Funding for collaborative medical research announced at Marshall University

Translational research aims to transfer discoveries from the laboratory to the bedside quickly

Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine officials today announced $150,000 in funding for six research grants associated with the school’s translational medicine research program.

The Marshall Health Translational Pilot Grant program, created in 2012, encourages collaborative research between basic scientists and clinical physicians in an effort to speed up the process of laboratory discovery to clinical application for patients.  The grants are funded by Marshall Health.

“We are very pleased that Marshall Health has created this grant program to stimulate research efforts,” said Richard M. Niles, Ph.D., senior associate dean for Biomedical Sciences at the School of Medicine. “Moving Marshall to the next level of medical research takes vision, commitment and of course, funding.  This grant allows 12 researchers, as well as medical residents and students, the opportunity to explore very diverse areas.”

Marshall Health is the faculty practice plan for the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and supports the clinical, educational, research and services missions of the school.  Beth Hammers, executive director of the organization, says the pilot grant program provides one year of support at $25,000 for each grantee, with additional funding based on progress of the research.

“Medical research is essential to the development of new medical treatments and cures for patients,” Hammers said.  “We are thrilled to help stimulate a robust, viable grant program which pairs basic scientists from Marshall University with School of Medicine physicians to work on projects which will lead to the betterment of our community.”

The investigators and their projects are listed below:

Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, and Dr. Anthony Alberico, Department of Neuroscience – “Chemotherapy resistance and sensitivity testing in tumors of the central nervous system”

Dr. Elaine Hardman, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, and Dr. James Jensen, Department of Surgery – “Feasibility and Safety of Nutritional Supplementation with Omega-3 Fatty Acids to Reduce Prostate Specific Antigen Rise in Men with Biochemical Failure after Prostatectomy or External-Beam Radiotherapy”

Dr. Nalini Santanam, Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology, and Dr. Paulette Wehner, Department of Cardiology – “Perivascular Fat Relation to Hypertension—Appalachian Heart Study”

Dr. Nalini Santanam, Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology, and Dr. Abid Yaqub, Department of Medicine, Endocrinology Section – “Impact of Technology-based Behavioral Intervention on Molecular and Clinical Parameters in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes”

Dr. Monica Valentovic, Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology, and Dr. Brenda Dawley, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology – “Prenatal Exposure to Heavy Metals and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) Alter Umbilical Cord Blood Levels of Thyroid Hormone and Vitamin D”

Dr. Hongwei Yu, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, and Dr. Yoram Elitser, Department of Pediatrics – “Investigate the distribution of segmented filamentous bacteria (SFB) in American children and the presence of SFB with childhood diseases”

Other current translational research under way at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine includes a partnership with the University of Kentucky (UK) as part of the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical and Translational Science Awards program, which also is aimed at speeding the time for laboratory discoveries to benefit patients.

In 2011, UK and its partners received $20 million for the program to support research at UK’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science, making Marshall part of a select national biomedical research network.


Contact:  Ginny Painter, Communications Director, Marshall University Research Corporation, 304.746.1964, or Leah C. Payne, Director of Public Affairs, Schools of Medicine and Pharmacy, 304-691-1713

Biomedical Sciences professor invited to present at Asilomar Chromatin and Chromosomes Conference

Philippe Georgel, Ph.D., a professor in Marshall’s Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program Cancer Biology Research Cluster, was invited to speak at the recent Asilomar Chromatin and Chromosomes Conference, which was held on December 16th in Pacific Grove, CA. He presented entirely new research, for which he designed most of the experimental procedure, and was performed by Dr. Ata Abbas, a postdoctoral fellow in his laboratory.

Ata Abbas, Ph.D.

Ata Abbas, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Philippe Georgel’s laboratory.

The study reports the positive effect of omega-3 fatty acid treatment on various breast cancer cell lines. The omega-3 treatment modified the profile of expression of Human Leukocyte Antigen G (HLA-G), a molecule important in the immune evasion properties displayed by numerous types of cancerous cells. The treated cells display an HLA-G expression profile that resembles that of normal epithelial breast cells as well as a reduced ability to migrate (a property that can be indicative of lower metastatic abilities).

