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…

All 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 award. 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.”