Maya Woodbury was recently awarded the Predoctoral Fellowship in Pharmacology/Toxicology through the PhRMA Foundation. The title of her approved proposal is “miR-155/STAT3 signaling: a novel pharmacological target for Down syndrome.” For this project, she will receive financial support for her research in the amount of $20,000 per year for two years. The Foundation only awards about 10 such grants nationally each year.
According to the PhRMA Foundation’s 2012 Annual Report, “the mission of the PhRMA Foundation is to support young scientists in disciplines important to the pharmaceutical industry by awarding them competitive research fellowships and grants at a critical point at the outset of their careers. The aim is to encourage young scientists who will be the leaders of tomorrow to pursue careers in research and education related to drug discovery.”
Maya is currently a student in the Graduate Program for Neuroscience and the Biomolecular Pharmacology Program through the Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics at Boston University School of Medicine. She works in the Laboratory of Molecular NeuroTherapeutics under the mentorship of Dr. Tsuneya Ikezu.
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.
Kendra Kobrin, M.D., Ph.D. candidate in Pharmacology, received the Carl E. Rosow Award for Pharmacology Education at the Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics New Faculty & New Student Reception held on 19 September.
Kendra graduated Summa Cum Laude from Boston University in 2008 with Bachelor degrees in both Psychology and Music. Following graduation, she spent a year as a Research Assistant in the Dermatology Department at Roger Williams Medical Center before enrolling at Boston University School of Medicine. As a second year student in the Disease and Therapy course, Kendra especially excelled in the Neurology and Psychology Modules and joined the Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics for her dissertation work shortly thereafter. In 2011 Kendra joined Dr. Gary Kaplan’s laboratory at the VA Hospital in Jamaica Plain, where her research focuses on neuronal morphological changes associated with extinction of opioid use and relapse to drug-seeking behavior in animal models.
Kendra has excelled in both her medical and graduate pharmacology courses, serves as Tutor Coordinator for the Disease and Therapy course, and contributes to Pharmacology orientation and recruitment events. As the 2013 recipient of the Carl E. Rosow Award for Pharmacology Education, Kendra exemplifies the leadership and academic qualities we seek to foster in all of our graduate students. We are proud of Kendra’s accomplishments and enthusiastic about her bright future in research and medicine.
Dr. Carl Rosow, for whom the award is named, is an M.D., Ph.D. graduate of Boston University School of Medicine and Professor of Anesthesiology at Harvard Medical School. Since 1985 Dr. Rosow has honored his Ph.D. mentor Dr. Joseph Cochin, an internationally recognized authority on opioids, by teaching this subject to medical students in the second-year curriculum and donating his honorarium to the school. The Carl E. Rosow Award for Pharmacology Education serves both to honor graduate students for their excellence in teaching pharmacology and Dr. Rosow for his continued service to his alma mater and its students.
Congratulations to both Dr. Rosow and Kendra Kobrin for the recognition of their unwavering dedication to superior medical education.
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.
“Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have discovered what they believe to be a major brain mechanism responsible for a heightened state of anxiety and possibly depression. The study, published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, involves a protein called pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating peptide (PACAP), a hormone and molecule in the brain, and its relationship with anxiety and depression.
Anxiety disorders are a serious public health problem because they represent the most common mental disturbances in the United States and are responsible for almost one third of the total health care costs. In addition, depression often occurs together with anxiety disorder in patients.
In their study, the researchers were found to be able to induce feelings of anxiousness and depression in a preclinical model after administering PACAP. According to the researchers it was both surprising and very interesting to find that the same molecule could induce both anxious and depressive feelings.
Importantly, the scientists also found that the mechanism of the anxiety and depression-inducing effects of PACAP involves another important and well known molecule and hormone, called corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF). Indeed, when the authors provided PACAP to the model, they observed an increase in the production of CRF in two important regions of the brain, the hypothalamus and the amygdala. More importantly, when the authors introduced a substance that blocked the receptors of CRF, PACAP could no longer induce anxiety and depression.
“In humans, a dysfunction of the amygdala PACAP system may therefore be responsible for the development of conditions involving atypical responses to stressors, including generalized anxiety, PTSD and depression,” said senior study author Valentina Sabino, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and psychiatry in the Department of Pharmacology at BUSM as well as co-director of the Laboratory of Addictive Disorders
Also contributing to this study were Riccardo Dore, PhD; Attilio Lemolo, PhD, Karen L. Smith, PhD, Xiaofan Wang PhD and Pietro Cottone, PhD. The Laboratory of Addictive Disorders at Boston University School of Medicine is continuing this line of research to better understand the neurobiology of the PACAP system, with the hope of ultimately developing new therapeutic agents for the treatment of these debilitating psychiatric diseases.
Funding for this study was provided by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. In addition, funding was made available by the Peter Paul Career Development Professorship and by Boston University’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.”
Originally published by Boston University School of Medicine
Three students in the Biomolecular Pharmacology Program were honored at the 19th Annual Henry I. Russek Day Student Achievement Day Friday, 10 May. These students have distinguished themselves not only as gifted researchers in their mentor’s laboratory but also as dedicated members of their department, program, and surrounding community.
The following Biomolecular Pharmacology students received awards:
First Prize – Robert Freilich
Second Prize – Tara Vanderweyde
Honorable Mention – Tracey Tucker
For more information about the 19th Annual Henry I. Russek Student Achievement Day, please click here.