Philippe Georgel, Ph.D., Professor within the College of Science and Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

Philippe Georgel, Ph.D., Professor within the College of Science and Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

 

 

When asked what this research means to “non-scientists,” Georgel good-naturedly responded, “Our research is one additional piece of evidence to support the role of diet in preventing and/or helping find a cure for breast cancer (as well as other cancer types). An increase in omega-3 fatty acid (FA) in our regular diet can be easily achieved by substituting corn oil (rich in omega-6 FA and poor in omega-3 FA) with canola oil (rich in omega-3 FA and low in  omega-6 FA), and also by eating more fish (omega-3-FA-rich).”

This project will be expanded to include the analysis of HLA-G expression profile in tissues from breast cancer patients’ biopsies and a small scale clinical trial involving daily consumption of omega-3 fatty acids (in collaboration with Dr. Rajesh Sehgal, Medical Oncologist at the Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center). The results will be used as preliminary material for a submission to the National Institutes of Health and/or the Department of Defense. 

Marshall WV-INBRE summer research program intern receives ABRCMS travel award

Mardochee Isme, MU WV-INBRE InternMardochee Isme, a senior student at Bluefield State College in Bluefield, West Virginia, and a 2012 participant in West Virginia IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence’s (WV-INBRE) Summer Research Program at Marshall University, is the winner of a Student Travel Award from the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS). Isme will attend the 2012 ABRCMS conference located in San Jose, CA, November 7 – 10, 2012 to present her research. The travel award is worth $1,500 and can go toward any travel-related expenses to the conference and/or conference registration fees.

Isme, among other students, performed research at Marshall University with Dr. Nalini Santanam, a professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology at Marshall University’s School of Medicine and Coordinator of the Cardiovascular Disease, Obesity, and Diabetes Research Cluster. The abstract for her research is titled, “Epigenetics of endometriosis-associated pain.” Dr. Santanam’s laboratory is interested in the etiology of endometriosis and Mardochee’s research looked at the epigenetics of the disease, which as Dr. Santanam stated, “is a new area of research.”  

Kristeena Ray, a Marshall University Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Santanam’s laboratory, helped Mardochee with her research and will continue this work as the focus of her own Ph.D. research. Dr. Santanam’s laboratory also has submitted a request for an NIH grant for further research in this field. Dr. Santanam would like to thank Dr. Brenda Dawley from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine for providing samples for this research project.

BMS associate professor plays significant role in heated tobacco debate

by Saeed Keshavarzian, BMS Medical Sciences student

Piyali Dasgupta, Ph.D.Marshall’s Student Government Association (SGA) recently held a meeting to vote on a campus-wide tobacco ban. Marshall University President Stephen J. Kopp asked Student Body President Ray Harrell Jr. to form a joint committee to draft a proposal for Marshall University to go tobacco free. The committee drafted the proposal to ban all tobacco products campus-wide.

Dr. Piyali Dasgupta, Associate Professor of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology in the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine was asked by Amy Saunders, Director of Student Health Education Programs, to attend the meeting in order to explain the effects of nicotine on the human body, and to answer any questions that the gallery had regarding the ill effects of nicotine. 

Early into the meeting Dr. Dasgupta explained that nicotine “can promote tobacco related diseases,” one of which is lung cancer. She also stated that her lab is performing research on the “ill effects of second hand smoke, even third hand smoke, which is the stuff that sticks to your car, [and] to your clothes when you smoke.” As the gallery was allowed to ask questions and voice concerns, Dr. Dasgupta answered health-related questions that were asked. After two hours of heated debate and testimonials from both the SGA senators and the gallery, the SGA voted 11-7 in favor of the campus-wide tobacco ban.

Dr. Monica Valentovic Endows a Scholarship

The Edward and Anne Valentovic Memorial Scholarship

Monica Valentovic, Ph.D.Monica Valentovic, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology, physiology and toxicology, has endowed a scholarship to be awarded to a third or fourth year medical student in the School of Medicine who has financial need and is involved in research. The Edward and Anne Valentovic Memorial Scholarship is named for her parents. 

“My parents were hard working individuals,” said Valentovic. “My dad was a foundry engineer and my mom worked in clothing manufacturing. They lived most of their lives in Cleveland, Ohio. I wanted them to be remembered in a way that would have an impact for a long time. I though this scholarship would help future physicians who will have patients similar to my parents, thus perpetuating my parents’ inclination to help others.”

Valentovic considers research to be an important aspect of training medical students. For this reason, first preference for the scholarship will be a student who has done or is currently involved in research with a faculty member in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology, either while a medical student or prior to entering medical school.

