Hepatitis B drug candidate tested at Texas Biomed shows promise
Dr. Robert Lanford leads team testing HBV drug candidate.
Dr. Robert Lanford, Director of the Southwest National Primate Research Center, will attend the 66th Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease as part of the collaborative group presenting study findings on a potential Hepatitis B therapeutic candidate from Arrowhead Research Corporation (NASDAQ: ARWR), a biopharmaceutical company.

There are an estimated 1.4 million cases of chronic Hepatitis B in the U.S, with the worldwide estimate exceeding 240 million people. More than 780,000 people die every year due to complications of hepatitis B. A vaccine is highly effective at preventing infection and most of the U.S. population under 30 received the vaccine as children. Antiviral therapies are available that can suppress the virus in those with chronic infection, but must be taken for life. The goal of current research is to find a cure that eliminates the virus with a reasonable duration of therapy.

In a news release issued by Arrowhead, Dr. Lanford stated, "I have been extremely impressed by the potency of ARC-520 and its ability to reduce multiple viral proteins. The results from the study in chimpanzees have revealed some important new insights about HBV biology and have introduced new ideas about effective ways to intervene in the HBV lifecycle." More on the study can be found
Postdocs participate in Annual
San Antonio Research Forum
Photo -- Courtesy of UT Health Science Center San Antonio Graduate Studies Dept.
As part of National Postdoc Appreciation Week, twelve postdoctoral researchers from Texas Biomed joined colleagues from across San Antonio at the 3rd annual Postdoctoral Research Forum and Distinguished Lecture in late September at the Greehey Children's Cancer Research Institute.

The Research Forum was created to showcase the wide variety of research by postdocs and present a networking opportunity within the science community. The postdocs poster presentations were also judged by a panel of scientists, including five faculty from Texas Biomed. Texas Biomed posters included studies on Ebola virus, other filoviruses, Herpes virus, stem cell studies, genetics, malaria, baboon studies and HIV.

Postdocs representing Texas Biomed included:
  • Kendra Alfson, Department of Virology & Immunology
  • Manu Anantpadma, Department of Virology & Immunology
  • Lydia Bederka, Department of Virology & Immunology
  • Beata Boczkowska, Department of Virology & Immunology
  • Alberto Muniz, Southwest National Primate Research Center
  • Prahlad Rao, Department of Genetics
  • Yauteru Sakurai, Department of Virology & Immunology
  • Olena Shtanko, Department of Virology & Immunology
  • Simon Trevino, Department of Genetics
  • Hemant Vyas, Department of Virology & Immunology
  • Gabriella Worwa, Department of Virology & Immunology
  • Mingkui Zhou, Southwest National Primate Research Center
Texas Biomed scientists collaborate on study with UC-Santa Cruz
Researchers in the Department of Virology and Immunology were part of a team led by scientists at UC-Santa Cruz who built a highly sensitive chip-based technology that could be employed against Ebola and other viruses that will allow people in the field to detect these viruses without the wait time needed with current testing mechanisms. The technology is sensitive enough to detect Ebola virus at various stages of the disease. Early detection is critical in the field in order to offer quick intervention to those infected and ensure the safety of caretakers early on. Texas Biomed was responsible for preparing the viral samples for testing. Essentially, Texas Biomed scientists broke down the virus to a nucleic acid in our BSL-4 high containment laboratory, so they could be safely shipped back for testing. Further studies on this technology will require continued use of the BSL-4 laboratory. The study was highlighted on the NIH Director's blog in October, featured here.
Gene expression linked to obesity
Texas Biomed scientists in the Department of Genetics contributed to a recent study published in the journal Cell Reports that found a genetic variation that could impact obesity.

"The particular allele variant in this gene for brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) impacts the expression of BDNF," said Dr. Tony Comuzzie, a scientist at Texas Biomed, "Those who have a lowered expression of BDNF have greater food intake. Based on this, if you can do something to raise the level of BDNF in a person, you could potentially help control appetite."

Dr. Comuzzie and Dr. Shelley Cole at Texas Biomed provided data from the Viva La Familia study, which has been trying to identify genetic influences on childhood obesity, to the BDNF study investigators. A link to the NIH news release on the BDNF study can be found here.
Dr. Ronald K. Calgaard honored for leadership and vision 
(featured left to right)
Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Richard T. Schlosberg III, issues a resolution honoring Dr. Calgaard at the June 25, 2015 Board of Trustees meeting.

Members of the Board of Trustees of Texas Biomed issued a resolution honoring Ronald K. Calgaard, Ph.D. for "his role in establishing the Texas Biomedical Research Institute as a global leader in genetics, virology and immunology, and in animal models of human disease."

Dr. Calgaard served on the board of trustees as a member of the executive committee for 15 years until June of this year. He served as a Co-Chair of the Enhancing the Vision Capital Campaign from 2010 to 2014, which provided funds for the Earl Slick Research Center and the recruitment of key researchers.

We thank Dr. Calgaard for his distinguished leadership and wish him the best in his future endeavors.
Issue: 6 
In This Issue
Collaborative grants with UTHSCSA

The following scientists were awarded Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) pilot grants, which are collaborative grants with investigators from Texas Biomed and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA).  

Dr. Michael Olivier, Chair of the Department of Genetics, and Dr. Tony Comuzzie, Scientist in the Department of Genetics will study "Mechanisms of appetite control in lean individuals with a family history of obesity." Their collaborator at UTHSCSA is Dr. Nick Musi of the Barshop Center. 

Dr. Marcel Daadi, Scientist in the Southwest National Primate Research Center, will study "Imaging dopaminergic grafts in marmoset model of Parkinson's disease." with Dr. Geoffrey Clarke at UTHSCSA.

Dr. Ruth Ruprecht, Scientist in the Department of Virology & Immunology, will study "Structural analysis of a monoclonal antibody that targets a novel region on HIV-1 gp41"
with Dr. John Hart of UTHSCSA.

Aimed at supporting and facilitating cooperative, innovative study among investigators that improves human health, these awards include funding from both institutions, as well as the National Institutes of Health.

To learn more about the CTSA pilot program, click
here .

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