News From The Basic Sciences

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

October 2020


Gould appointed senior associate dean

Kathy Gould (CDB), who previously served as associate dean for Biomedical Sciences, has been appointed senior associate dean for biomedical research, education, and career development. Gould, who has been at Vanderbilt since 1991, conducts research on the molecular basis of cell division, a highly conserved process central to development and tissue maintenance, and has spent considerable effort promoting and expanding the biomedical sciences graduate education program at Vanderbilt.


Sealy to serve as senior advisor to the dean

Linda Sealy, who served as the Basic Sciences associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion, will continue to serve our community following her retirement in August as Senior Advisor to the Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She will be focusing on increasing faculty diversity; advancing equity and inclusion through training to promote culturally aware, effective mentorship; leading a new coordinating committee for the newly formed department and program diversity and inclusion committees; providing education to trainees on bias through Fair Play workshops; and continuing to co-lead the Dean’s Advisory Council on Mental Health and Wellness. Sealy will continue to contribute to the Meharry-Vanderbilt-TSU partnership and Fisk-Vanderbilt Bridge Program and will continue to co-lead the IMSD program and the newly funded PREP postbac program.


Hiebert appointed NCAB acting chair

Scott Hiebert (Biochemistry) has been appointed acting chair of the National Cancer Advisory Board, which comprises scientists hand-picked by the president of the United States. Hiebert was appointed to the board in 2016 by President Barack Obama.


Estrada to lead AEE

The Vanderbilt Academy for Excellence in Education has elected Lourdes Estrada (Biochemistry) as its new director-elect. She will serve in that role between 2020 and 2022 and serve as director between 2022-2024.



New primary faculty in Basic Sciences

We’re bringing in fresh talent across our different departments. Take a look at a list of the most recent tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty hires, and help us welcome them to campus:

  • Biochemistry: Adjoint Associate Professor Naotoshi Nakamura (not pictured)
  • Cell and Developmental Biology: Assistant Professor Kathy DelGiorno, Research Assistant Professor Gregory “Caleb” Howard, Research Assistant Professor Seth Taylor
  • Molecular Physiology and Biophysics: Research Assistant Professor Rafael Arrojo e Drigo, Assistant Professor Elma Zaganjor
  • Pharmacology: Research Assistant Professor Mohamed Ahmed, Research Instructor Max Joffe, Research Assistant Professor Minati Singh


Founding an Alzheimer’s research center

The National Institute on Aging has funded a grant for neurology Professor Angela Jefferson to establish the first federally funded Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at VUMC, adding to the network of 31 other ADRCs present throughout the nation. The center will include 35 faculty members from over 20 departments, centers, and institutes across campus, including Chuck Sanders (Biochemistry), who will be a leader within the Administrative Core, Paul Newhouse (Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences), who will co-lead the Clinical Core, and Timothy Hohmann (Neurology), who will co-lead the Biomarker Core.



Siciliano funded by Cohen Innovation Fund

The Stanley Cohen Innovation Fund has granted Cody Siciliano (Pharmacology) a $100,000 research award to bolster his work on the neural substrates of memory.

NSF to fund drug delivery research using EVs

Vanderblt researchers, including Alissa Weaver (CDB) have received a $500,000 Future Manufacturing Seed Grant from the National Science Foundation. The goal is to develop technologies for the production of “designer” extracellular vesicles that can be packaged with specific cargo and made in high yield from certain cell types in an effort to create drug delivery systems with “exquisite targeting.”

AACR award for Ngwa

Verra Ngwa (Cancer Biology, Jin Chen lab) has received the 2020 Minority Scholar Award from the American Association for Cancer Research.


Increasing diversity in Alzheimer’s research

In September, nine patents were issued for Vanderbilt, including four that include Basic Sciences or PMI researchers as patent holders: • P75.sup.NTR antagonists and treatment of acute and chronic cardiac disease: Bruce Carter (Biochemistry). • Peristaltic micropump and related systems and methods: John Wikswo (MPB). • Devices and methods for tension measurements and applications of same: John Wiskwo, Jeffrey Davidson (PMI), and Veniamin Yu Sidorov. Antibody-mediated neutralization of Chikungunya virus: James Crowe (Pediatrics) and Scott Alan (Medicine).The NIH has awarded Renã Robinson (Chemistry) a $2.5 million grant to help her develop and implement resources designed to bring more African American participants into Alzheimer’s disease research.

