News From The Basic Sciences

Having trouble viewing this email? View as a webpage.

CAS - Basic Sciences - Internal E-Newsletter [Vanderbilt University]

May 2020


Inaugural Dean’s Faculty Fellows announced

The dean of Basic Sciences has announced a new program that recognizes the research accomplishments and promise of early-career faculty, naming Manny Ascano (Biochemistry) and Marija Zanic (CDB) its inaugural recipients.


New COVID-19 Research and Innovation Fund

VU has established a fund designed to support COVID-19 researchers and innovators from across the university, including cross-disciplinary collaborations that address the medical, societal and interpersonal effects of the pandemic. Supported projects include the development of vaccine formulation to enhance resistance to COVID-19, the acquisition of personal protective equipment to safeguard health care workers on the front lines, the design of “smart” face masks to better identify and track COVID-19 infections, and more.

Commencement updates

As you are aware, in lieu of a physical Commencement ceremony, Vanderbilt University will celebrate its graduates virtually. If you have any Commencement-related questions, this is the place to go to. Make sure to check back between May 4 and May 8 to see updates, including a special video message by Interim Chancellor Susan Wente that goes live on May 8 at 9:00 AM.


Mental health in the times of the pandemic

Whether you’re a student, postdoc/staff, or faculty, make sure to refer to the university’s mental health resources.




Auxiliary mentor resource announced

Here in Basic Sciences, we know that it can be inherently difficult to approach someone within your supervision hierarchy with a problem, like your PI, your DGS, or your chair. With that in mind, we’ve launched a new auxiliary mentor resource, a list of willing mentors from across our programs and departments who are there to help you if you need someone to talk to. This program is open to second-year students and beyond. Read more about the program here.


Basic Sciences departments rank amongst best funded

The Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research has released its ranking of NIH funding to U.S. medical schools, divided by discipline. All four Basic Sciences departments ranked among the top 10 in the nation. The Department of Biochemistry ranked No. 1, Cell and Developmental Biology No. 2, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics No. 3, and Pharmacology No. 8.


VUSM awards honor Basic Sciences faculty

The School of Medicine has just announced the 2020 recipients of its faculty awards. From amongst those recognized, four are Basic Sciences faculty members. Lourdes Estrada (Biochemistry), along with four colleagues, received the Denis M. O’Day Award for Team-Implemented Curriculum Reform. David Cortez (Biochemistry), Bill Tansey (CDB), and David Harrison (Medicine) were honored with the Stanley Cohen Award for Research Bridging Diverse Disciplines, the John H. Exton Award for Research Leading to Innovative Biological Concepts, and the Charles R. Park Award for Basic Research Revealing Insights into Physiology and Pathophysiology, respectively.


Umbrella programs recruit exceptional 2020 cohort

Despite the worldwide pandemic, the IGP and QCB programs had particularly strong recruitment seasons. With a record number of applications, these biomedical training programs are set to welcome over 80 students in the fall.


Vanderbilt students well represented in NSF GRFPs

This year, 4 of the 23 Vanderbilt students who received coveted NSF GRFP fellowships were Basic Sciences graduate students: Ivette Perez (Biochemistry, Tina Iverson lab); Lee Cantrell (Chemical and Physical Biology, Kevin Schey lab); Jason Hughes (MPB, Gregor Neuert lab); and Darren Heintzman, who just finished his IGP year. Eight other students received honorable mentions: Kavya Sharman (Chemical and Physical Biology, Richard Caprioli lab), Sabrina Van Ravenstein (Biochemistry, James Dewar lab), Gabriella Robertson (CDB, Vivian Gama lab), Lindsey Guerin (Biochemistry, Emily Hodges lab), Brad Davidson (Cancer Biology, Ben Ho Park lab), Wendy Bindeman (Cancer Biology, Barbara Fingleton lab), Michelle Piazza (Neuroscience, Lisa Monteggia and Jeffrey Neul labs), and Reyhaneh Tirgar (Biological Sciences, Jared Nordman lab). Additionally, three incoming IGP students were also recognized: Niharika Loomba, who was awarded the grant, and Greg Konar and Kaeli Bryant, who received honorable mentions.


