January 14, 2008

Dr. Michael W. Deem, John W. Cox Professor in Biochemical and Genetic Engineering and Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Rice University, 1-14-08


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Dr. Michael W. Deem is the John W. Cox Professor in Biochemical and Genetic Engineering and Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Rice University. His speciality is statistical mechanics, specifically the computer simulation of complex molecular systems. In many instances, the methods employed allow investigation of the increasingly tailored microscopic properties of material and biological systems. Moreover, new field-theoretic techniques in statistical mechanics allow computation of meso- and macroscopic material properties from such atomistic simulations. Professor Deem is interested in four main areas of research: bioinformatics, immune system response, protein structure and drug discovery, and zeolite structure and nucleation. His group uses both simulation and analytical statistical mechanics to attack these problems.

Professor Deem's many honors include the NSF CAREER Award (1997-2001); Northrop Grumman Outstanding Junior Faculty Research Award (1997); a Top 100 Young Innovator, MIT Technology Review (November 1999); Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship (2000); and the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award (2002).

Posted by David Lemberg at 10:16 AM Return to Science and Society Podcasts Main Index

May 24, 2007

Dr. Michael Malkowski, Research Scientist, and Project Manager, Center for High-Throughput Structural Biology, Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, 5-24-07


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Dr. Michael G. Malkowski received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI, and his B.Sc. in Biochemistry from the University of Detroit. The Malkowski laboratory focuses on crystallographic characterization and functional analysis of integral membrane enzymes involved in lipid metabolism; fatty acid desaturation; and enzymatic mechanisms of fatty acid oxygenation.

Dr. Malkowski is also the Project Manager and a co-PI for the Center for High-Throughput Structural Biology (CHTSB), housed at HWI, where he is involved in the development of tools for high-throughput characterization of membrane proteins. The CHTSB is one of six specialized research centers established nationally through the Protein Structure Initiative within the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the NIH.

The Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute (HWI) is an independent, not-for-profit, biomedical research facility located in the heart of downtown Buffalo's medical campus. For half a century, HWI scientists have been committed to improving human health through study, at a molecular level, of the causes and potential cures of many diseases. In contrast to clinical research, the focus of Hauptman-Woodward’s basic research is to determine the structures of individual substances such as proteins that play a role in the development of specific diseases. This research explores questions like the following: What is the three-dimensional shape of a particular protein molecule? How and with what does this protein interact? What controls these interactions? What structural alterations lead to the development of disease?

Working under the leadership of Nobel Laureate Herbert Hauptman, HWI scientists use the techniques of molecular biology, biochemistry, and crystallography to answer these questions. The results of their investigations provide the starting point for better drug design. In addition, other research on-going at HWI seeks to improve the methods of crystallization and data analysis used for molecular structure determination by scientists worldwide.

Posted by David Lemberg at 08:38 AM Return to Science and Society Podcasts Main Index

February 01, 2007

Dr. Richard Gomer, Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, and Dr. Darrell Pilling, Faculty Fellow in Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Rice University, 2-1-07


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Dr. Richard Gomer is Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Rice University in Houston. He received his bachelor's degree in physics from Pomona College and his doctorate in biology from the California Institute of Technology. As a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Richard Firtel at the University of California, San Diego, Gomer began more than two decades of research using the simple eukaryote Dictyostelium as a model system to investigate the following: how a set of undifferentiated cells can break symmetry and differentiate into distinct cell types; how the cells in a group or tissue can sense what percentage of themselves are cell type 'a¹ and thus sense the composition of the tissue; and how the size of a group of cells or a tissue is sensed and maintained. Gomer joined Rice's faculty in 1988 and became a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator in 2000.

Dr. Darrell Pilling, an immunologist, is a Faculty Fellow in Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Rice University. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Rheumatology at the University of Birmingham in England. In postdoctoral training at Birmingham, Pilling investigated the proteins that prevent leukocytes from dying in the joints of arthritis patients, and he helped identify peptides that could kill inflammatory cells in inflamed joints.