Watkins student award for Ildefonso

The Levi Watkins, Jr. Student Award is presented annually to at least one graduate student and one medical student who have made outstanding contributions toward fostering a more diverse environment that is enriching, encouraging, and embracing of all Vanderbilt medical school students, faculty, and administrators. This year, the award was presented to graduate student Geena Ildefonso (CPB, Vito Quaranta) and medical student Jaqueline Antoun at the beginning of the Levi Watkins, Jr., MD Lecture on October 6.

Colowick Award for Sheedlo, Beebout

The 2020 Sidney Colowick Awards in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology have been presented to postdoc Michael Sheedlo (Borden Lacy lab) and graduate students Connor Beebout (MHI, Maria Hadjifrangiskou lab) and Laura Powell (MPI, James Crowe lab).

Glass earns Professional Development & Training Grant

Graduate student Sarah M. Glass (Biochemistry, lab of Fred Guengerich) has received a Professional Development & Training Grant, which provides up to $1000 of support for graduate students seeking professional development and training opportunities to further develop their academic and professional skills, from the Russell G. Hamilton Graduate Leadership Institute at Vanderbilt.

Byndloss, Rathmell recognized by students

Ph.D. students from the Molecular Pathogenesis Division have recognized two faculty for their teaching. The students from the Microbe-Host Interactions program recognized Mariana Byndloss (PMI), and the students from the Molecular Pathology and Immunology program recognized Jeff Rathmell (PMI) with the Charles Randall Prize in Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology.

Kruse receives HIRN Scholarship

Angela Kruse, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Richard Caprioli (Biochemistry), just received a 2020 Human Islet Research Network Scholarship. Nine graduate students and postdocs were selected for this scholarship from a nationwide submission of abstracts.

Fellowships for trainees

This month, we’re proud to share with you that the following graduate students and postdocs received fellowships from the indicated organizations: Kellie Williford (Neuroscience, Danny Winder lab), Caroline Nebhan (Cancer Biology, Ann Richmond lab), and Alexander Silver (Cancer Biology, Michael Savona lab), NIH; Jennifer Gribble (MHI, Mark Denison lab) and Lauren Saag (Epidemiology, Tim Sterling lab), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Tessa Huffstater (Biomedical Engineering, David Merryman lab), National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Disease; Tin Nguyen (Neuroscience, Laurie Cutting lab), National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; and Katherine Amidon (Biological Sciences, Brandt Eichman lab), National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.



Carrasco on list of 100 inspiring Hispanic/Latinx scientists

New faculty Nancy Carrasco - Molecular Physiology, in her lab at Light Hall for Vanderbilt Magazine.Nancy Carrasco, department chair and professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, has been recognized as one of 100 inspiring Hispanic/Latinx scientists in the United States. This list was put together in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month and comes on the heels of two lists of 100 inspiring Black scientists, both of which have also recognized Vanderbilt scholars.


Visiting scholar recounts Vanderbilt, pandemic experience

Back in March, Naotoshi Nakamura came to Nashville to give a talk, and stayed to become part of a lab’s family. Read his account of his time in Nashville and at Vanderbilt right at the onset of the pandemic. Nakamura has since returned to his home in Japan, but remains a part of Vanderbilt as an Adjoint Assistant Professor in Biochemistry.


Calipari pens guest column

Erin Calipari (Pharmacology) recently wrote a guest column for The Tennessean in which she discusses the devastating effect of the pandemic on another epidemic: the opioid addiction crisis.


Crowe and his research highlighted by NPR

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)Science journalist Joe Palca recently interviewed James Crowe in a piece focused on how the current pandemic has challenged the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s pandemic preparedness program. Crowe’s lab received DARPA funds to develop a COVID-19 antibody therapy.


Flu shots for everyone with FLUla-2-Uza!