Second preference is for a student who has done research while in medical school with a full-time School of Medicine faculty member who is associated with a department other than Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology.

“Very few students take the time to do research, either prior to starting medical school or while they are in medical school,” said Valentovic. “In order to have a valuable research experience, students must invest time and dedication to a project. I believe this is the first scholarship at the medical school that targets students in this area.

“In my opinion, students doing research are often not recognized,” added Valentovic. “This scholarship is a small way to recognize and reward students who have taken this extra effort. Research is a critical component for the development of new drugs, medical devices and treatments. A research experience emphasizes the approach to answer a question such as the mechanism for a drug interaction, including how to properly design a study as well as the endpoints and analysis. I believe a research experience broadens a student’s approach to answering clinical problems. This scholarship is a way to give them financial assistance and remember my parents.”

Valentovic is well aware of the significant financial investment students have while they are in medical school. “Reducing student debt is important,” she said. “Medicine is a practice that helps other individuals in need. My parents were active in helping others and this scholarship is a long term commitment to help our medical students and, eventually, they will help others.”

This article may be found on page 49 in the 2012 Summer/Fall issue of the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine Benefactor: http://www.marshall.edu/ucomm/files/2012/10/SOMBenefactor_2012.pdf.

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.

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Photo by Rick Haye/Marshall University

Faculty Spotlight: Piyali Dasgupta, Ph.D.

Piyali Dasgupta, Ph.D.This month’s faculty spotlight is on Piyali Dasgupta, Ph.D. Dr. Dasgupta has had a great year at the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, including being promoted to Associate Professor. She instructs within the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology.

She has attended many conferences over the past year, including co-chairing a minisymposium at Experimental Biology 2012.

Dr. Dasgupta’s research examines how the components of tobacco can promote the progression of lung cancer. She researches within the Cancer Biology research cluster.

In 2011, she was recognized with the university’s “John and Frances Rucker Graduate Advisor Award.”

Congratulations, Dr. Dasgupta!

Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio explores gene therapy ‘cocktail’ for feline fibrosarcoma

Pier Paolo Claudio, M.D., Ph.D.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – A team of researchers led by a Marshall University faculty member has found that a gene therapy “cocktail” may hold the key to treating feline fibrosarcoma—an aggressive type of cancer that affects thousands of cats in the U.S. each year. Current therapies for the disease are often ineffective for long-term tumor eradication.

The research was conducted by Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio, associate professor in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program and the Departments of Biochemistry and Microbiology and Surgery at the university’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, and colleagues from the McKown Translational Research Institute at the school of medicine, the university’s Department of Biology, the Martin Veterinary Clinic in Ashland, Ky., and the University of L’Aquila in Italy.

According to Claudio, there are two types of feline fibrosarcomas. The most common type has been linked to the use of vaccines administered to prevent rabies and feline leukemia, and occurs at the site of the injection. The second type appears to occur spontaneously, without any known external cause.

The study at Marshall focused on the more rare, non-vaccination site fibrosarcomas, which have been found to be associated with genetic alterations. It seemed a natural fit for Claudio, whose research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms governing the growth of cancers to help develop new strategies for treatment.

“Gene therapy, which we study in my lab, uses genetic and cell-based technologies to treat disease,” he said. “Essentially, we were able to develop a cocktail of adenoviruses carrying functional therapeutic proteins that can be used to eliminate this deadly disease.”

Claudio pointed out that more studies need to be done to determine if his lab’s findings could also be applicable to cases of vaccine-induced fibrosarcomas.

The research was published yesterday in the journal PLoS ONE. The full article, “Targeting a newly established spontaneous feline fibrosarcoma cell line by gene transfer,” is available online at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0037743.

Claudio is in Italy this week to present three invited lectures about his research. He will be speaking at the National Cancer Institute and the CEINGE Institute in Naples, and at the meeting “Fragment of history:  Seminar on the oral medicine of the past and of the future” in Sorrento.

For more information, contact Claudio at claudiop@marshall.edu or 304-696-3516.

MU, WVU, business officials gather for Bioscience Summit

The following article was taken from the website of the Huntington Herald-Dispatch. It highlights the work of many of the professors researching in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program at Marshall University.


Dr. Nalini SantanamCHARLESTON - There is no shortage of exciting research going on in the laboratories at Marshall University. Scientists and technicians from this region and from around the world have converged at Marshall to do research on topics such as heart disease, cancer and many others. Their research might one day save a life, or at least make someone’s life better.Their work might not be easy for the layperson to understand, but university and business officials are working diligently to help ensure the work West Virginia’s scientists are doing also results in three simple words: dollars and cents.