In 2001, while Pilling was on a traveling fellowship at Rice, Gomer and Pilling discovered that a naturally occurring protein in human blood called serum amyloid P (SAP) prevented a subset of human blood monocytes from differentiating into cells called fibrocytes. Fibrocytes participate in both wound healing and fibrotic lesions, and they play a central role in fibrotic diseases, including scleroderma, pulmonary fibrosis, renal fibrosis, cirrhosis of the liver, airway wall thickening in asthma, and cardiac fibrosis, which is associated with many, if not most, of the U.S.'s 450,000 deaths per year from heart disease. There are currently no FDA-approved therapeutics for fibrotic diseases.

In collaboration with Dr. Mark Entman at Houston's Baylor College of Medicine, Gomer and Pilling have found that SAP injections prevent ischemia/reperfusion-induced cardiac fibrosis in mice. Gomer and Pilling have applied for patents on the technology and co-founded the company Promedior, which is working to develop SAP as an anti-fibrotic therapy.

Posted by David Lemberg at 12:14 PM Return to Science and Society Podcasts Main Index

January 10, 2007

Dr. Andrew Z. Fire, 2006 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, and Professor, Departments of Pathology and Genetics, Stanford University School of Medicine, 1-11-07


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Dr. Andrew Fire is the 2006 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine. The award honors work in RNA interference — gene silencing by double-stranded RNA

Dr. Fire received training at UC Berkeley (Mathematics BA: 1975-1978), MIT (Biology Ph.D.: 1978-1983), and the Medical Research Council Laboratory in Cambridge UK (Postdoctoral: 1983-1986). From 1986 to 2003, Dr. Fire was on the staff of the Carnegie Institution of Washington's Department of Embryology in Baltimore Maryland. During his time in Baltimore, Dr. Fire assumed the position of Adjunct Professor of Biology at Johns Hopkins University. In 2003, Dr. Fire joined the faculty of the Departments of Pathology and Genetics at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Dr. Fire’s lab studies the mechanisms by which cells and organisms respond to genetic change.

The genetic landscape faced by a living cell is constantly changing. Developmental transitions, environmental shifts, and pathogenic invasions lend a dynamic character to both the genome and its activity pattern. The Fire Lab studies a variety of natural mechanisms that are utilized by cells adapting to genetic change. These include mechanisms activated during normal development and systems for detecting and responding to foreign or unwanted genetic activity. At the root of these studies are questions of how a cell can distinguish “self” versus “nonself” and “wanted” versus “unwanted” gene expression.

The Fire Lab primarily makes use of the nematode C. elegans in experimental studies. C. elegans is small, easily cultured, and can readily be made to accept foreign DNA or RNA. The results of such experiments have outlined a number of concerted responses that recognize (and in most cases work to silence) the foreign nucleic acid. One such mechanism (“RNAi”) responds to double-stranded character in RNA: either as introduced experimentally into the organism or as produced from foreign DNA that has not undergone selection to avoid a dsRNA response. Much of the current effort in the lab is directed toward a molecular understanding of the RNAi machinery and its roles in the cell. RNAi is not the only cellular defense against unwanted nucleic acid, and substantial current effort in the lab is also directed at identification of other triggers and mechanisms used in recognition and response to foreign information.

Posted by David Lemberg at 04:17 PM Return to Science and Society Podcasts Main Index

October 19, 2006

Dr. Yousif Shamoo, Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Rice University, 10-20-06


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Dr. Yousif Shamoo is Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Rice University in Houston, TX. Dr. Shamoo uses structural biology to investigate a wide range of areas including sequence-specific RNA recognition, DNA replication, and molecular evolution of microbial populations. Using in vivo molecular evolution,

Dr. Shamoo's research team is studying how an organism mutates an essential gene as a response to changes in its environment. The experiments follow populations of mutant bacteria as they compete for survival, and his research group uses x-ray crystallography to examine both the winners and losers.

Posted by David Lemberg at 02:18 PM Return to Science and Society Podcasts Main Index

December 27, 2005

Dr. Jared Rutter, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry, University of Utah, 10/5/05


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Dr. Jared Rutter attended the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in the Molecular Biophysics graduate program. Under the guidance of Dr. Steven McKnight, Dr. Rutter studied the regulation and function of two proteins involved in sensing metabolic status and controlling cellular biology. After receiving his Ph.D., Dr. Rutter was appointed as the Sara and Frank McKnight Independent Fellow of Biochemistry at UT Southwestern. In 2004, Dr. Rutter moved to the University of Utah as Assistant Professor of Biochemistry.

