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August 2023 news and updates from the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research.

Wells Center Newsletter | August 2023

Top News

 Roland Herzog in the lab
NIH grant to investigate gene therapies used for muscle disorders

With a new five-year $3.8M grant from the NIH, Dr. Roland Herzog and the Gene and Cell Therapy program will investigate the effects of muscle-directed gene therapies and test alternative treatment options for degenerative muscle disorders like Duchenne muscular dystrophy. 

> Read the news
 students in front of MSTP sign
Training more physician-scientists

The Indiana Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) received $4.6 million in renewed NIH grant funding to sustain and expand its efforts of training the next generation of physician-scientists and engineers through the next five years. Join us in congratulating all the Wells Center faculty and students involved with the program. 

> Read the news

Team Wells Updates

collage of photos from the Well Center's 2023 summer intern presentations

Summer Interns welcomed at Wells Center

Over the summer, the Wells Center welcomed more than 40 high school and undergraduate student interns for 8-weeks of immersive research experiences among our IU School of Medicine experts. On July 26th and 27th, interns from the Wells Center Summer Internship and Medical Physician Engineers, Scientists and Clinicians Preparatory (MPESC-Prep) programs presented topics they researched during their internships. We were impressed by their discoveries and presentations! > Meet some of the interns   

Photos of the Caroline Symmes Laboratory

Caroline Symmes Laboratory

This past year, IU President Pamela Whitten and the IU Naming Committee approved the naming of Dr. Karen Pollok’s lab at the Wells Center as the “Caroline Symmes Laboratory.” The official naming ceremony took place in March with members from the Riley Children's Foundation and friends and family of the Caroline Symmes Children's Cancer Endowment in attendance. In June, the Pollok research team hosted the Caroline Symmes Teen Board in the lab for an interactive tour and presentation. Funding from the Caroline Symmes Children's Cancer Endowment supports research that fosters the development of safe and efficacious therapies for children, adolescents and young adults with metastatic cancers. David and Libby Symmes established the Endowment as a response to the severe need for research funding in pediatric oncology and to honor their daughter Caroline who passed away when she was 5 from Wilms Tumor Disease. Learn more about the Caroline Symmes Children's Cancer Endowment

group photo of IU-CCEH workshop 2023

2023 IU-CCEH Workshop

The annual IU Cooperative Center of Excellence in Hematology (CCEH) workshop took place June 27-29. This year, the program welcomed 22 students from the CCEH, MPESC-Prep, Wells Center Summer Internship, and MOSIAC Crispus Attucks High School programs to learn about the latest hematology techniques and research from our experts at IU.


Members from Wells Center's cardiac developmental biology research group in Bloomington

The cardiac developmental biology research group recently hosted their annual weekend retreat in Bloomington, Indiana. The retreat consisted of internal guests with four external world-class speakers including Dr. Frank Conlon from the University of North Carolina, Dr. Irfan Kathiriya from the University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Thomas Brand from Imperial College London, and Dr. Joseph Yost from the University of Utah.
Poster session at 9th CDMD Symposium

Members from the diabetes research group attended the 9th annual Diabetes Symposium hosted by the IU School of Medicine's Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases on Friday, August 4th at the NCAA Hall of Champions. More than 120 attendees joined to learn about the latest breakthroughs in diabetes research and to hear from this year’s keynote speakers, Dr. Sonia Caprio from Yale School of Medicine and Dr. Alan Attie from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 


Faculty Promotions

Please join us in congratulating the following Wells Center faculty members for their recent promotions:
  • Michael Davis, PhD, promoted to associate research professor
  • Rachel Katzenellenbogen, MD, promoted to full professor
  • Benjamin Landis, MD, promoted to associate professor
  • Hongxia Ren, PhD, promoted to associate professor

Welcome to the Wells Center

Help us extend a warm welcome to the newest members of Team Wells who have joined us since May 2023:

Gaurav Agrahari
Rita Cheney
Samardeep Singh Gurudatta
Alex Jochim
Emma Langsford
Shuang Li
Britney Nilli
Allyson Terrell
Kavya Yalavarthi
Kylee Brewster
Catherine Guilfoy
Kayla Huter
Ryune Kono
Hannah Leffew
Shelby Mattingly
Carl Russell
Wen-Chin Tsai
Catherine Yates 


Discovery in Action

Congratulations to Grant and Award Recipients

Wells Center members have received a vast number of grants and awards in recent months. A select few are highlighted below.