Even more trainees earn fellowships

The following trainees were also awarded fellowships from various organizations: David Wu (Human Genetics, Antonis Hatzopoulos lab) and Charles Smart (MPB, Meena Madhur lab) from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; Sarah Glass (Biochemistry, Fred Guengerich lab) from the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin; and Spencer Waddle (CPB, Manus Donahue lab) from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.


New Discoveries

Better than remdesivir?

A team of VU and VUMC researchers, led by Mark Denison (Pediatrics) and in collaboration with other U.S. institutions, has just published a paper showing the antiviral potential of two drugs called EIDD-1931 and EIDD-2801 to treat a variety of coronavirus infections, including SARS-CoV-2. Viruses showing resistance to remdesivir are more highly inhibited by EIDD-1931.

New MYCN role in TNBC

A study led by a graduate student in Jennifer Pietenpol’s (Biochemistry) lab, Johanna Schafer, discovered a new role for the oncogene MYCN in triple-negative breast cancer, and found that a cocktail of BET and MEK inhibitors could help with treatment. The work landed the cover of the journal, Science Translational Medicine, with artwork designed by Schafer’s brother. A second paper reports a new combination of treatments for a subset of triple-negative breast cancer patients.

Lipid droplets and misleading mice

Roland Stein (MPB) and his lab published work looking at lipid droplets in the cells of young or old people with or without diabetes. They found that older or diabetic people accumulated more lipid droplets, and that results in mice did not reflect the results in humans.

Modulation of myosin II “tunes” cell contractility

The lab of Dylan Burnette (CDB) recently delineated specific roles for myosin-IIA and myosin-IIB, generating cortex tension and maintaining cortical stability, respectively, during cell division.

C. diff infections worse with exotoxin production

The Borden Lacy (PMI) research group recently found that Clostridioides difficile strains that produce the TcdB exotoxin cause damage to crypt base stem cells, leading to worse outcomes.

Brain calcium channel activity dependent on protein interactions

The lab of Roger Colbran (MPB) recently found that interactions between CaMKII and Shank3 stimulates the expression of c-Fos, a protein key in synaptic plasticity, brain development, and behavior.

 Finding antibodies to combat viruses

A recent paper from the lab of James Crowe (Pediatrics) described how his lab developed a new therapeutic cocktail of antibodies against Ebola, which has yet to be eradicated.

Post-transplant diabetes possibly preventable, treatable

A collaboration led by the lab of Al Powers (Medicine) identified mechanisms by which post-transplant diabetes, a type of diabetes that arises after treating some patients with immunosuppressive drugs in preparation for a transplant, could be treatable and at least partially preventable.

New MudPIT clarifies protein interactions

Through the use of a technique called Multidimensional Protein Identification Technology, the lab of Andrew Link (PMI) identified novel protein interactions and phosphorylation sites for S. cerevisiae mRNA translation proteins and protein complexes.

New neurotoxicants identified

The lab of Ned Porter (Chemistry) tested a library of environmentally active chemicals and found two agricultural pesticides that showed a toxic effect on cholesterol metabolism in mice and human cells.

Cotransporter mutation linked to higher energy production; gut epithelia

Eric Delpire (Anethesiology) and colleagues recently linked a patient mutation in the chloride, potassium, and sodium ion cotransporter NKCC1 to an increase in mitochondrial respiration and increased oxidative stress in the patient’s fibroblasts. A second paper found that mutant NKCC1, a sodium, potassium, and chloride transporter, impairs gut barrier function by affecting goblet cell mucus secretion and chronic inflammation.

Explaining bronchopulmonary dysplasia

BPD affects pre-term infants born before 32 weeks of gestation. The lab of Jennifer Sucre (Pediatrics) discovered that an increase in Wnt5A expression in lung connective tissue cells contributes to BPD, suggesting that precise Wnt5A targeting could prevent or treat the acute lung injury.