The economic potential for bioscience research in West Virginia is still hard to grasp, but there is a lot happening already and much optimism for the future.

“We are looking at a pipeline of commercial opportunities coming out of research being done in West Virginia,” said John Maher, vice president for research at Marshall University.

Officials from Marshall, West Virginia University and several business related to the bioscience industry gathered last week for the Second Annual West Virginia Bioscience Summit, held Wednesday at the Marriott Hotel in Charleston.

“This conference is a unique opportunity for people interested in the biosciences to get together and get an update on the status of the industry over the last year,” said Derek Gregg, CEO of Vandalia Research here in Huntington and chairman of BioWV.

The summit featured presentations from West Virginia University, Marshall, Mountwest Community & Technical College, Vandalia Research, Protea, TRAX Biodiscovery, and others to talk about what their organizations have accomplished over the past year.

“This also allows new collaborations and partnerships to be developed,” Gregg said. “Additionally, we had substantial representation from out-of-state organizations looking for new partners and opportunities.”

The biosciences in West Virginia are growing rapidly and the state’s credibility is increasing in the United States and around the world, Gregg said.

“We are spinning out new enterprises, and some of those enterprises are raising capital and hiring people,” he said. “Protea was recently recognized world-wide as having one of the top 10 innovations of 2011. They now employee over 50 people.”

Four companies are now being housed and supported at Vandalia Research’s facility in Huntington, including Progenesis, Maven Analytical and Parabon Nanolabs. These companies sell to pharmaceutical, chemical and diagnostic companies around the world, Gregg said.

Marshall has a lot of exciting research under way right now, said Dr. Richard Niles, senior associate dean for Research and Graduate Education at Marshall’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

Here are some examples:

Dr. Piyali Dasgupta is looking at lung cancer and at how capsaicin, the hot stuff in chili peppers, which inhibits the growth of cancer cells in animals.

Dr. Nalini Santanam is looking at the effects of age and gender on the fat around the heart, and at oxidative stress in endometriosis.

Dr. Eric Blough of the Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems has 16 different projects going on.

Dr. Jingwei Xie is working with glass tubes for bone tissue engineering.

Dr. Hongwei Yu is working on genetic regulation of biofilm formation by pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium that can cause disease in animals.

Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio is doing cancer research that involves gene therapy using microbubbles for delivery of a virus.

Niles is co-founder with Yu on the biotech business Progenesis, which provides natural, biodegradable polymers for industrial and medical applications through genetic engineering of bacteria. He talked about his experience of starting a biotech business at Wednesday’s Summit.

The universities are working to help others make discoveries and translate them into businesses as well. And the state is helping.

Both Marshall and WVU have received state funding for research through the West Virginia Research Trust Fund, providing $35 million to WVU and $15 million to Marshall for research, provided they come up with a match. WVU has reached its goal and Marshall has $9.4 million secured in gifts and pledges and the potential to reach, or go beyond, its goal very shortly, Maher said.

The universities also have attracted a lot of federal grant funding, all of which rolls over in the local economies as it provides high-paying jobs that attract scientists to the community.

Also in Huntington, Mountwest Community and Technical College is hard at work training students to become biological technicians, environmental science and environmental protection technicians, biomedical laboratory technicians and health technicians, said Jean Chappel, dean of Allied Health at MCTC.

It has a state-of-the-art lab where they can learn molecular diagnostics, tissue culturing, electrophoresis and use a digital fluorescent microscope.

MCTC also works on community outreach, not only targeting science teachers but high school and middle school students. It has a camp where “they’re isolating DNA just like they do on CSI,” Chappel said.

Over the course of one week, students’ aspirations might change from working a minimum wage job to becoming a PhD scientist, she said.

The college wants to help the state have “a well-rounded, educated workforce that wants to stay right here,” Chappel said.

It’s great to see several different parties working toward the same goal, said Laura Gibson, deputy director of the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center and a professor at WVU.

“The greatest measure of our success is really how we partner,” she said.

Capital formation, attraction and retention of talent, and community development are focus areas for Bio West Virginia in the coming years, Gregg said.

“Incentivizing investment in this area is critical,” he said, “Nearly all of our neighboring states have a program or programs for stimulating investment in high-technology, high-growth, high-RISK businesses to stimulate economic development. West Virginia has had programs in the past that were successful in helping companies raise capital, such as the High Growth Business Investment Tax Credit.

