ACT2 Researchers

Kirill Afonin, Ph.D.

Kirill Afonin, Ph.D.

704-687-0685
CBES Area of Expertise:

Overall, I gained an international and multidisciplinary scientific training in chemistry, photo-and biochemistry, bioinformatics, and cancer research.  My main expertise is in computational and experimental RNA biology.

CBES Area of Interest:

My main research focus involves working on understanding processes related to RNA folding and self-assembly, as well as structure-to-function relationships, with the goal of designing de novo functional RNA-based nanoparticles and nanodevices with novel characteristics such as the control and sensing of cellular processes.


Richard Chi, Ph.D.

Richard Chi, Ph.D.

CBES Area of Expertise:

Membrane trafficking; clathrin-mediated endocytosis, the endo-lysosomal system.  Authophagy; the biogenesis of the autophagosome, Yeast genetics; genome-wide drug screens, and live cell fluorescence microscopy

CBES Area of Interest:

Our lab focuses on membrane trafficking.  We are particularly interested in investigating the mechanisms involved in the uptake, packaging, transport and delivery of these carriers to their correct intercellular destinations.  We are also interested in using Saccharomyces Cerevisiae to develop genome-wide drugs screens to identify cellular pathways of small compounds used in therapeutic treatments of diseases.
 


Dr. Hansang Cho

Hansang Cho, Ph.D.

704-687-8496
CBES Area of Expertise:

Dr. Cho's expertise is the development of  bioengineered microenvironments and nanobiosensors.  He worked as a research fellow at Harvard Medical School/Mass General Hospital to implement his expertise on brain-on chips for the study of Alzheimer's disease and neurovascular diseases.  His current research focuses on cells chips to enable new discoveries in the areas of neurosciences and cancer biology, innovative mechanical components involving multiple physics, and portable platforms for healthcare diagnostics and environmental sustainability. For more information regarding Dr. Cho's research please visit his webpage https://coefs.uncc.edu/hcho17/

 

CBES Area of Interest:

-Microfluidic chips including Brain-on-chips, Cancer chips
-Healthcare/Environment monitoring platform
-Optofluidic mechanics


Didier Dréau, Ph.D.

Didier Dréau, Ph.D.

704-687-8314
CBES Area of Expertise:

Modeling of solid cancer progression and metastasis; testing of specific targets associated with the angiogenic and immunologic mechanisms critical to tumor growth; optimization of drug delivery to prevent tumor progression.

CBES Area of Interest:

Dr. Dréau's lab interests are centered on the biology of tumor metastasis.  Specifically, we study tumor cell migration, the influences of the tumor microenvironment and the rate of metastasis.  We seek to better understand key steps associated with the cancer progression and develop diagnostic and prognostic tools to improve patient care. To successfully achieve the long-term objectives, my research team is involved in ongoing collaborative and multidisciplinary efforts involving clinicians, biologists and engineers.


Shunji Egusa, Ph.D.

Shunji Egusa, Ph.D.

704-687-5872
CBES Area of Expertise:

The enduring problem that faces cancer patients is that treatments can be very difficult, yet the benefits of the treatments can be uncertain.  This is because toxic treatments destroy normal cells while often permitting the most aggressive cancer cells to survive.  A straightforward solution is to selectively deliver cancer drugs to cancer cells and not normal cells.  Unfortunately, existing technologies to do this have limitations, and their impact on patient health has not been as great as hoped.  Our laboratory develops a new, versatile nanotechnology approach as a way to link cancer drugs to a myriad of cancer-targeting molecules, to readily and simply address the problem of selectively delivering drugs to cancer cells, to reduce the toxicity and side-effects, and to improve effectiveness of treatments.

CBES Area of Interest:

Cancer Nanomedicine; Nano-Materials Synthesis and Characterization


Dr. Mahrukh K. Ganapathi

Mahrukh K. Ganapathi, Ph.D.