Postdoctoral fellow, Sandra Zinkel laboratory.


Postdoctoral fellow, John Karijlolich laboratory.


Research Assistant II, Innovative Translational Research Shared Resource.




External Funding Opportunities

Funding for COVID-19 research
Many new COVID-19-related funding opportunities are now available from both federal agencies and from private foundations. For an excellent and constantly updated list, visit the VU OVPR website. We urge you to be vigilant in following new funding announcements from the NIH and other groups. If you stumble upon new grant programs that you think may be of broad interest, please forward this info to Chuck Sanders and we will make sure they are appropriately posted.

Private funding opportunities
Corporate and Foundation Relations has put together an extensive list of funding opportunities from non-government organizations. This page is updated when new opportunities are identified.

NSF announces conference funding
The National Science Foundation is searching for new track topics for its new Convergence Accelerator structure. The request for information is for a track topic idea and a proposal for a conference designed to better understand the scientific and community needs, opportunities, and significant challenges for the suggested topic over the next two to five years. Submit your track idea by April 30. Conference proposals may be submitted at any time, but must be received by May 18 and have a budget under $100,000 to be considered for FY 2020 funds.

NIH guidance on research and grants
The NIH has published information for grant applicants and recipients of funding given the current coronavirus pandemic. They answer questions ranging from proposal submission to clinical trials and animal welfare, and more. The page is continually updated, so make sure to check back to see newly posted information.


Internal Funding Opportunities

VU Bridge Program
Primary Basic Sciences faculty with lapses in federal grant support are invited to apply for this program. The next submission deadline for Bridge/Realignment Grant funding is May 15. The instructions for submission of proposals have been completely overhauled and have been posted on the VBS website. It is critical that faculty who wish to apply follow the posted instructions.

Announcements & Events

Resources for remote work
Check out these resources for online work, including tips on running a smooth digital dissertation defense, options for choosing the right tool for your communication needs, and info on courses and workshops you can take to enhance your online teaching.

Vanderbilt Prize Student Scholar open for nominations
Female Ph.D. students in the biomedical sciences are invited to apply for this award, which recognizes excellent leadership qualities through their research and service to the scientific community, as well as characteristics that exhibit outstanding potential to impact medicine through research during their careers. This year’s winner will be mentored by the recipient of the Vanderbilt Prize, Jennifer Doudna. Nominations are due by Friday, May 15.

Nominations welcome for Dean’s Award
The Dean’s Award for Exceptional Achievement in Advanced Graduate Studies is open for nominations until 5:00 PM on Monday, May 18. This award recognizes outstanding graduate students whose work results in discoveries that change our conceptual understanding of basic biological mechanisms, reveal causes of human disease, or lead to changes in clinical practice.

Announcing the VI4 Trainee-of-the-Year Awards
This year, the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation has introduced two Trainee-of-the-Year Awards, one for a graduate student and one for a postdoc. Winners will present a talk at the 2020 symposium on June 9 (more details under Events). To submit a nomination, the trainee’s mentor must send a letter of recommendation and the trainee must send a biosketch to Megan Schladt. Interested trainees must also submit an abstract to present during this year’s symposium. The deadline for nominations is May 25.

Richard Armstrong Prize accepting nominations
The Richard Armstrong Prize for Research Excellence is now accepting nominations through June 1. Vanderbilt doctoral candidates with an active VICB faculty advisor are eligible to apply. Winners will present an oral presentation at the VICB Symposium and receive a $1,000 honorarium. For more details about the Armstrong Prize, click here. Contact Tia Patton to submit your nomination or if you have any questions.


Webinar on federal funding outlook and opportunities in computational health
The Office of the Vice Provost for Research will host a webinar at 10:00 AM on May 6 to help Vanderbilt faculty learn about federal funding opportunities in computational health. Lewis-Burke Associates, LLC, will discuss the federal landscape of computational health research opportunities in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and computational approaches to healthcare and biomedical research. Register here to obtain Zoom access.