“BioWV is strongly encouraging the renewal of this and other programs that can help companies transition from the campus to the market.”

Marshall STEM Fellows Program honors undergraduate research day attendees

Dr. Jan Taylor, the Director of Research Programs with WV’s Higher Education Policy Commission, speaks to URDC awards ceremony participantsOn January 26, 2012, the Ninth Annual Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol (URDC) was held in the Capitol Rotunda in Charleston, West Virginia. At this event, members of the State legislature are able to spend time with the students whose research projects the State of West Virginia helps to fund. At the conclusion this event each year, the Marshall University STEM Fellows Programs and Graduate Programs cohost a luncheon and awards ceremony with WVU and the WV Higher Education Policy Commission Division of Science and Research. Dr. Richard Niles, Senior Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education for the Marshall University Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, welcomed attendees on behalf of the university and introduced them to the research graduate opportunities available at Marshall. Dr. Stephen J. Kopp, President of Marshall University, also spoke for the attendees. Dignitaries from West Virginia University were also in attendance.

The awards distributed at the luncheon included innovation grants, instrumentation awards, mini-grants, a research incubator grant, and a research trust fund. Awards ranged from $5,000 to $100,000.

The following press release from the main Marshall University news page offers further information on the Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol. This video news piece also comes courtesy of the Marshall University Research Corporation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pg5-w8rTOoo&feature=youtu.be

You can learn additional information about the URDC by visiting its official webpage: http://www.marshall.edu/urdc/.


The Marshall University STEM Fellows Programs and Graduate Programs cohosted the luncheon and awards ceremony with WVU and the WV Higher Education Policy Commission Division of Science and Research.HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Thirty-two students from Marshall University will be among 106 students from throughout West Virginia who will present their discoveries in poster format in the 9th annual Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol in Charleston on Thursday, Jan. 26.

The event, which takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. in the Capitol rotunda, helps members of the state Legislature and the executive branch understand the importance of undergraduate research by talking directly with the students who produced these projects. The projects are original research and the posters are designed for a general audience.

“This is a fun event for both students and members of the Legislature,” said Dr. Michael Castellani, professor and chair of Marshall’s chemistry department, and co-chair of the event’s organizing committee. “Students engage in original research projects for as long as four years and this event provides them a chance to share their work with delegates and senators.”

The posters will be in the areas of biochemistry, biology, chemical engineering, chemistry, communications, computer science/information technology, economics, engineering, English, environmental sciences, environmental studies, geology, mathematics, physics and psychology.

In addition to Marshall, the other 14 universities and colleges represented are Alderson-Broaddus College, Bluefield State College, Concord University, Fairmont State University, Glenville State College, Ohio Valley University, Shepherd University, the University of Charleston, West Liberty University, West Virginia State University, West Virginia University, West Virginia Wesleyan College, Wheeling Jesuit University and WVU Institute of Technology.

“Descriptions of some projects are distributed worldwide and much of the work is on par with that done at the best universities in the country,” Castellani said. “This event provides a unique opportunity for members of the Legislature to see an aspect of higher education that is normally hidden from public view, but is one of the most important tools for developing students for entry into the workplace or postgraduate education.”

Attendees of the 9th Annual Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol (URDC) awards ceremony and luncheon

Drs. Hardman and Georgel highlighted by DoD Breast Cancer Research Program

Dr. Philippe Georgel and Dr. W. Elaine HardmanDr. Philippe Georgel and Dr. W. Elaine Hardman have received considerable publicity in the past few years over their receipt of a grant from the Department of Defense’s Breast Cancer Research Program. Their most recent honor comes in being highlighted in the latest program book for the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs’ (CDMRP) Breast Cancer Research Program. Their research, the result of a DoD FY09 Idea Expansion award, is entitled “Maternal Consumption of Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Prevent Breast Cancer in Offspring.”

In 1992, the CDMRP was created after breast cancer advocates were able to bring about congressional appropriation of funds dedicated to breast cancer research. The fund seeks to find a way to stamp out breast cancer through support of research that is innovative and has the potential of great impact in the understanding of breast cancer. The CDMRP has received more than $6.5 billion in appropriations since its creation. Receipt of the award comes after a two-tier review process consisting of participation between breast cancer survivors and research scientists. Award of the grant is based upon the relevance of the research to the goals of the program and the scientific merit of the proposed research.

