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

July 2020



Welcome Chancellor Diermeier!

Chancellor Daniel Diermeier portrait in Kirkland Hall.Vanderbilt’s ninth chancellor, Daniel Diermeier, began his tenure on July 1, 2020. Basic Sciences welcomes him, and invites you to learn more about the person leading our university.


Introducing… Vestigo!

The Office of the Dean of Basic Sciences is proud to present to you its new magazine, Vestigo! In our first issue, we highlight some research discoveries led by trainees, profile provost and biomedical scientist Susan Wente, delve into the potential of multi-scale imaging, and more. We hope you enjoy reading Vestigo. And don’t forget to check out the AR component!


Tenth issue of Results & Discussion published

The summer 2020 issue of the Results & Discussion newsletter has just been published by the BRET Office. A partnership between R&D and Vestigo allowed student and postdoc writers to flex their writing muscles and try out different writing styles to describe the same research papers. Plus, check out an alumna profile, a faculty highlight, and an overview of Mock Interview Day, an event designed to prepare trainees to tackle the job market.


Brown awarded Early Stage Investigator Research Grant Prize

The United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation has awarded Breann Brown (Biochemistry) the Early Stage Investigator Research Grant Prize, designed to aid and inspire the next generation of scientists who dedicate their work to mitochondrial disease research. Brown’s work focuses on the maintenance of mitochondrial DNA within the context of proper organelle function and cellular respiration.


Townsend Wins Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award

This year’s class of Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award winners includes Assistant Professor of Chemistry Steve Townsend. The award is meant to support the careers of faculty in the chemical sciences who are in the first five years of their academic career, exhibit a strong body of research, and demonstrate a commitment to teaching.


Chancellor’s Faculty Fellows

Ten faculty from across the university have been named Chancellor’s Faculty Fellows. This distinction recognizes outstanding faculty who have recently received tenure and is designed to reinforce Vanderbilt’s support for them. This year’s cohort includes Carrie Jones (Pharmacology), Ken Lau (CDB), Ivelin Georgiev (PMI), and Jennifer Below (Medicine).


Vanderbilt researchers recognized in list of inspiring Black scientists

As a follow-up to the first list of 100 inspiring Black scientists published in February, a group of academics in STEM came together and compiled a list of 1,000 inspiring established and up-and-coming Black researchers. The most recently published list showcases four Vanderbilt postdoctoral scientists: Jessica Thomas, a postdoc in the lab of Roger Colbran; Lillian Brady, a postdoc in the lab of Erin Calipari; Jamaal James, a postdoc in the lab of Justin Balko; and Henry Henderson III, a postdoc in the lab of Christine Lovly.


Basic Sciences community demonstrates on Juneteenth

Silhouette of Black female dressed in Stars & Stripes next to the words, "Juneteenth. Freedom Day."In observance and celebration of Juneteenth, the anniversary of the freeing of the last enslaved Blacks in the United States in 1865, upwards of 40 or 50 faculty, trainees, and staff from the Basic Sciences community held a peaceful demonstration on June 19, 2020. If you are unfamiliar with Juneteenth, Assistant Professor of History Brandon Byrd explains it here.


BWF Names Reyes Ruiz and Thomas 2020 Postdoctoral Enrichment Program Fellows

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund has announced the 2020 fellows of their Postdoctoral Enrichment Program, which include Valeria Marie Reyes Ruiz (Eric Skaar lab) and Jessica Rene Thomas (Roger Colbran lab). Reyes Ruiz and Thomas were among the 14 fellows selected from across the country, and will receive $60,000 each for enrichment activities over the course of the next 3 years.


Byndloss named finalist of NOSTER & Science Microbiome Prize

Mariana Byndloss (PMI) has been selected as a finalist for the NOSTER & Science Microbiome Prize, which judges essays describing applicants’ innovative research that reveals exciting novel functions of the microbiota and has the potential to contribute to our understanding of human or veterinary health and disease or to guide therapeutic interventions.


