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September 21, 2012

CONTACT: Gregory J. Forester gregory.forester@tuhs.temple.edu


Lunch and poster session in MERB.

Lunch and poster session in MERB.


Hundreds of scientists, clinicians, administrators, postdoctoral researchers, graduate students and others filled the Medical Education and Research Building’s Luo Auditorium September 21 for the First Annual Temple Biomedical Research Day, an all-day event aimed at showcasing research at Temple University School of Medicine (TUSM) and Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Three investigators – Roland Dunbrack, PhD, Wen-Zhe Ho, MD, and Hong Wang, MD, PhD – each received an award for Senior Research Excellence, while three others – Stefania Gallucci, PhD, Jonathan Soboloff, PhD, and Alana O’Reilly, PhD – took home Early Research Investigator Award honors. Long-time Temple clinical endocrinologist Guenther Boden, MD, received a special Lifetime Achievement Award, and all of the honorees presented their work to an audience of peers and mentors. Three postdoctoral fellows and three graduate students were also given awards for outstanding research poster presentations.

Event organizer Donald Gill, PhD, Professor and Chair of Biochemistry at TUSM, welcomed the audience to a day that “celebrates a new era of integration between Temple and Fox Chase Cancer Center.”

Arthur Feldman, MD, PhD, Executive Dean of TUSM and Chief Academic Officer of Temple University Health System, acknowledged the opportunity for potential collaborations between Temple and Fox Chase researchers and clinicians who attended the event. “If even one of you is walking by a poster, and thinks about research results or a technology, and has an ‘A-Ha!’ moment that might lead to a collaboration – that’s the type of success we want to see from this meeting,” he said.

When J. Robert Beck, MD, Senior Vice President and Chief Academic and Medical Officer at Fox Chase, asked how many in the audience were from Fox Chase, more than a third stood up. He went on to praise the postdoctoral and graduate programs at Fox Chase, noting their growth and the potential that lay ahead in collaborations with Temple’s School of Medicine. Dr. Beck, a member of the event planning committee, referred to the day as an opportunity to “celebrate science at all levels.”

Event speakers discussed a wide range of research programs and projects. Dr. Dunbrack, Professor in the Developmental Therapeutics Program at Fox Chase, explained how his computational structural biology group at Fox Chase can predict – using various software, algorithms, databases and more – the structure and behavior of proteins, which can have important implications in biology and medicine. “Most drugs that people take are protein-binding molecules and, if you don’t know what the protein looks like, it’s hard to develop a drug,” he said. His group tries to solve such puzzles. Some of these predictions might entail moving around parts of protein structures to create newer and perhaps more effective versions of drugs such as rituximab, which is used for treating lymphomas, a type of blood cancer.

Dr. Stefania Gallucci, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at TUSM, studies details of the immune system’s dendritic cells, which help direct the body’s immune response. Her team wants to better understand not only how dendritic cells work and behave, but also their roles in autoimmune diseases and transplant rejection.

Wen-Zhe Ho, MD, MPH, Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at TUSM, is asking how viruses, specifically Hepatitis C Virus and HIV, escape the host cell’s immune defenses and stay in the cells. He’d like to find new ways to trigger/activate the innate immune responses that can control and perhaps eliminate the viruses in their host cells. Biochemist Jonathan Soboloff, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry, talked about how calcium signaling – which plays a key role in everything from making the heart beat to sending nerve signals to cancer formation – is also important in turning on immune system cells.

Interspersed with research project discussions, Peter Lelkes, PhD, Laura H. Carnell Professor and Chair of Bioengineering at Temple University, described Temple’s very young Department of Bioengineering, which began this January, noting several exciting programs under development. He described his vision for establishing what he termed a “living bridge” – joint programs, projects and grants between researchers on the main Temple University campus, the Health Sciences campus, and the Jeanes-Fox Chase campus. One of the key new programs – albeit virtual – is the Temple Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering.

Postdoctoral researchers and graduate students explain their research to fellow researchers and students.By the lunch break, more than 150 posters were on full display in the building lobby, as postdoctoral researchers and graduate students stood by, explaining their research to fellow researchers and students.

The lunch and a poster session gave attendees the opportunity to meet, mingle, ask questions, and discuss common interests. Cardiovascular Research Center Director and Laura H. Carnell Professor and Chair of Physiology, Steven Houser, PhD, chatted with medical students. Immunologist David Wiest, PhD, Professor and Co-Leader of both Immune Cell Development and Host Defense, and Blood Cell Development and Cancer Keystone programs at Fox Chase, led a contingent of five postdoctoral researchers who had posters from his laboratory. While one of them discussed a possible collaboration with a pharmacology researcher from Temple, Dr. Wiest and Dr. Soboloff talked about turning their mutual interests in calcium signaling into a project together. Dr. Wiest is interested in finding out how modulating calcium signals might affect the development of immune system T cells.

Thomas Force, MD, Professor of Medicine and Clinical Director of Temple’s Center for Translational Medicine, noted the excitement and energy of the day’s events and said that the meeting enabled him to connect with a group from Fox Chase to talk about opportunities to work together. Dr. Force studies the cardiac effects of cancer drugs called tyrosine kinase inhibitors.

During the afternoon presentations, award recipient Hong Wang, Professor of Pharmacology at TUSM, discussed her team’s work in understanding the mechanisms underlying hyperhomocysteinemia, which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Early Research Investigator Award winner Alana O’Reilly, Assistant Professor in the Cancer Biology Program at Fox Chase, hopes that a better understanding of how normal adult epithelial stem cells behave in fruit fly ovaries will provide a window to what goes awry in cancer. Several cancers are thought to be stem-cell based, she noted.

Dr. Boden (right) with Dr. Arthur Feldman, receiving Lifetime Achievement AwardLate in the day, the loudest applause came when Dr. Feldman introduced Temple endocrinologist Guenther Boden, 77, who, after more than 40 years at Temple, was named recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The German-born physician-scientist came to Temple in 1970, and has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health ever since. In a series of seminal publications in the early 1990s, Dr. Boden, Laura H. Carnell Professor of Medicine, former Chief of the Section of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, and former director of the General Clinical Research Center, showed definitive proof of the link between fatty acids, insulin resistance, diabetes and heart disease. In his remarks after accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award, Dr. Boden discussed why obese people have problems with heart attack and stroke and described his more recent research interests in fatty acids, insulin resistance, inflammation and endoplasmic reticulum stress.

Dr. Boden – still an active clinician and scientist – said that, although he had opportunities to leave Temple for positions elsewhere, he stayed because of the support he has received from the Temple administration, which he said has always given him the right mix of clinical responsibilities and the time and resources to delve into his basic-research interests. “I never had any reason to leave,” he said.

Dr. Gill called the day a tremendous success. “Not only did it highlight and reward outstanding research being conducted at Temple University School of Medicine and Fox Chase, but it provided crucial bonding between scientists throughout the two campuses,” he said. “The day provided a much-needed recognition of achievement, reward for success and – most importantly – a real fusion of understanding between institutions, centers, departments and programs, all fostering a feeling of togetherness and purpose. It was a real ‘shot in the arm’ for all of us.”