704-355-9762
CBES Area of Expertise:

Ovarian cancer genomics; differentiation therapy of acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

CBES Area of Interest:

Our research studies in high grade serous ovarian cancer are focused on: a) developing prognostic markers that predict recurrence of high grade serous ovarian cancer, and b) studying the etiology of ovarian cancer in relation to site of origin, i.e. ovary or fallopian tube.    Studies in AML are focused on optimizing retinoic acid-induced differentiation therapy, which has been effective for treating a subtype of AML, acute promyelocytic leukemia.  In preclinical cell culture studies the combination of retinoic acid with the clinically active topoisomerase 2 inhibitor, dexrazoxane, has proved efficacious.  Our laboratory is currently studying the effectiveness of this combination in mouse models with the hope of advancing this therapeutic regimen for clinical testing in AML patients.   Further, we are examining the signaling mechanisms involved in this synergistic interaction in different subtypes of AML.


Ram Ganapathi, Ph.D.

704-355-9759
CBES Area of Expertise:

Translational research in cancer is focused on acute myeloid leukemia and serous ovarian cancer, since drug resistance and tumor recurrence are major clinical problems.  In acute myeloid leukemia the goal is to determine the functional role for topoisomerase II isoforms α and β in cell growth, differentiation and as targets for drugs used in chemotherapy.  Research in serous ovarian cancer include gene profiling to identify genetic changes that predict tumor recurrence and resistance to chemotherapy.  Further, by altering expression levels of target genes in cell culture models of ovarian cancer and normal epithelial cells involved in ovarian tumorigenesis, we plan to develop novel paradigms on mechanisms of drug resistance and pathobiology of the disease.

CBES Area of Interest:

Acute myeloid leukemia, Serous ovarian cancer, topoisomerases, gene profiling, resistance to cancer chemotherapy, clinical pharmacology and pharmacogenomics.


Valery Grdzelishvili, Ph.D.

Valery Grdzelishvili, Ph.D.

704-687-7778
CBES Area of Expertise:

Molecular Virology, exploiting viruses as anticancer (“oncolytic”) agents, virus-host interaction.

CBES Area of Interest:

Dr. Grdzelishvili’s research is centered around the exploitation of viruses [vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) in particular] as anticancer (“oncolytic”) agents.  VSV can preferentially replicate in malignant cells and less so in normal cells, since transformed cells exhibit the hallmarks of a flawed host defense.  Dr. Grdzelishvili is particularly interested in the identification and characterization of cellular and viral determinants of susceptibility or resistance of pancreatic cancers to VSV and other oncolytic viruses. Dr. Grdzelishvili also collaborates with Dr. Gloria Elliott on the preservation of vaccines. This research is focused on the development of a unique drying process that will enable vaccines to be stored at room temperature.


Edward Kim, M.D., FACP

Dr. Edward Kim, M.D., FACP

980-442-3105
CBES Area of Expertise:

Molecularly targeted cancer therapy, Genomic profiling, translational cancer research, early phase clinical trials.

CBES Area of Interest:

I am chairman of a clinical-based oncology program, as well as a clinician researcher who conceives, develops, implements, and reports clinical research protocols.  My experience in conducting and reporting phase I to phase III investigator initiated and industry sponsored studies is highly valuable to my position as principal investigator for this project.  I have developed and participated in over 50 clinical studies and have reported these in numerous peer-reviewed journals including Lancet, Lancet Oncology, JCO and Cancer Discovery. My programmatic experience with clinical research has included collaborations in SPORE projects, program project grants, and most recently 2 successfully completed Department of Defense funded studies. Currently, as I oversee a broad clinical network of physicians, I have developed disease specific sections, implemented clinical tools such as EAPathways, a treatment pathway and research trial notification system, and a patient reported side effect app. Additionally, I have extensive experience mentoring trainees and junior faculty in the development of grants and protocols.


Iain Hugh McKillop, Ph.D.