Amidon selected as Vanderbilt Prize Student Scholar

The 2020 Vanderbilt Prize Student Scholar is Katherine Amidon (Biological Sciences, Brandt Eichman lab). Amidon will receive a $1,000 prize and will be mentored by the 2020 recipient of the Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science, Jennifer Doudna, of UC Berkeley.


Dean’s Award recognizes Ph.D. candidates

The Office of the Dean of Basic Sciences has announced the names of the eight recipients of the Dean’s Award for Exceptional Achievement: Andrea Shiakolas (MHI, Ivelin Georgiev lab), Slavina Goleva (MPB, Lea Davis lab), Kim Thibeault (Neuroscience, Erin Calipari lab), Paige Vega (CDB, Ken Lau lab), Jooeun Kang (Human Genetics, Douglas Ruderfer lab), Sarah Glass (Biochemistry, Fred Guengerich lab), Tiffany Richardson (MPB, Al Powers lab), and Anna Kasdan (Neuroscience, Reyna Gordon lab).


Cell and Developmental Biology recognizes trainees

The Department of Cell and Developmental Biology annually recognizes two trainees with the Steve Hann Outstanding Graduate Student Award and the Outstanding Postdoctoral Fellow Award. This year, graduate student Nilay Taneja (CDB, Dylan Burnette lab) was digitally presented with the former award, and postdoc Beth Lawrence (Marija Zanic lab) was digitally presented with the latter.


Student and postdoc fellowships

Join us in celebrating this month’s fellowship winners. The recipients and granting agencies are: Suzanne Nolan (Cody Siciliano lab) and Jennifer Zachry (Pharmacology, Erin Calipari lab), NIDA; Evonne McArthur (Human Genetics, Tony Capra lab), NHGRI; Elleansar Okwei (Chemistry, Jens Meiler lab), NIGMS; Alexandria Oviatt (CPB, Neil Osheroff lab), NIAID; Mac Castro (Biochemistry, Charles Sanders lab), NIA; and Tessa Huffstater (Biomedical Engineering, David Merryman lab), American Society of Nephrology.


Cuentas-Condori earns DeLill Nasser Award

Andrea Cuentas-Condori, a graduate student in the lab of David Miller, was named one of ten recipients of the DeLill Nasser Award, presented by the Genetics Society of America.




VI4 gets a new home

Photo of Dr. Balser and Dr. Pietenpol pose for a photo with Dr. Skaar at the new VI4 new lab in Medical Center North. Photos by Donn Jones/Vanderbilt University Medical Center

The Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation has a new research and administrative home on campus. Located in MCN, the new VI4 facilities house advanced imaging tools and standard resources for microbiology and immunology research as well as dedicated space for microbiome research.


A Promising Start to Ending Coronaviruses

A webinar held on June 30 allowed Stephen Fesik (Biochemistry) to describe recent research on COVID-19. His drug discovery work has great potential for therapeutic approaches against not just COVID-19, but potentially future coronaviruses.


ISAC recognizes Roe

The International Society for Advancement of Cytometry has awarded Caroline Roe the title of Shared Resource Education Emerging Leader. Designation as an SRE EL comes through a highly competitive process in which designees are selected for their leadership potential, technical expertise, ability to achieve their career goals, and a commitment to ISAC.


Bhave receives Grant W. Liddle Award

Gautam (Jay) Bhave (Medicine) has been awarded the 2020 Grant W. Liddle Award for exemplary leadership in the promotion of scientific research at VUMC.



VICB Highly Cited Articles Award

The Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology recognizes its members annually for the high impact of their scientific contributions, measured by the number of citations over a two-year period. Each corresponding author will be asked to provide a short, flash talk-style presentation at this year’s annual VICB retreat and will receive $1,000 to commemorate the accomplishment. This year’s winners are: Seth Bordenstein (Biological Sciences), with a paper on Wolbachia; Robert Coffey (Medicine), with a paper on cetuximab resistance; and Hassane Mchaourab (MPB), with a paper on P-glycoprotein.