Hats off to Tara Vanderweyde who has received the 2013 MED Dean’s Award at Boston University Scholar’s Day 2013! Scholar’s Day was open to all graduate students currently engaged in research in a degree-granting program at Boston University. Tara, as well as her advisor, will receive an honorarium for her outstanding poster presentation.
Tara is a fourth-year graduate student in the Ph.D. Program in Biomolecular Pharmacology pursuing research in the Laboratory of Neurodegeneration under the mentorship of Dr. Benjamin Wolozin. Her research with cells, mice, and human tissue investigates the role of stress granules in normal aging as well as in Alzheimer’s Disease.
Dr. Matthew Whittaker completed his undergraduate studies at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA in 2000 with a B.A. in Biology. He joined the laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology in the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at Boston University School of Medicine in 2003, where he studied in the Program in Biomedical Neuroscience under the mentorship of Dr. David Farb. His Ph.D. research centered on investigating the effects of neuroactive steroids on neurotransmitter release from isolated axon terminals (synaptosomes/synaptoneurosomes) derived from rat brain. The research project demonstrated that pregnenolone sulfate, at pM concentrations, enhances the release of [3H]dopamine, but not [14C]glutamate or [3H]GABA, from rat striatal synaptosomes via an NMDA receptor dependent mechanism. Dr. Whittaker was the recipient of the Henry I. Russek Student Achievement Award in 2009.
Following his Ph.D. thesis defense in 2009, Dr. Whittaker joined the laboratory of Dr. Jean Wrathall as a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Neuroscience at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. Here, his research interests shifted toward investigation of therapies for spinal cord injury. Working in collaboration with Acorda Therapeutics, Inc., the research found that administration of the neuregulin glial growth factor 2 (GGF2) improves long term functional recovery in both rat and mouse models of contusive spinal cord injury. This work led to the filing of a provisional patent application in 2010. Dr. Whittaker’s research was supported in part by a Craig H. Neilsen Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellowship Grant and he was also a co-investigator on a Department of Defense Spinal Cord Injury Research Program (SCIRP) grant.
Dr. Whittaker left the field of academic research in September, 2011 to accept a position as a Pharmacology/Toxicology Reviewer in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Rheumatology Products (DPARP) at the United States Food and Drug Administration in Silver Spring, MD. In this capacity, Dr. Whittaker works with teams of medical officers, chemists, statisticians, and clinical pharmacologists to critically review and evaluate the data submitted with Investigational New Drug applications (INDs), New Drug Applications (NDAs) and Biologics License Applications (BLAs). He was recently honored by having his abstract highlighted by the Society for Neuroscience as of special interest and for a press release to the media. He also serves on the Center for Drug Evaluation and Review (CDER) Neurotoxicology Subcommittee.
Shelley J. Russek, Ph.D. Participates in Transcriptomics: Assessing Genomic Networks in Normal and Diseased Brains Short Course at 2012 SfN Annual Meeting
Congratulations to Dr. Shelley J. Russek on her participation in “Transcriptomics: Assessing Genomic Networks in Normal and Diseased Brains” Short Course #1 at the 2012 Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting on October 12, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dr. Russek co-chaired the Group 2 Breakout Session on “RNA-seq Insights into Complex Diseases.”
Dr. Russek is a Professor of Pharmacology, Director of the Laboratory for Translational Epilepsy and Director of the Graduate Program for Neuroscience at Boston University. She received her Ph.D. from Boston University School of Medicine.
For more information on Dr. Russek and research, please see her faculty profile .
Dr. Leach received a 1st class honor degree in cellular and molecular science from Anglia Ruskin University in the U.K. in 1989 and worked under Dr. Tim Crowe at the Clinical Research Center in Northwick Park Hospital, Harrow, UK as part of the UK Medical Research Council. He studied under Dr. David H. Farb and was awarded the Ph.D. in Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics from Boston University School of Medicine in 1997.
Upon graduating, Dr. Leach served as a consultant at CuraGen Corporation, designing structure and build out informatics, and, soon after, became Vice President for Informatics. His work at CuraGen spanned the entire pharma research and development continuum and included informatics strategy, design, implementation, support, and integration across basic research, pre-clinical, development, clinical, and regulatory functions. He was also responsible for corporate IT at CuraGen.
In 2005, Dr. Leach joined Booz Allen Hamilton as a Principal. At Booz Allen he worked with the partnership to establish and build out the PharmaIT practice. This spanned the entire pharma value chain with projects such as post-merger integration, IT strategy, informatics strategy, organizational change and design.
Dr. Leach became Executive Director of Basic Research & Biomarker IT at Merck in 2007. At Merck, he worked with leadership in Basic Research to develop and manage a portfolio of research applications and systems and high performance computing infrastructure to support target ID through lead optimization. Biomarker IT support reaches beyond Basic Research and with tight collaboration with Clinical Development IT delivers IT solutions to enable and support Translational Research.
In May, 2011, Dr. Leach assumed the role as Chief Information Officer at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, where he will be leading IT and computational instrastructure.
Dr. Leach is interested in providing scientists greater access to all forms of information with the end goal of expediting their research. He has over a decade of industry experience managing highly technical software engineers and IT professionals.