Iain Hugh McKillop, Ph.D.

704-355-2846
CBES Area of Expertise:

The design and testing of novel mechanisms to alter the rates of tumor growth and progression with minimal side effects in non-cancerous tissues.

CBES Area of Interest:

Focuses on providing a better understanding of the imbalance in mechanisms that regulate the rate of tumor cell growth (mitogenesis) and death (apoptosis).  Using this information, Dr. McKillop’s group seek to use novel bio-engineering approaches, such as cell transfection coupled with encapsulation, to perform high dose, target specific protein delivery to slow the rate of disease progression.


Pinku Mukherjee, Ph.D.

Pinku Mukherjee, Ph.D.

704-687-5459
CBES Area of Expertise:

Transgenic mouse models of breast and pancreas cancers to study tumor progression, metastasis, and immune evasion mechanisms within an appropriate hormonal and stromal microenvironment.
Oncogenic signal transduction and multidrug resistance signals associated with overexpression of a tumor associated protein, MUC1, that is aberrantly glycosylated in >90% of breast and >65% of pancreas cancers.
Developing and optimizing therapeutic cancer vaccines against breast and pancreas cancer.
Developing drug delivery systems that directly target the tumor microenvironment.
Early biomarker discovery in pancreas and breast cancer.

CBES Area of Interest:

Our basic and translational research focuses on 1) understanding the basic oncogenic pathways of tumor progression and metastasis associated MUC1 and 2) development of novel cancer vaccines that activate the existing immune response against the “foreign” tumor-specific proteins. The goal is to develop immune memory against the cancer, so that if the cancer recurs, it will be recognized immediately as foreign and be rejected. In particular, our lab focuses on pancreatic cancer and metastatic breast cancer, both of which are fatal. Since preclinical studies must precede clinical trials, we have developed oncogenic transgenic mouse models that appropriately mimic the human disease and expresses human proteins. Tumors develop spontaneously within the pancreas or the breast, thus receiving appropriate hormonal and molecular signals. Similar to human disease, the tumors arise in an immune-competent and immune-tolerant host. Tumor-Site Directed Therapy: Another grave challenge for cancer therapeutics has been the systemic toxicity, and the failure of the therapeutics to reach the tumor site. Therefore, my laboratory is designing tumor-targeting antibody that is fused to some of the promising therapeutic agents. The antibody only recognizes tumor cells in the primary site and in the metastatic lesions without targeting normal cells. This technology has huge clinical relevance. It may have the potential of aiding early detection and diagnosis.  Ultimately, this antibody has the potential as a site-directed therapeutic delivery system (with either drugs or radio-conjugates) in patients with metastatic cancers.


Irina Nesmelova, Ph.D.

Irina Nesmelova, Ph.D.

704-687-8145
CBES Area of Expertise:

The application of NMR spectroscopy to study the structure, interactions and dynamics of proteins and small molecules.

CBES Area of Interest:

My research is focused on understanding the dynamic pictures of how proteins interact with each other and with ligands (including DNA).  This information is then used to re-engineer the interactions according to the need of specific biological system.  The research is interdisciplinary in its nature, because it requires the knowledge of biologically important systems and of physical principles that govern biomolecular interactions.


Dr. Craig Ogle

Dr. Craig Ogle

704-687-2524
CBES Area of Expertise:

Multifunctional polymer-based nanoparticles as a delivery system for cancer therapy and diagnosis.

CBES Area of Interest:

Research in design and synthesis of polymer based nano materials for a variety of applications, predominantly biomedical.  This technology has huge clinical relevance.  Conjugation of antibodies or aptamers to nano particles has the potential as a site-directed therapeutic delivery system (with either drugs or radio-conjugates) in patients with metastatic cancers.


Steven I. Park, M.D.

Steven I. Park, M.D.