New Discoveries

Slowing down neurotransmission

Teru Nakagawa in the Cryo-EM Lab Engineering Science Building Vanderbilt UniversityThe speed of neurotransmission in different parts of the brain affects brain function. Teru Nakagawa’s (MPB) lab has found that an auxiliary subunit shared by the AMPA receptor and the GSG1L brain regulator slows down brain cell activity in the anterior thalamus.


Machine learning allows RAPID discoveries

The labs of Rebecca Ihrie (CDB) and Jonathan Irish (CDB) have developed a machine learning algorithm called Risk Assessment Population IDentification that helps researchers analyze large quantities of cell data. Thanks to RAPID, the labs discovered new and aggressive types of cells involved in glioblastoma.


Developing tools to study NAEs

NAEs, bioactive lipids, appear to play roles in energy balance, inflammation, stress responses and addiction, but scientists have not yet found defined roles for them. The lab of Sean Davies (Pharmacology) identified two inhibitors of an enzyme involved in NAE biosynthesis that can help characterize NAE function.


Sin3 proteins linked to diabetes

The lab of Guoqiang Gu (CDB) recently determined that Sin3 proteins Sin3a and Sin3b play essential roles in islet cell production and postnatal beta cell “fitness,” linking their function to the initiation and progression of diabetes.


Mitochondrial dynamics affect human cardiomyocytes

Work from the labs of Vivian Gama (CDB) and Dylan Burnette (CDB) shows that disrupting mitochondrial morphology and dynamics through the inhibition of MCL-1 leads to a decrease in viability and function of iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes.


Monoclonal antibodies show promise against COVID-19

Photo of Dr. James Crowe Jr., professor of medicine, in his lab at Medical Research Building IV. Dr. Crowe is the subject of a feature article in the upcoming Winter 2018 issue of Vanderbilt Magazine. Crowe, who is the Ann Scott Carell Professor of Pediatrics, Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, as well as director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center, has spent his career hunting for a universal flu vaccine. He has re-engineered how flu vaccines work and is on the edge of creating a single shot that covers all flu strains. In a new initiative announced in October, he will lead an international team of researchers as they launch clinical trials of his new vaccine.(John Russell/Vanderbilt University)

James Crowe’s (Pediatrics) group, which specializes in the discovery of antibodies against viral infections, isolated monoclonal antibodies from one of the earliest confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections in North America. Their trademark approach also allowed them to isolate a monoclonal antibody that could protect against the enterovirus-linked acute flaccid myelitis.


Mouse model for a seizure disorder

The lab of Robert Macdonald (Neurology) recently developed a mouse model with a GABA-A receptor subunit point mutation that mimics some abnormal behaviors and seizures seen in Lennox-Gastaut syndrome in humans.


Mutating for better binding

Recent work by Ingrid Verhamme (PMI) and colleagues suggests that Staphylococcus aureus might change staphylocoagulase, a virulence factor, to better bind to prothrombin and evade the immune system.


Positive results from Phase 1 COVID-19 vaccine trial

A cross-institutional Phase 1 trial for a COVID-19 vaccine has yielded promising results that were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Mark Denison (Medicine) was the Vanderbilt lead for the trial, which will begin recruiting Phase 3 volunteers at Vanderbilt and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Volunteer for a COVID-19 vaccine Phase 3 trial
VUMC is recruiting volunteers for a randomized, placebo-controlled phase 3 trial of the COVID-19 vaccine under development by Moderna, Inc. The trial will be open to people 18 years old and older. Participants will receive two shots of either the vaccine or an inactive placebo and will be followed for two years.


Stimulating STING to enhance neuroblastoma treatment

John Wilson’s (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering) group recently showed that treating neuroblastoma cells with a stimulant of the STING pathway enhanced the immune reaction against the cancerous cells.


Announcements & Events

CDB has new program manager

The Department of Cell and Developmental Biology welcomes Lorie Franklin as its new program manager.