Dr. Rutter's laboratory is interested in the reciprocal coupling of core metabolism and other cellular processes. Metabolic and nutrient status elicit substantial effects on a wide array of cellular biologies, including cell growth, cell division, and protein synthesis. Conversely, many cellular signaling pathways exert control on important metabolic decisions. Dr. Rutter's current research focuses on how the availability and quality of nutrients and energy affect cellular decisions, and how these cellular decisions then determine the use of available nutrients and energy.

Posted by David Lemberg at 03:44 PM Return to Science and Society Podcasts Main Index

December 13, 2005

Dr. Rodger McEver and Dr. Richard Cummings, Selexys Pharmaceuticals Corporation, 12/7/05


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Dr. Rodger P. McEver is Vice President of Research and Eli Lilly Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Research, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. Dr. McEver received an NIH MERIT Award in 1997 and an NIH Research Career Development Award in 1986. He has published more than 20 articles in peer-reviewed journals, and was elected to the Association of American Physicians in 1994. He is Principal Investigator on the NIH-sponsored, "Molecular Basis of Selectin Interactions with Leukocytes", and is Mentor on the NIH-sponsored, "Post-Translational Modifications in Host Defense".

Dr. Richard Cummings is the Ed Miller Endowed Chair and the George Lynn Cross Distinguished Research Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center College of Medicine in Oklahoma City, OK. He is also the Founder and Director of the Oklahoma Center for Medical Glycobiology, a center founded in 1999 and devoted to studying the role of complex carbohydrates in human and animal diseases. Rick is one of the authors of the first textbook on glycobiology—Essentials of Glycobiology—from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, published in 1999. Rick is the author of over 140 peer-reviewed publications in the field of glycobiology, and is one of the top 10–cited researchers in the field. He is Associate Editor and on the Editorial Board of several major peer-reviewed research journals. Rick holds over 20 U.S. patents in various areas of biotechnology. He has been a consultant with many of the major biotechnology companies in the world, including Amgen, Abbott, and Glaxo.

Drs. McEver and Cummings are the Founders of Selexys Pharmaceuticals Corporation. The Company develops and commercializes therapeutics for the treatment of inflammatory and thrombotic disorders. Selexys has a well-characterized target called P-selectin that mediates the first step in inflammation. Selexys lead drug program is an antibody that blocks P-selectin and inhibits P-selectin function in the recruitment of white blood cells to sites of inflammation. The lead clinical target is sickle cell disease. The Company founders are experts in the fields of vascular biology and protein-carbohydrate interactions that enable cell adhesion. Selexys is actively seeking co-development and licensing partners for these technologies. Selexys has rights to 15 issued patents.

Posted by David Lemberg at 09:34 AM Return to Science and Society Podcasts Main Index

December 01, 2005

Dr. Jan Tornell, Global Director, AstraZeneca Transgenics and Comparative Genomics, 11/30/05


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Dr. Tornell is Global Director of AstraZeneca Transgenics and Comparative Genomics. In 1996 he was recruited to Astra to build and lead a core unit (Astra Transgenic Centre) to generate and analyze transgenic models for the company worldwide. Prior to joining AstraZeneca Dr. Tornell ran a research group at Gothenburg University. He has had a leading role in building the transgenic technology in Scandinavia.

AstraZeneca has a powerful product portfolio including many world leaders and a range of high potential therapies for treating cancer (Casodex, Arimidex, Faslodex), gastrointestinal disease (Nexium), asthma (Symbicort), hypertension (Atacand), high cholesterol (Crestor), migraine (Zomig), and schizophrenia (Seroque ). Sales in 2004 totalled $21.4 billion.

In R&D AstraZeneca spends over $15 million every working day ($3.8 billion in 2004). In Discovery, Company scientists focus on finding new compounds with high potential as new medicines, working across boundaries to exchange ideas, to share best practices, and to make the most of the efficiencies offered by global collaboration.

AstraZeneca’s corporate HQ is in London and the R&D HQ is in Södertälje, Sweden. The Company has a strong presence in the U.S. and is active worldwide with sales in over 100 countries, manufacturing in 20, and major research centers in seven. In total AstraZeneca has over 64,000 employees worldwide.

Posted by David Lemberg at 08:42 AM Return to Science and Society Podcasts Main Index