(704) 403-1322
CBES Area of Expertise:

My research is primarily focused on targeted therapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). My group has examined various signaling pathways, including PI3K/mTOR, aurora kinases, and Myc, and their impact on the initiation and progression of lymphoma. We have performed translational research to identify novel anti-lymphoma compounds in preclinical models.

CBES Area of Interest:

My second major area of research is antibody-directed targeted therapy and imaging for NHL. My group has developed a pretargeted approach to effectively target NHL using nanoparticles.


Jai N. Patel, Pharm.D.

Jai N. Patel, Pharm.D.

980-442-4113
CBES Area of Expertise:

My primary area of research focuses on the use of pharmacological methods to personalize cancer therapy and supportive care-related therapies.  Specifically, I am interested in translating pharmacogenomic findings from the bench to the bedside, including implementation of genomics-based medicine.  I have extensive experience in conducting genome-wide association studies, candidate gene validation studies, prospective interventional clinical trials and feasibility studies.

CBES Area of Interest:

Cancer pharmacology; pharmacogenomics; tumor genetics; pharmacokinetics; pharmacodynamics; personalized medicine; pharmaceutics


Derek Raghavan, MD, PhD, FACP, FRACP

Derek Raghavan, MD, PhD, FACP, FRACP

980-442-3111
CBES Area of Expertise:

Trained in clinical medicine (MBBS, University of Sydney, Australia), oncology and cancer research (PhD, University of London, MD, University of Sydney), with expertise in cancer trials, genitourinary oncology, new anticancer drug development and preclinical tumor modeling.  Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science (FAAAS).

CBES Area of Interest:

Cancer trials, novel therapies in cancers of testis, bladder and prostate, bio-markers, preclinical modeling of genitourinary cancers.


Christine Richardson, Ph.D.

Christine Richardson, Ph.D.

704-687-8683
CBES Area of Expertise:
CBES Area of Interest:

identification of environmental agents and metabolites that may promote DNA damage and chromosomal instability leading to leukemias; (2) biomarker discovery for leukemias and ovarian cancers potentially leading to diagnostic screening tools; and (3) development of targeted drug delivery via aptamer-nanoparticle vehicles for use in both leukemias and ovarian cancers.


Laura W. Schrum, PhD

Laura W. Schrum, PhD

704-355-9670
CBES Area of Expertise:

Delineating the mechanisms of initiation and progression of liver fibrosis/cirrhosis with a special emphasis on the contribution of hepatic stellate cells.

 

CBES Area of Interest:

Liver fibrosis is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. A variety of insults to the liver, including hepatitis C infection and chronic ethanol consumption can lead to development of fibrosis. The hepatic stellate cell (HSC) is considered the main effector cell in liver fibrosis as it produces excessive amounts of collagen scar matrix, and if uncontrolled, ultimately leads to organ dysfunction and failure. Currently, there are no established FDA-approved treatments for liver fibrosis. Dr. Schrum’s research group is focused on understanding mechanisms that regulate profibrogenic signaling in the HSC to control development and progression of liver fibrosis and thus reveal new therapeutic targets and biomarkers for liver fibrosis.


Richard Souvenir

Richard Souvenir

704-687-8554
CBES Area of Expertise:

My research interests lie in analyzing biomedical video without developing highly constrained models.  Through the application of statistical machine learning, my aim is to develop computer vision and image processing algorithms to address important problems biomedical image analysis.  Previous work from our group includes methods for automatically tracking large numbers of cells in microscopy images, cardiac ultrasound analysis, and image segmentation in cardiopulmonary MRI.

CBES Area of Interest:

Biomedical imaging, video processing, and machine learning.


Nury M. Steuerwald, Ph.D.

Nury M. Steuerwald, Ph.D.

704-355-9646
CBES Area of Expertise:

Full service genomics core facility including Next Generation Sequencing, Microarray analysis, real-time PCR and multiplex immunoassays.

CBES Area of Interest:

microRNA regulation of the pathogenesis of disease, cell cycle regulation and checkpoint control


Dr. Susan Trammell

Susan R. Trammell, Ph.D.