  • Olivia Bednarski | 2023 ASTMH Benjamin H. Kean Travel Fellowship in Tropical Medicine (American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene)

  • Moanaro Biswas, PhD | “Development of a cellular therapy product with single specificity and improved persistence to prevent immunity to biotherapeutics” (NIH – National Heart Lung and Blood Institute)

  • Wade Clapp, MD | “Identifying and Testing Molecular Therapies for Schwannoma” (U.S. Department of Defense)

  • Linda DiMeglio, MD | “Immune Tolerance Network” (Benaroya Research Institute At Virginia Mason)

  • Matthew Durbin, MD | “SHROOM3 is a Novel Cause of Congenital Heart Disease" (NIH – National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute) 

  • Benjamin Gaston, MD, & Brittney-Shea Herbert, PhD | “Indiana Medical Scientist/Engineer Training Program” (NIH - National Institute of General Medical Sciences)

  • Renzhi Han, PhD | “Development of gene editing based therapy for cardiovascular diseases” (University of Michigan) / “ANO5 in Muscle Health and Disease” (NIH – National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute) / “Base editing of ASGR1 for cardiovascular disease” (NIH – National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute)

  • Roland Herzog, PhD | “Mechanism of immune response to muscle-directed AAV gene transfer” (NIH - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

  • Heba Ismail, PhD | “The gut microbiome in children with type 1 diabetes with obesity and novel mechanism of action of metformin” (Pilot & Feasibility Award – Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases)

  • Mark Kelley, PhD, & Melissa Fishel, PhD | “Metabolic flux analysis and PDX models to understand therapeutic vulnerabilities following inhibition of Ref-1 redox signaling in pancreatic cancer” (NIH – National Cancer Institute)

  • Jenna Koenig | 2023 Jack & Fay Netchin Medical Student Summer Fellowship (American Brain Tumor Association)

  • Amelia Linnemann, PhD | “Beta Cell Heterogeneity in the Interferon Alpha Response” (NIH - National Institute Of Diabetes, Digestive & Kidney) 

  • Dan Peltier, MD, PhD | “Long noncoding RNA-mediated regulation of T-cell alloimmunity” (NIH - National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute)

  • Steven Rhodes, MD, PhD | “Targeting SOX11-FAK mediated immune exhaustion in NF1-associated malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST)” (U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity)

  • Emily Sims, MD | 2023 Showalter Scholar (Grace M. Showalter Trust)

  • Jason Spaeth, PhD | “Chd4 controls endocrine progenitor cell fate in vivo” (Pilot & Feasibility Award – Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases)

  • Ngoc Tung Tran, PhD | “Develop a Preclinical Model for Gene Therapy of Fanconi Anemia Group C” (U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity)

  • Weidong Xiao, PhD | “Advancing CNS drug delivery via epigenetic modulation” (Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center)

  • Nathan VanDusen, PhD | “Development of tools for rapid systematic refinement of in vivo gene editing technologies” (NIH – National Institute of Child Health and Human Development)

Recent Publications

Kudos and Recognition

  • Carmella Evans-Molina, PhD, MD, was presented with her 2023 Outstanding Scientific Achievement Award at this year’s ADA Scientific Sessions. After the awards ceremony in June, Dr. Evans-Molina presented her lecture, "The Ailing Beta Cell in Diabetes—Insights from a Trip to the ER."
  • Linda DiMeglio, MD, and Emily Sims, MD, were guests on the Healthcare Triage podcast to discuss recent discoveries in type 1 diabetes research.
  • Linda DiMeglio, MD, was featured in an article about the panel she joined at ADA's 83rd Scientific Sessions called "The New Normal—Perspectives on Treatment and Trials as Immunotherapies Enter the Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Landscape."
  • Radek Kaczmarek, PhD, was interviewed by the Video Journal of Hematological Oncology to discuss the future state of gene therapies for hemophilia and the challenges associated with adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based gene therapy for patients with hemophilia.
  • Radek Kaczmarek, PhD, and Roland Herzog, PhD, recently published a high-impact article in Blood that shed light on the underlying causes of negative immune responses to Factor VIII treatments, providing valuable insights that could lead to more effective and safer hemophilia A treatments in the future.
  • Rachel Katzenellenbogen, MD, was featured by the IU Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center's Race to Beat Cancer campaign for her work focused on HPV-related cancers. 
  • Reuben Kapur, PhD, received IUPUI’s 2023 Glenn W. Irwin, Jr., MD, Research Scholar Award
  • Mark Kelley, PhD, and Timothy Corson, PhD, were issued a U.S. Utility Patent Grant titled "Targeting Ocular Diseases With Novel APE1/REF-1 Inhibitors"
  • Benjamin Landis, MD, was featured in a story by Riley Children's Foundation about his Department of Defense grant to study coarctation of the aorta which brings hope to Riley kids like Carlie Evans. 
  • Karen Pollok, PhD, was interviewed by Fox59 in Indianapolis to share an update on research made possible thanks to Tyler Trent’s stem cell donations. 
  • Karen Pollok, PhD, and her lab received a special visit from author Connie Radovanovic from Columbus, Indiana. Connie and her husband Rod donated proceeds raised from her children’s book "Innocence and Wisdom of My Little Seeds” to pediatric cancer research.


Learn more about the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research

Read the May 2023 Newsletter

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The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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Jackie Maupin

Jackie supports the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research at IU School of Medicine. As communications generalist, Jackie helps spread the word about the Wells Center's commitment to improving the health of children in Indiana and beyond through basic and translational research. She has several years of experience in non-profit and academic marketing and communications.