Category: Recent News
Kenneth J. Rhodes, Ph.D., Vice President of Neurology Discovery at Biogen Idec and an alumni of the Boston University Pharmacology Training Program, led the team of researchers that developed Tecfidera, an oral medication that defends against relapsing Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
The Food and Drug Administration recently approved Tecfidera, also known as dimethyl fumarate, for treating relapsing multiple sclerosis. This new drug delays progression of physical disability and slows the development of brain lesions associated with MS. It also reduces the inflammation caused when the immune system attacks myelin, which ultimately results in less damage to myelin in the body. In a Biogen Idec press release, Dr. Kenneth Rhodes stated that, “these exciting results support further research, as the data suggest that neublastin may have the potential to promote sensory neuronal regeneration and functional recovery following injury. The neublastin program is part of Biogen Idec’s commitment to innovative neurological science and discovery.”
According to the Boston Business Journal, Tecfidera “tops the list of the biggest potential revenue-generating drugs launched so far this year in the U.S., with expected sales of $2.9 billion by 2018.”
Dr. Kenneth Rhodes joined Biogen Idec in May 2007 after spending ten years in the Neuroscience Department at Wyeth, where he also led neurodegeneration drug discovery teams researching MS among epilepsy, stroke, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. He served as a postdoctoral trainee under the mentorship of Dr. David H. Farb, Professor and Chair of Pharmacology at Boston University School of Medicine, from 1992-1993. Dr. Rhodes has published over 50 research papers in peer-reviewed journals such as Nature, Neuron, and the Journal of Neuroscience and most recently was the Keynote Speaker for the 2013 BU-Pfizer Symposium on “Therapeutic Innovation: Oxidative Stress and the Next Generation of Discovery” held November 5, 2013.
The September 2013 issue of The Pharmacologist is now available online. Read about new Executive Officer Judith A. Siuciak, some thoughts from President Rick Neubig, the program for the Joint ASPET/Chinese Pharmacological Society Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology 2014, and more. Be sure to check it out!
|In this issue:
Originally published by the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Dr. Wendy Wei Qiao Qiu was chosen to receive the 2013 Johnson & Johnson Clinical Innovation Award Program (J&J CIAP) award. According to the BU Institute for Technology Entrepreneurship & Commercialization website, the J&J CIAP was designed to “stimulate innovative solutions to unmet clinical challenges emerging from the Boston University medical community” by funding research projects with the greatest potential to impact human health.
Dr. Qiu was chosen for this recognition from many talented Boston University practicing clinicians for her research on Alzheimer’s disease. As an awardee of the Clinical Innovation Award Program, she will be recognized at the program’s annual event, invited to serve as clinical advisor to the project team, and will have an opportunity to contribute to breakthrough medical technologies. In addition, she will be supported with an initial development grant of up to $15,000.
An Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology, Dr. Qiu is the Principal Investigator in the Laboratory of Molecular Psychiatry in Aging in the Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics.
Congratulations, Dr. Qiu!
Hui Feng spends a lot of time staring through zebra fish. Through because these vertebrates, which have a great deal of genetics in common with humans, are transparent. In fact, one particular breed, called Casper—after the Friendly Ghost—is so phantasmal that Feng says that “you can read newspapers through this fish.”
Feng doesn’t read the news through them, though. The School of Medicine assistant professor of pharmacology and medicine is more interested in tracking the pathways of dyed tumor cells as they metastasize through the zebra fish’s vasculature, which is tinted a contrasting color. In the less than two years since her tank-filled lab opened, she has identified genes that, when blocked with targeted treatments, could prevent the metastasis of certain types of cancer, like the most stubborn forms of leukemia.
In recognition of her groundbreaking work, Feng was awarded the Ralph Edwards Career Development Professorship, which recognizes MED researchers. The award was made possible this year by the estate of obstetrician and gynecologist Ralph Edwards (MED’52).
Feng, director of the Laboratory of Zebrafish Genetics & Cancer Therapeutics, says the honor reminds her that University officials appreciate faculty research and they want to support it. “It’s not just about the money,” she says. “The spiritual or mental support really means so much to us.”
Karen Antman, MED dean and Medical Campus provost, recalls the researcher’s discoveries early in her career, which found their way to top-tier research journals, including Nature, Cell Biology, Cancer Cell, the Journal of Experimental Medicine, and PNAS. A graduate of Beijing Medical University, Feng completed a master’s in cardiovascular pharmacology at Peking Union Medical College and a doctorate in cellular biology at the University of Georgia.
“Since joining the School of Medicine faculty,” Antman says, “Dr. Feng has demonstrated an exceptional level of scholarship, mentorship, teaching, and collegiality and quickly established herself as an independent research scientist, effectively and efficiently setting up a robust research program.”
