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CHOP Research Institute Recognizes ‘Emerging Innovators’
Four more “emerging innovators” showcased how they contributed to a collaborative project, producing high-impact research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute.
The Emerging Innovators Collaborative Research program, organized by the Office of Academic Training and Outreach Programs (ATOP), recognizes exceptional non-faculty researchers-in-training and research staff nominated by their department chair, division chief, or faculty mentor. Here, we highlight four speakers representing a variety of scientific disciplines who presented their work at sessions in January and February.
Arwa Abbas, PhD
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine – Laboratory Medicine
Nominated by: Joseph Zackular, PhD
Presentation title: Impact of interspecies interactions during gastrointestinal infection with Clostridioides difficile
Dr. Abbas and her collaborators are working to understand how Enterobacteriaceae, a family of commensal and opportunistic pathogenic bacteria, adapt and impact the outcome of C. difficile infection. C. difficile is the leading cause of hospital-acquired infections and is considered a major public health threat for children and adults.
“The field of microbiology, like the microorganisms themselves, is always evolving,” Dr. Abbas said. “We’re in the multi-omics revolution where we can now use complementary, high-throughput, unbiased approaches to study the gut microbiome. The exciting part of this project, and our lab’s approach in general, is that we’re leveraging these cutting-edge techniques to understand which bacteria are present, where they are, and what they’re doing.”
Marco Angelozzi, PhD
Department of Surgery – Orthopedics
Nominated by: Veronique Lefebvre, PhD
Presentation title: Key roles for SOXC transcription factors in skeletogenesis
Dr. Angelozzi and his team focus on evaluating the roles of SOXC genes in skeletal development and maintenance. SOXC gene variants are implicated in a variety of developmental diseases. The researchers use models to identify SOXC-dependent cellular and molecular mechanisms to understand SOXC- and bone-related diseases and potentially develop novel therapeutic approaches.
“This work is part of a larger project studying SOXopathies, a series of developmental disorders caused by variants in SOX transcription factors,” Dr. Angelozzi said. “Due to their importance in human development, it is fundamental to increase our knowledge on how these factors function and what the consequences are of their activity loss. This will allow us to better understand these diseases, improve their management, and hopefully develop novel therapies, with the aim of helping patients and their families.”
Matt Charman, PhD
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine – Cancer Pathobiology
Nominated by: Matthew Weitzman, PhD
Presentation title: Biomolecular condensates coordinate assembly of infectious viral progeny
Dr. Charman and colleagues study how viruses hijack host cells for their progeny production. They’ve shown that that 52K protein of human adenovirus forms biomolecular condensates – liquid “droplets” – that enrich virion proteins and viral genomes. Disrupting these viral liquid droplets abolishes infectious progeny production, which suggests that this process may be an effective antiviral strategy.
“In addition to shedding light on a fundamental aspect of cell biology, our work also provides unique insight into how a virus makes progeny particles,” Dr. Charman said. “Viruses are nature’s super-efficient gene delivery vehicles. By reverse engineering assembly and packaging of viral particles, we may be able to develop a new generation of gene delivery tools to treat cancer and genetic diseases.”
Qin Wang, PhD
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine – Cell Pathology
Nominated by: Yuanquan Song, PhD
Presentation title: Using the Drosophila model to investigate neurodevelopmental disorders
Dr. Wang and her group work with a Drosophila model to analyze the impact of patient variants on protein structure and function to determine their neuropathological roles and identify potential therapeutics. Thus far, they’ve found that the gene SMARCA5/lswi plays a role in neurodevelopmental abnormalities, and another gene – U2AF2/u2af50 – whose variants are linked to developmental delay and seizure.
Many nerurodevelopmental disorders have been linked to pathogenic variants, and I have been utilizing the Drosophila model to analyze the neuropathological impact of De novo variants identified from patients with neurodevelopmental disorders,” Dr. Dr. Wang said. “The goal is not only to identify novel variants or biomarkers for genetic diagnosis, but also provide mechanistic insights and potential therapeutic targets.”