The research of Drs. Hardman and Georgel is directed toward determining which gene expression changes in mice offspring are brought about by feeding pregnant mice a diet that includes canola oil (which contains omega-3) versus a diet that contains corn oil (a control). They then compare the mammary cancer rates of the offspring groups after they are exposed to a carcinogen. Results from their research already indicate differences in microRNA and epigenetic expression in the offspring, as well as changes in the expression of genes related to mammary tumorigenesis, including NF-kappaB.

Congratulations to Dr. Georgel and Dr. Hardman! To read the spotlight on their research in the CDMRP booklet (see page 19), please download the file through this link: http://cdmrp.army.mil/pubs/pips/bcpip.pdf.

BMS Graduate Program receives STEM Fellows Program funding for an 8th year

Diana R. Maue, SRIMS, Graduate Recruitment, and Communication Coordinator, completes a busy fall season of attending recruitment fairs throughout the region…

Graduate students and professors gather at the beginning of a new school year to share a meal and enjoy the outdoors…

A Ph.D. student who receives a stipend from the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program attends a national conference for the first time to disseminate her research to her peers…

Dr. Todd Green and Mrs. Diana Maue attend a graduate school fairAll of the above opportunities are made possible thanks to the STEM Fellows Program, awarded by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. According to Dr. Richard Niles, Senior Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education, nearly every aspect of the Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Graduate Program at Marshall University has been impacted by this grant. This year, the BMS Graduate Program has been approved to receive its eighth year of funding from the STEM Fellows Program.

According to Dr. Niles, “This funding is a huge help to our program. If it went away, it would make a big hole that would be difficult to recover from. We are excited about the continuation of the funding.”

Mrs. Maue’s ability to travel and spread the word about the BMS program is almost exclusively funded by this grant. Among the places she was able to visit this year were the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students, Morehead State University, Wheeling Jesuit University, West Liberty University, Waynesburg University, Bethany College, and Franciscan University of Steubenville. Events such as the yearly BMS Graduate Program picnic honoring incoming students and the upcoming luncheon honoring WV Undergraduate Research Day participants are also made possible by this grant funding. Finally, many of the Ph.D. students who receive a stipend are funded by this grant. Without the funding, the BMS Graduate Program would be forced to admit fewer students.

According to Mrs. Maue, the program helps the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program to help build the quality of its offerings and the number of graduate students that it can fund. “It has dramatically increased our recruiting efforts,” she says. “We couldn’t serve our students in all the ways we currently do or develop the program in the ways that we are without this grant.” The BMS Graduate Program initially received STEM Fellows Program funding in 2004 after completing a competitive grant application process. In that year, the Division of Science and Research of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission began offering this competitively-funded award to Marshall University and West Virginia University to help them recruit and fund exceptional graduate students in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines. The funding is granted for four years, with participants reporting each year on how they have applied the funding in order to ensure its continuation. While West Virginia University focuses this award on its post-doctoral students, Marshall University applies its funding to growing its graduate program offerings.

In 2008, Marshall completed a competitive reapplication for the funding, which was granted for an additional four years. In 2012, the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program has been approved to receive the final year of funding of this a2010 BMS incoming student picnicward. The reapplication process for the next competitively-funded grant will begin as soon as a new request for proposals is received, presumably this summer.

Dr. Niles and Mrs. Lisa Daniels, Grants Officer for the BMS Graduate Program, have been instrumental in ensuring the continuation of this funding, and the program thanks them for making participation in this program possible.

U.S. Senate bill could give MU $3 million for medical research

The Herald-Dispatch

WASHINGTON Marshall University could receive $3 million for medical research facilities in a bill approved by the U.S. Senate, according to a release from Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.

The bill will now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The funds would be used for development of a new Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems and was included in the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill. The center will be responsible for the development of new non-invasive nanotechnologies designed to detect and diagnose disease and illnesses at very early stages. Diseases that disproportionately impact rural populations, such as ovarian cancer, heart disease and diabetes will be the focus of this initial research. The new program will be housed in the Robert C. Byrd Biotechnology Science Center.

“This new center will be a vital weapon in the fight against some of the most devastating diseases we face not only in West Virginia but across the country and around the world,” said Marshall University President Stephen J. Kopp. “We are exceedingly grateful for this funding and look forward to continuing to work with the Senator to better the lives of all West Virginians.”