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Wistar Scientists Capture Top Federal Research Grants

Wistar Institute scientists continue to be awarded highly-competitive grants in 2013. The following National Institutes of Health grants were awarded to Wistar scientists in recent months:

Jessie Villanueva, Ph.D., received a grant of $753,990 from the National Cancer Institute for her work on molecular targets in melanoma and drug resistance in BRAF and NRAS mutants. Dr. Villanueva is interested in understanding drug resistance and how tumor cells adapt and bypass drug effects.

Partnering with other scientists allows Dr. Villanueva to reach across melanoma disciplines to understand the cancer from fundamental, translational and clinical aspects. Wistar’s Melanoma Research Center affords Dr. Villanueva the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues at Wistar as well as the University of Pennsylvania.

Ramana Davuluri, Ph.D., received a grant of $675,000 from the National Library of Medicine for creating informatics methods to understand gene regulatory mechanisms in mammalian cells at isoform-levels and measure the expression of genes at isoform- levels in normal and disease conditions, for example, in different types of brain tumors.

Scientists in Dr. Davaluri’s lab are developing data-mining methods to process huge amounts of genomic data (50-60 terabytes) to produce mathematical models towards constructing clinically-useful diagnostic tools to identify brain tumor patients who may benefit from therapeutics, and guide the understanding of drug activity in patient tumors.

Harold Riethman, Ph.D., received a grant of $349,937 from the National Human Genome Research Institute for his work on the analysis of human telomere regions.

Dr. Riethman’s lab analyzed telomeres and subtelomeres as part of The Human Genome Project.  Today, it continues to look at these remarkably dynamic and variable parts of the human genome in both healthy and diseased individuals.   

This grant, a collaboration with Ming Xiao, Ph.D., in the Department of Bioengineering at Drexel University, provides support for developing novel, single-molecule mapping and sequencing strategies to study both normal and mutated telomeres.  

-It’s been described that if a chromosome is a shoestring, telomeres are the plastic ends; if they don’t work correctly, the shoestring (chromosome) frays and becomes unstable.  Dr. Riethman’s research focuses on what causes telomere instability, which can lead to both aging and cancer.