Feng is one of three assistant professors who were given career development awards, which recognize junior faculty who have been at the University for less than two years and have held no prior professorships. Cornel Ban, a College of Arts & Sciences assistant professor of international relations, received the inaugural Stuart and Elizabeth Pratt Career Development Professorship, dedicated to CAS scholars. And Nachiketa Sahoo, a School of Management assistant professor of information systems, was awarded the Reidy Family Career Development Professorship, which has recognized faculty members in SMG and the College of Engineering in alternating years since 2010.
Contributions from BU trustee Stuart W. Pratt (CAS’69) and his wife, Elizabeth, and trustee Richard D. Reidy (SMG’82) and his wife, Minda G. Reidy (SMG’82, GSM’84) made the professorships possible.
Each award comes with a three-year nonrenewable stipend used to support scholarly or creative work and to cover a portion of the faculty member’s salary. Deans of the respective schools or colleges nominate faculty for these honors, and the Office of the Provost makes the final selections.
“We are extremely grateful to Stuart and Elizabeth Pratt, Richard and Minda Reidy, and posthumously, Ralph Edwards for their generosity and for the vision they’ve shown in supporting the future of these very important fields,” says Jean Morrison, University provost and chief academic officer. These three professors were recognized for “their extraordinary accomplishments in areas of study, passion for the creation and transmission of knowledge, and their efforts to enhance the student experience.”
Ban’s research has focused on economic issues in Brazil, Spain, and Romania, and spans three principal topics: international finance, international economic organizations, and the diffusion of international economic ideas. He describes his first book, Governing Crises: The International Politics of Crisis Economics from Bretton Woods to the Great Recession, not yet published, as “a cautionary tale about how much we don’t know about how the financial markets work.” He is an expert on the failure of economic models used by governments or international banks to predict the financial crisis that swept the world within the past decade.
Ban earned a bachelor’s from Babes-Bolyai University, in Romania, a master’s degree from the University of Delaware, and a doctorate in political science from the University of Maryland. He says the award will give him the time and funding to launch his next book project, which will focus on the dynamics of international finance over the past couple of decades. “Without this kind of support,” he says, “I could not get it done.”
Andrew Bacevich, a CAS professor of history and international relations and acting chair of international relations, calls Ban an “emerging superstar” in the department. “Since his arrival a year ago, he has become a valued asset,” he says. “His performance as a teacher and scholar has demonstrated that he is precisely the sort of young faculty member for whom the Stuart and Elizabeth Pratt Career Development Professorship is designed.”
Sahoo holds a master’s degree in knowledge discovery and data mining and a doctorate in information systems and management, both from Carnegie Mellon University. His current research focus is on improving personalized information filtering techniques, such as that used by Netflix and Amazon, to help customers find products that best match their past interests. Recognizing that people are dynamic and that their preferences change over time, he has adjusted these filtering techniques so that they show more accurate recommendations across a variety of platforms.
In a separate branch of research, Sahoo is analyzing the messages exchanged between individuals on corporate social media, such as blogs, to identify expertise that exists inside a company.
“New technologies to help people connect to each other are exacerbating the problem of information overload at a personal level,” says Sahoo. “There is too much information to sift through and there is limited time. It’s important to develop tools and techniques that help us find the bits of relevant information faster.”
Sahoo says he will use the award to hire a research assistant to help with data collection and analysis.
“Dr. Sahoo is a wonderful addition to our faculty: a productive researcher, a great colleague, and a committed teacher,” says Kenneth Freeman, SMG’s Allen Questrom Professor and Dean.
The Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI) honored Dr. Tsuneya Ikezu, Professor of Pharmacology and Neurology, last week for his continued efforts in Alzheimer’s disease research. AAQI is a national grassroots charity that raises awareness and funds research through the donation and sale of small art quilts.
Marge Farquharson and Dawn Forde, AAQI representatives, visited the Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics at Boston University School of Medicine to present a quilt to Dr. Ikezu and the Laboratory of Molecular NeuroTherapeutics. This particular quilt displays 54 names of those afflicted by Alzheimer’s disease on the dull side of the fabric to symbolize the mental fading that occurs in 5.4 million patients in the nation and their loss of memories and skills. Each name represents the story of a once vital and productive individual.
Dr. Ikezu also received $60,560 for future AD research projects. His earlier study, “Exosome-mediated dissemination of tau aggregation in Alzheimer’s,” investigated the role of microglia in mediating the spread of tau aggregation. Hopefully this study will provide a new therapeutic target for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
The Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative is an all-volunteer organization that has raised more than $925,000 for Alzheimer’s disease research since January 2006. AAQI’s goal is to raise $1,000,000 by the end of 2013 and to provide funding directly to Alzheimer’s disease researchers. In this way AAQI aims to make a difference, one quilt at a time! For more information on the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative, please click here.
Congratulations on your award and recognition, Dr. Ikezu!
Rachel L. Flynn, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Departments of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics and Medicine, Section of Hematology and Medical Oncology, and a member of The Cancer Center, was awarded a $50,000 grant for the coming year from the FOSTER (Fighting Osteosarcoma Through Everyday Research) Foundation. Dr. Flynn was recruited to BU from the Massachusetts General Cancer Center in June 2013. This is the first funding award for which Rachel has applied since joining the BUSM faculty in June.