Back to Basics lecture
David Wasserman (MPB), director of the Mouse Metabolic Phenotyping Center, will deliver a Zoom lecture showcasing the capabilities and expertise of the MMPC. How can you use the MMPC in modeling diseases in mice? Tune in on May 7 at 4:00 PM.

Online Course Design Institutes
Enroll in this two-week online experience designed to help you prepare for teaching an online course. This course will be offered multiple times over the summer, starting with the first two sessions on May 4-15 and May 18-29. Apply now!

NIH & You to occur in Nashville
One of the NIH’s Regional Seminars on Program Funding and Grants Administration for 2020 will take place right here in Nashville on October 28-30. Registration is now open. Attend this event, sponsored by the Office of Extramural Research, to learn about the application and review process, federal regulations and policies, current areas of special interest or concern, and more.

VI4 Research Symposium
The Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation Annual Symposium has been rescheduled for this coming June 9. Register here by June 1!

Mark your calendars for the VICB Symposium
The 2020 symposium of the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology is currently scheduled for August 6. Gregory Verdine, Harvard University professor and founder of the biotech companies Enanta, Wave Life Sciences, and FogPharma, is slated to be the keynote speaker. Although the event is scheduled to be an in-person event, the organizers are prepared to move the event to the cloud if necessary. Keep tuned for registration details!


Know Your Core

Did you know that Basic Sciences boasts 19 cores that can help you with an assortment of needs and techniques? We’ll be featuring them each month so that you can get to know them. Maybe they can help you with that project you’ve been putting off… Just don’t forget to acknowledge them in your publications!

Vanderbilt Genome Editing Resource Cryopreservation Services
The generation and maintenance of genome-altered mouse models represents a major investment of both money and time. Laboratories can save money and protect their mouse lines by working with VGER to perform cryopreservation of sperm or embryos. Cryopreservation reduces colony management costs by reducing the number of cages and the personnel effort to maintain them. Cryopreservation also protects valuable lines against illness, disaster, genetic drift, or accidental loss. VGER can quickly and efficiently restore your cryopreserved lines though in vitro fertilization. Cryopreservation also facilitates the distribution of mouse models to other investigators by eliminating the need to ship live animals. Donating lines to the Vanderbilt Cryopreserved Mouse Repository, which distributes cryopreserved lines to qualified investigators on your behalf, ensures compliance with NIH mouse sharing policies. To learn more about VGER’s cryopreservation services, click here. To learn more about the VCMR, click here.


About the Newsletter

This monthly newsletter recognizes the achievements and latest discoveries of any trainees, faculty, and staff who aid in the basic research enterprise of the biomedical sciences at Vanderbilt University. Archive.


About this Issue’s Banner

The image shown here is a forebrain cross section derived from a 3D reconstruction of light-sheet fluorescence images of an optically cleared mouse brain. Using a technique called iDISCO+, postdoc Kit-Yi Yam and Research Instructor Jose Maldonado (Richard Simerly lab, MPB) optically cleared a mouse brain and immunohistochemically labeled it for an axonal marker (green) and a neuronal marker (red). They then imaged the entire brain to reveal the distribution of axonal projections from a subpopulation of hypothalamic neurons involved in feeding.

See larger view.


Catch Up on VU Basic Sciences News!

We regularly update our website with some of the latest VU Basic Sciences news stories. This is also where we post Discoveries – the latest published research by Basic Sciences faculty.


Faculty & Facility Profiles

Watch Now!



Follow Us on Social Media



Send Us Your News

Got an announcement or an upcoming event? Let us know!

Home Chats: Quarantine videos from our faculty!



Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Basic Sciences

Basic Sciences home  |  News  |  Subscription management  |  Contact us


Vanderbilt University is committed to principles of equal opportunity and affirmative action.
Vanderbilt®, Vanderbilt University®, V Oak Leaf Design®, Star V Design® and Anchor Down® are trademarks of The Vanderbilt University. ©2022 Vanderbilt University. All rights reserved.