This year, instead of the annual, massive vaccination event Flulapalooza, Vanderbilt is hosting the FLUla-2-Uza campaign from September 8 through December 1. Students can get the vaccine for free at the Student Health Center. Employees can find details on where they can receive their free shot, how to submit vaccination records or exemption requests, and how to request an on-site event on the Employee Influenza Vaccine Program website. Note that the Occupational Health Clinic will set up a flu shot station in the North Lobby of Light Hall every Monday in October and November from 12:00 PM until 5:00 PM. Get your flu shot, even if you’re working remotely!


Vanderbilt Prize winner earns Nobel Prize

Jennifer Doudna, UC Berkeley, Nobel Prize Chemistry, CRISPRJennifer Doudna, Li Ka Shing Chancellor’s Chair in Biomedical and Health Sciences at UC Berkeley and recipient of the 2020 Vanderbilt Prize, has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her role in the development of the genome editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9. Doudna shares the prize with collaborator Emanuelle Charpentier.


Thank you, postdocs!

The week of September 21 to 25 was National Postdoc Appreciation Week, and, besides the events hosted by the National Postdoc Association, Vanderbilt itself held several events to celebrate their contributions. Did you happen to catch Dean Marnett’s message to postdocs?


Henderson co-founder of Black in Cancer week

Henry Henderson, III, a postdoc in the lab of Christine Lovly (Medicine), is one of the cofounders of the @BlackInCancer movement (Twitter, Instagram), which is hosting a #BlackInCancerWeek between October 11 and 17. #BlackInCancerWeek follows in the footsteps of other Black In _____ social media movements, all of which aim to highlight Black researchers and elevate Black voices and scholarship within different STEM fields (other movements include #BlackBirdersWeek, @BlackInMicro, @BlackInNeuro, @BlackInChem, etc.). Follow them to expand your networks!


Experiencing Zoom fatigue? We have some tips for you

Gorgeous tired young office worker falling asleep at her desk while trying to work in modern officeZoom (or videoconferencing) fatigue is real. What causes it? How do you combat it? Get some tips for how to survive remote work situations when all your meetings are video meetings.




Welcome to our new staff feature section! For our first highlight, we wanted to recognize the efforts of the entire staff of the Office of Facilities, Infrastructure and Risk Management, led by Assistant Dean Anthony Tharp. On a good day, they are responsible for managing our physical space, but this year they have also risen to the challenge of maintaining our buildings running and safe during the lockdown and ongoing pandemic.



Reversing intestinal inflammation

Crohn’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease both present with inflammation in the small intestine. Research from the Ken Lau (CDB) lab indicates that stimulating tuft cell production induces an immune reaction that could reverse the inflammation.


Structures of the mitochondrial complex II

Tina Iverson’s (Pharmacology) lab just published an X-ray structure of a mitochondrial complex II subunit and its dedicated assembly factor. Complex II is a critical component of the mitochondria’s energy-producing processes, and defects are associated with severe disease phenotypes.


New technique helps ID host-virus protein interactions

The lab of Manny Ascano (Biochemistry) has developed a new technique called VIR-CLASP to help researchers ID, analyze, and compare intrinsic immunity factors that are deployed upon first contact with an invading RNA virus.


Microtubule treadmilling replicated in vitro

Attempts to recreate microtubule treadmilling in vitro has historically resulted in treadmilling in the direction opposite what is observed in cells. Research from the lab of Marija Zanic (CDB) found that the addition of 4 proteins results in treadmilling in the correct direction.


Exocyst mutations and developmental defects

Work from an international collaboration that includes the lab of Ian Macara (CDB) has found that specific mutations within exocysts cause severe developmental defects in children.


Lipids’ influence on membrane proteins

Recent research on how membrane proteins’ shape and behavior can be altered depending on the type of lipids they’re in contact with, led by Vanderbilt University investigators, was recently featured by Graduate student and study co-author James Hutchison (Biochemistry, Chuck Sanders lab) was quoted.


Two myosin motors implicated in cell division

Research from the lab of Dylan Burnette (CDB) has determined that myosin IIA and myosin IIB mediate cortex tension and bleb formation at the cell cortex during cell division.


MYCN in triple-negative breast cancer

Expression of the oncogene MYCN makes tumors more aggressive. Research from the lab of Jennifer Pietenpol (Biochemistry) found that MYCN is often overexpressed in TNBC tumors, and that those tumors are susceptible to two inhibitors.