FOSTER Foundation was established in June 2001 by Stacey Leondis, then a student at Garden City High School, to support osteosarcoma research. Osteosarcoma is a rare form of bone cancer primarily affecting children.
Kudos to Dr. Flynn and welcome to BUSM!
Richard D. Wainford, Ph.D., F.A.H.A., Assistant Professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Medicine, Section of Cardiovascular Medicine, and a member of the Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute, has been selected to give an oral presentation at the 3rd annual International Society of Hypertension’s New Investigators’ Symposium in New Orleans, Louisiana on September 10, 2013. His presentation will be on “PVN Gαi2 Subunit Proteins – The Key to a Salt-resistant Phenotype?”
Since joining the BUSM faculty in fall 2011, Dr. Wainford for has received numerous awards for his research, including the 2013 American Physiological Society Shih-Chun Wang Young Investigator Award; the 2013 American Physiological Society Central Nervous System Section New Investigator Award; and the 2013 Endocrine Society Early Investigator Award.
Dr. Wolozin is a professor in the Departments of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics and Neurology, Principal Investigator of the Laboratory of Neurodegeneration and member of The Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center. For more information on Dr. Wolozin’s research, please visit his webpage here.
Congratulations, Dr. Wolozin!
Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have uncovered important clues about a biochemical pathway in the brain that may one day expand treatment options for schizophrenia. The study, published online in the journal Molecular Pharmacology, was led by faculty within the department of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics at BUSM.
Patients with schizophrenia suffer from a life-long condition that can produce delusions, disordered thinking, and breaks with reality. A number of treatments are available for schizophrenia, but many patients do not respond to these therapies or experience side effects that limit their use.
This research focused on key components of the brain known as NMDA receptors. These receptors are located on nerve cells in the brain and serve as biochemical gates that allow calcium ions (electrical charges) to enter the cell when a neurotransmitter, such as glutamate, binds to the receptor. Proper activation of these receptors is critical for sensory perception, memory and learning, including the transfer of short-term memory into long-term storage. Patients with schizophrenia have poorly functioning or “hypoactive” NMDA receptors, suggesting the possibility of treatment with drugs that positively affect these receptors. Currently the only way to enhance NMDA receptor function is through the use of agents called agonists that directly bind to the receptor on the outer surface of the cell, opening the gates to calcium ions outside the cell.
In this study, the researchers discovered a novel “non-canonical” pathway in which NMDA receptors residing inside the cell are stimulated by a neuroactive steroid to migrate to the cell surface (a process known as trafficking), thus increasing the number of receptors available for glutamate activation. The researchers treated neural cells from the cerebral cortex with the novel steroid pregnenolone sulfate (PregS) and found that the number of working NMDA receptors on the cell surface increased by 60 to 100 percent within 10 minutes. The exact mechanism by which this occurs is not completely clear, but it appears that PregS increases calcium ions within the cell, which in turn produces a green light signal for more frequent trafficking of NMDA receptors to the cell surface.
Although still in the early stages, further research in this area may be instrumental in the development of treatments not only for schizophrenia, but also for other conditions associated with malfunctioning NMDA receptors, such as age-related decreases in memory and learning ability.
View the paper online here: http://molpharm.aspetjournals.org/content/early/2013/05/28/mol.113.085696.full.pdf+html
Citation Information: Emmanuel Kostakis*, Conor Smith*, Ming-Kuei Jang, Stella C. Martin, Kyle G. Richards, Shelley J. Russek, Terrell T. Gibbs, David H. Farb. The neuroactive steroid pregnenolone sulfate stimulates trafficking of functional NMDA receptors to the cell surface via a non-canonical G-protein and Ca++ dependent mechanism.
Bioscience Academy student Zainab Mahmod awarded the Paul Queenan Memorial Award for academic excellence
Bioscience Academy student Zainab Mahmod has been awarded the Paul Queenan Memorial Award for academic excellence. Zainab completed her internship in the Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology under the mentorship of Dr. Marcia Ratner and Dr. David Farb. Upon completion of the Bioscience Academy program requirements, Zainab will receive a Certificate in Applied Biotechnology.
According to the BioScience Academy website, “BioScience Academy is a BU-based federally funded program administered through Metropolitan College and the School of Medicine. The academy offers biotechnology training to unemployed and underemployed Boston area residents who already have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in science, technology, engineering, or math. The goal is that by their spring 2013 graduation from the two-semester program, these men and women will be headed to new and rewarding laboratory jobs in a healthy and growing Massachusetts job sector. The city of Boston wrote the $1.4 million grant and picked BU as the main training vendor for the program.”
Zainab Mahmod is part of the inaugural class of the Bioscience Academy and is the first recipient of the Paul Queenan Memorial Award for academic excellence. We are so proud of Zainab’s accomplishments and wish her the best in the next phase of her scientific career!