704-687-8164
CBES Area of Expertise:

Infrared imaging, optical imaging and spectroscopy, polarization measurements, light-tisue interaction, image processing and analysis.

CBES Area of Interest:

Dr. Trammell's research focus is biomedical optics, specifically the development of new diagnostic tools for cancer detection and vascular imaging.  Her lab has developed an enhanced thermal imaging technique for tumor margin detection and is developing a spectral imaging system for the detection of pancreatic cancer.


Jerry Troutman, Ph.D.

Jerry Troutman, Ph.D.

704-687-4494
CBES Area of Expertise:

Biosynthesis of membrane anchored polysaccharides and methods for inhibiting protein intracellular trafficking as it relates to human disease.

CBES Area of Interest:

One of the core areas of my research is in the biosynthesis of complex polysaccharides by symbiotic intestinal microbes that are important for normal immunological functions of mammals.  Specifically, I am interested in the enzymes responsible for the biosynthesis of these molecules and how they function together as a polysaccharide biosynthetic machine.  My second core area of research is on the functional blocking of key signaling network proteins by inhibiting their post-translational modification.  I am interested specifically in doing this with the protein isoprenylation system of mammals and the human parasite Trypanasoma cruzi.


Andrew Truman

Andrew Truman, Ph.D.

704-687-5228
CBES Area of Expertise:

Role of molecular chaperones in cancer; Protein-protein interactions; Mass spectrometry; CRISPR-CAS9; Model organisms (yeast); Post-translational modifications; Cell cycle; DNA damage response

CBES Area of Interest:

My laboratory focuses on the role of molecular chaperones Hsp70 and Hsp90 in cancer.  We are particularly interested in understanding how phosphorylation of chaperones modulates their global interactomes and their in vivo function in cells.  We believe by targeting particular phosphorylation sites, we may be able to sensitize cancer cells to a range of anticancer therapeutics.


Photo of Juan Vivero-Escoto, Ph.D.

Juan Luis Vivero-Escoto, Ph.D.

704-687-4337
CBES Area of Expertise:

Multifunctional hybrid nanoparticles as a delivery platform for photodynamic therapy and diagnosis.  Boronic acid-based nanoscale coordination polymers as novel metal/covalent organic frameworks with potential applications in drug delivery.  Hierachically assembled titania-phosphonate dendrimer-encapsulated nanoparticles with potential application in photocatalysis.

CBES Area of Interest:

Research in our group focuses on the design, and synthesis of novel hybrid inorganic-organic materials for a wide variety of applications, predominantly in biomedicine, renewable energy, and catalysis.  Our approach is multidisciplinary, interfacing chemistry, biology, and material science.  By its very nature our research will provide an excellent training environment for undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral research fellows.  Students in our group are exposed to and trained in synthesis and characterization of small molecules (organic and inorganic alike), polymers and nanomaterials.  Specific techniques they learn include, but not limited to, nuclear magnetic resonance spetroscopy (NMR), absorption and emission spectroscopies, dynamic light scattering (DLS), transmission and scanning electron microscopies (TEM and SEM); and basic cell culture and characterization techniques. 


Dr. Shan Yan

Shan Yan, Ph.D.

704-687-8528
CBES Area of Expertise:

DNA damage response; DNA replication; checkpointactivation; cell cycle regulation

CBES Area of Interest:

My research group is interested in the molecularmechanisms of genomic integricty maintenance and tumorigenesis.  In particular, our laboratory will tackle three crucial issues in maintaining genomic stability, including checkpoint activation, DNA damage repair, and translesion synthesis (TLS), using biochemical, molecular and cell biology approaches.  Ultimately, this research program will help to better understand how cells maintain genome stability and to provide novel clues for precancerous detection and cancer therapeutics.  Xenopus egg extracts and human cell lines will be used as modelsystems with cutting-edge technologies.