On pancreatic β-cells fitness and function

Guoqiang Gu’s (CDB) lab recently clarified the role of the transcriptional coregulator Sin3 in the embryonic development and postnatal function of pancreatic β-cells, which produce insulin.


Changing the polarity of growth

The lab of Kathy Gould (CDB) recently published work highlighting the impact of signaling pathways on how Saccharomyces pombe switches (or doesn’t) from monopolar to bipolar growth during cell division. This paper and one of its first authors, graduate student Tony Rossi, were featured in the journal’s First Person series.


Strengthening wall defenses

Work from the lab of Eric Skaar (PMI) shows that A. baumannii regulates its outer membrane with the help of a maintenance system called Mla, which uses it to rapidly evolve resistance to antibiotics and host stresses.


Dlgap2 decline associated with Alzheimer’s

The lab of Timothy Hohman (Neurology) has found that reduced expression of the Dlgap2 protein, important for signaling across synapses, is associated with faster cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients and a higher number of plaques and tangles in autopsied patient brains.


Gene variant linked to penicillin allergy

The lab of Elizabeth Phillips (Medicine) recently analyzed the genetic information of over half a million subjects and determined that individuals of European descent who carried a specific genetic variant were 47% more likely to have a self-reported penicillin allergy.

Announcements & Events


VUSM staff awards open for nominations
The 2020 School of Medicine Research Staff Awards are currently open for nominations. The awards honor research staff members who provide exemplary support at all levels to the research enterprise at the School of Medicine. Please note that faculty members, research fellows, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students are not eligible. Nominations must be submitted by the faculty member who works most closely with the nominee by October 23.



Register to Vote - roadsign information

As with all local and national elections, we encourage you to vote in the upcoming election on November 3. You will only be able to vote if you registered before October 5 (you can check to see if you are registered in Tennessee here). If you want to vote by absentee ballot, make sure you qualify first. At this time, fear of COVID-19 is not a legally valid reason to request an absentee ballot in the state of Tennessee unless you have underlying health issues that make you more vulnerable to the disease. Please check the Tennessee Secretary of State website to familiarize yourself with the rules on absentee voting and verify if you qualify. If you want to avoid crowds and/or minimize your potential exposure to COVID-19, consider early voting between October 14-29. Find more resources on Vanderbilt’s “Let’s Vote” website. Vanderbilt has also partnered with TurboVote, where you can sign up for election reminders, get help with voter registration, and locate specific vote-by-mail information.

Domestic and Dating Violence Awareness Month
October is Domestic and Dating Violence Awareness Month, and VU’s Project Safe is offering educational programs and workshops on related topics all month long. Visit Project Safe’s website to see their programming schedule.

Karpay Award open for nominations
The Center for Structural Biology is currently accepting nominations for the annually awarded Karpay Award in Structural Biology, named in honor and remembrance of Anne Karpay. Awardees are chosen based on their scientific accomplishments in the area of structural biology and the nature of their future aspirations. It is equally important that the awardee is a well-rounded colleague who is collegial and collaborative, traits that defined Dr. Karpay. Applications will be accepted until 3:00 PM on October 16, 2019.

Vanderbilt Prize open for nominations
The Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science is awarded to women scientists who have a stellar record of research accomplishments and are known for their mentorship of women in science. Recipients of the Vanderbilt Prize give a lecture at Vanderbilt (although this year’s lecture has been postponed due to the pandemic) and mentor the recipient of the Vanderbilt Prize Student Scholar, a woman Ph.D. student in the biomedical sciences at Vanderbilt. Nominations for the 2021 Vanderbilt Prize will be accepted until December 11, 2020.

Submit art or performance for virtual Winter Showcase
The Vanderbilt Winter Showcase is quickly becoming a beloved tradition at Vanderbilt, and this year it’s going virtual! Tentatively scheduled for December 10, the showcase will feature submitted art and videos of performances. Want to show off some non-lab skills? Fill out the submission form by November 15.


Giving gives back
Vanderbilt’s current giving campaign will give you back a pair of “Conquer and Prevail” socks or a branded mask with gifts of $35 or more before the end of October. Make sure to select “School of Medicine, Basic Sciences” as your recipient*!

