact on human health in the not-so-distant future. In addition, the grant will allow them to continue to give students hands-on, meaningful research opportunities in the lab.”

In addition to receiving the new NIH funding, Dasgupta recently was notified that her grant from the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute has been renewed for an additional two years. The renewal, which extends the original three-year award, makes the total grant worth nearly $550,000. That grant is funding Dasgupta’s study of how nicotine, the active component in cigarette smoke, facilitates the progression of lung cancer. Valentovic is also the co-investigator on that award.


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

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

Ph.D. student to present diabetes research at conference next week

Aileen Marcello, Ph.D. candidateA Marshall University doctoral student will present her diabetes research next week at a conference focusing on the central nervous system.

Aileen Marcelo, a Ph.D. candidate in the university’s biomedical sciences program, will present a poster at the Barriers of the Central Nervous System Gordon Research Conference and will give a talk at the conference’s student seminar. The conference and seminar will be held June 16-22 at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, N.H.

The conference will bring together clinical and basic scientists who are at the forefront of research into the system of regulatory interfaces between the blood and brain. This system is essential to brain function and has a major impact on the course and treatment of many neurological conditions, including stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy.

Although there is considerable scientific evidence implicating diabetes as a major risk factor for many central nervous system diseases, there have been few studies investigating the effects of diabetes on this blood-brain barrier. Marcelo’s research project, “The Role and Regulation of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) at the Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB) in a Rat Model of Diabetes,” explores this connection.

She works in the lab of Dr. Richard Egleton, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology at the university’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

Marcelo recently received one of eight Summer Thesis Research Grant Awards presented to outstanding graduate student researchers at Marshall. Each award provides $500 to cover the cost of expenses associated with thesis research. Award recipients were chosen on the basis of the quality and significance of their thesis research, the likelihood that the research will eventuate in a completed thesis and justification of the need for support. Funding for the awards was provided by the Marshall University Research Corporation.

Drs. Xie and Claudio receive grants for orthopedic and lung cancer research

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Two Marshall University scientists have been awarded grants of $25,000 each to advance their research, encourage collaborations and spur innovative approaches to healthcare.

Dr. Jingwei Xie and Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio are the recipients of the first grants awarded through the Joint Pilot Research Program set up by Marshall and the University of Kentucky (UK) as part of their Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) partnership. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the CTSA program is aimed at speeding the time for laboratory discoveries to benefit patients.

A senior scientist at the Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research, Xie will use his award to develop a method that may improve surgical repair of rotator cuff injuries.

Jingwei Xie, Ph.D.Xie, who is an expert in bone growth and development, will be working with Dr. Franklin D. Shuler, associate professor in the Department of Orthopaedics at the university’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

Among the most common conditions affecting the shoulder, rotator cuff injuries can occur from falls or repetitive motions like throwing a baseball. Rotator cuff repair is also one of the most common orthopedic surgeries, with approximately 300,000 procedures performed annually in the United States alone.

Xie explains that successful healing from rotator cuff surgery done with current methods has a failure rate that ranges from 20 to 90 percent, due in large part to the manner in which the tendons are reattached to the bone. For this project, he will use a multidisciplinary approach combining principles of engineering and biomedicine to construct a new type of biological device that will better mimic an uninjured tendon-to-bone attachment, and result in improved healing.

“We are pleased to be able to take advantage of this opportunity to combine expertise from two research groups at Marshall,” Xie adds. “My background in tissue engineering and Dr. Shuler’s extensive experience in clinical treatment of rotator cuff injury will allow us to do work that may very well improve the health and quality of life for individuals afflicted with these injuries. This research could also have a significant impact on the treatment of other, similar injuries of soft tissue-to-bone interfaces.”

Pier Paolo Claudio, M.D., Ph.D.The second grant went to Claudio, associate professor in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program and the Departments of Biochemistry and Microbiology and Surgery at the medical school, to help develop an assay that will potentially allow the development of personalized treatment for lung cancer. He will collaborate with Dr. Rolf J. Craven of UK’s Department of Molecular and Biomedical Pharmacology on the project.

According to Claudio, lung cancer patients generally have a poor survival rate, mostly because of the high number of relapses they typically experience. Scientists believe these relapses are due to the presence of a rare population of cancer cells—called cancer stem cells—that have become resistant to conventional treatments.

Claudio’s laboratory in the university’s new McKown Translational Genomic Research Institute at the Edwards Cancer Center has developed an assay (ChemoIDSM) that measures the sensitivity of tumors to chemotherapy drugs. He says the work funded through this grant will provide information about how lung cancer cells respond to specific types, doses and combinations of drug therapies.

Claudio says, “Our model concentrates on recent discoveries that most tumors are derived from a small number of highly resistant cancer cells having stem cell properties, called cancer stem cells. By recognizing the existence of cancer stem cells, we have taken an important step toward understanding this complex disease.

“Once we have identified the cancer stem cells from patient tumor biopsies, we know how to identify most effective chemotherapy drugs that are already part of the standard of care. Our assay technology has particular value because it can help to determine the most effective drug for a patient’s tumor based on results from an in vitro chemo sensitivity assay.”

Currently, Claudio is conducting Phase-I clinical trials on lung, breast and brain cancers.

“We know that patients with the same stage and grade of cancer often vary considerably in their response to chemotherapy,” he adds. “Our research will provide information that may allow development of tailored therapies for lung cancer, resulting in more effective treatment strategies and better clinical outcomes in the very near future.”

Xie and Claudio both intend to use their findings from these awards as springboards to apply for larger federal grants for related research.

Dr. John M. Maher, vice president for research at Marshall, says this “seeding effect” is one of the emphases of this grant program.

“These pilot awards are relatively small from a research funding perspective, but they allow recipients to test their ideas and generate concrete results as the basis for proposals to the National Institutes of Health’s large grant programs,” Maher said. “It’s not unusual for collaborative projects like these to lead to multimillion dollar awards down the road, after the initial results show significant promise.”

The CTSA partnership between Marshall and UK supports scientists in Marshall’s clinical research program, training fellowships and early stage clinical research trials. The collaboration also gives Marshall investigators access to the expertise and resources at UK’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science, and opportunities to apply for significant research grants accessible only through the CTSA program.