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.

Submit your papers to Pharmacology and Translational Science

Craig Lindsley has been named interim Editor-in-Chief of ACS Pharmacology and Translational Science and invites his colleagues to submit to the journal. They publish basic and translational pharmacology research—including clinical trials—in oncology, immunology, renal, cardiovascular, metabolic diseases, and CNS. The journal publishes Articles, Letters, Reviews, Perspectives, Viewpoints, and Drug Discovery Stories.

Instructional design support for adaptive teaching
The Center for Teaching has partnered with instructional design firm iDesign to provide faculty with additional instructional design support as preparations continue for online and hybrid teaching this fall. Beginning July 24, Vanderbilt faculty will have access to a resource hub, a week-long class, and support hours.

Early voting and voting day info
Nashville is currently holding an early voting period for state and federal primary and county general elections. Early voting is from July 17-August 1. Voting day is August 6, and polls will be open from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Make sure to check where your polling place is, and what COVID-19 precautions to take.


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.

Mark your calendars for the VICB Student Research 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 scheduled to be an in-person event, the organizers are prepared to move it to the cloud if necessary. Registration is open until July 30!

Webinar: Department of Defense 101
Learn how the DOD funds science and technology research and development. The webinar will introduce DOD research and development organizations, funding agencies, and programs; strategies for interacting with the DOD agencies; advice on how to successfully compete for DOD research funds; and resources that can provide support for future engagement. Register here for the August 12 webinar, held at 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 PM.

VICTR COVID-19 virtual town hall
A virtual town hall held by the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research will highlight tools and resources to facilitate COVID-19 research. The town hall will be held on August 31 from 1:00 to 2:00 PM. Register here.

Webinar: Federal funding for early-career faculty
Early-career faculty will learn about key research agencies such as the NIH, NSF, and DOD; strategies for engaging with program managers at each; and ways to tailor their research to meet the requirements of each agency. There also will be opportunities to ask general questions and receive information on how to connect with Lewis-Burke Associates for one-on-one guidance. Register here for the September 22 webinar, held at 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 AM.



Sandra Zinkel laboratory: Postdoctoral fellow

John Karijlolich laboratory: Postdoctoral fellow

Amanda Doran laboratory: Research Assistant I or II

Innovative Translational Research Shared Resource: Research Assistant II

Warren Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery: Drug discovery scientist I, Drug discovery scientist II


A businesswoman selection a Funding concept on a portable computer.

New Funding

Grant to study cell migration and metastasis

The laboratory of Cynthia Reinhart-King (Biomedical Engineering) has discovered that, contrary to prevailing hypotheses, fewer migratory cells create more metastases. Her lab has just been awarded a three-year, $1-million grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation to expand the research into more cancer types.



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.

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.



Stanley Cohen Innovation Fund
The School of Medicine is currently soliciting applications for research awards from the Stanley Cohen Innovation Fund. Only one nomination from each department will be accepted. Nominees must be tenured or tenure-track faculty from School of Medicine departments. Applications are due by July 31.


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!

This month we’re re-featuring the Vanderbilt Mouse Metabolic Phenotyping Center (Mouse Center)! It comprises a network of interactive cores focused on experimental and analytical methods, competitive pilot and feasibility grants, technical development projects, outreach and education, and a database of mouse metabolic and cardiovascular data. They offer courses on glucose clamping in the conscious mouse and use of tracer methods annually. Want to learn more? Reach out to them by email, tweet, or telephone (615-343-1605).


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 cover of Vestigo and the banner for this month’s newsletter were drawn by Kendra Oliver, an assistant professor of pharmacology. She depicted an AMPA receptor, a glutamine receptor in the brain that is the focus of Teru Nakagawa’s research. A faculty member in Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Nakagawa’s work is highlighted in Vestigo’s first issue.

Oliver’s science background and artistic talent allows her to represent scientific concepts in a visually stunning manner.

See larger view.


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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.


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