*You do not need to select us as your recipient to receive the socks or mask, but we’d really appreciate it.

Want to keep COVID-19 at bay in style?
Shop in VU’s pop-up shop! You’ll find “We’re in This Together” t-shirts, masked squirrel plushies, and more.

We want YOU on our Instagram!
Basic Sciences is more than just our research—we’re a community of individuals driven to excel in biomedical research. Let us feature you on Instagram! We want to see you in lab, outside of lab, with friends (socially distant and masked, please), in the wilderness—wherever you are, we want to see you. Tag or DM us on social media (@vubasicsciences).



Edge for Scholars writing workshop for ECRs
Want to write more persuasive grants that earn better scores? Join the Edge for Scholars Online Grant Writing Workshop, a 12-week guided training for early career researchers starting October 19 that will give you the skills, structure, and accountability to write an outstanding grant proposal. Thanks to the generosity of Edge for Scholars, this 12-week training is offered at no cost to the PI! Register here by October 18.

Microbiome Initiative Boot Camp
The 4th annual Microbiome Initiative Boot Camp is a one-day Zoom workshop focused on an introduction to the importance of proper experimental design, data analysis, and interpretation of microbiome sequencing data. The event will take place on October 23 from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. All academic and professional ranks (from students to staff to faculty, etc.) are invited to register (details in link).

NIH & You to not occur in Nashville
One of the NIH’s Regional Seminars on Program Funding and Grants Administration for 2020 was set to take place right here in Nashville in October, but due to the pandemic, the conference was switched to a virtual format. The virtual seminar will occur during the week of October 26-30 and will be free of charge for the extramural research community. Finalized details will be shared on the NIH Regional Seminar Homepage and in a future NIH Guide Notice.

Alzheimer’s Disease Research Day
The 2020 iteration of this event will be held virtually at 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM on November 13. You can register for the event here, and can submit your abstract by 5:00 PM on October 22 here.

MEGA Microbe goes virtual
This yearly event for children will go virtual this October, featuring a “Vote for Your Favorite Microbe!” theme! Who will win? Are your kids on Team Virus? Team Fungi? Team Bacteria? Results of the election will be released on November 4!


Have a job opening you’d like to promote? Send us a link or a description and contact info, and we’ll post it below.

Rick Sando lab: Postdoctoral fellow

Will Wan lab: Postdoctoral fellow, Research Assistant I

Sandra Zinkel lab: Postdoctoral fellow

Sebastian Joyce lab: Postdoctoral fellow

James Crowe lab: Postdoctoral fellow

Ivelin Georgiev lab: Postdoctoral fellows and research assistants interested in antibody discovery, vaccine development, or deciphering the fundamental rules of antibody-antigen interactions. Contact.

Cynthia Reinhart-King lab: Postdoctoral fellow for work on funded projects related to the role of the tumor microenvironment in metastasis. Contact.


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.

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.

NSF to enable mid-scale infrastructure projects
The NSF has announced it will be supporting workshops and planning awards to address the research infrastructure needs of the biological sciences community. The workshops and awards will allow scientists to come together and explore, or further, mid-scale infrastructure goals. Learn more here.

NCI Cancer Moonshot
The Cancer Moonshot program at the NCI has a variety of funding opportunities available. Details are here.

NIH Guide
If you have not already done so, you are encouraged to subscribe to the NIH Guide email list, which provides a weekly update on NIH grant programs and requests for proposals. Subscribe here.


About this Issue’s Banner

This art piece was created by an Artlab Artist-in-Residence, Fei Yang, who worked in the lab of Seth Bordenstein in 2019. The image is meant to represent the work done in the Bordenstein lab, which focuses on animal-microbe associations. The teal portion represents Wolbachia-infected fruit fly testes, and the viral particles represent viral infections of the Wolbachia themselves. Wolbachia is a bacterial genus that infects many arthropod species and is perhaps the most common parasitic microbe on the planet. The nested symbiosis is represented by multiple layers of the cell separated by semi-circular membranes.


See larger view.


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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.


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Faculty Profile: Chuck Sanders, Dean for Research, Professor of Biochemistry

Chuck Sanders Vanderbilt University discusses his Alzheimer's, Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease, and Long QT Syndrome.


















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