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February 2024 news and updates from the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research.

Wells Center Newsletter | February 2024


Dr. Joan Cook-Mills working with a pipette in her lab$3.9 million grant funds research on maternal influence in children’s allergy development
The Wells Center’s pulmonary Inflammation, asthma and allergic diseases group has received a new five-year, $3.9 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to explore how allergies and asthma may be passed from mothers to their children, presenting a better understanding of how allergies develop and paving the way for transformative approaches to allergy prevention and management.
> Read the news


Drs. Herzog and Kumar in the labResearchers reveal uncharted liver-focused pathway in gene therapy immune responses
Recent findings from the Wells Center’s gene therapy research program, recently published in Molecular Therapy, reveal the liver may open new avenues for gene therapy precision, offering promising possibilities for safer treatments across a spectrum of genetic diseases. 
> Learn more about this research


Group photo of Zinc for Infection Prevention in Sickle Cell Anemia clinical study leaders in Uganda.Hydroxyurea significantly reduces infections in children with sickle cell anemia
Clinical research conducted by members of the pediatric infectious diseases and global health group, in collaboration with partners in Uganda, revealed a remarkable 60% reduction in severe or invasive infections among Ugandan children with sickle cell anemia following hydroxyurea treatment.
> Read the study news


Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) imaging: high electron density vesicles (yellow arrows) typical of catecholamine-containing chromaffin cells found in cardiomyocytesStudy uncovers key cells in the heart’s link to several body systems
In a recently published Nature Communications article, Weinian Shou, PhD, and Ying Liu, MSC, PhD, collaborated with scientists from the UK, China and France on an investigation that uncovered an unexpected link between the cells in the heart and other systems of the body.
> Learn about the study




Collage of 10 photos from the Wells Center's 2023 holiday festivities featuring various groups of Wells Center members

Celebrating the Season
Team Wells celebrated the holiday season and a fantastic 2023 by gathering for a festive holiday event on December 7 at the Indiana Historical Society and by joining forces for an exhilarating game of Wells Center Jeopardy on December 21. 


TStack of holiday presentshe Wells Center's business and administration teams also celebrated the season by joining IUPUI’s Season of Giving program to support local families during the holidays. Team Wells sponsored a local family of five, generously contributing 31 gifts. Through partnerships with the Christamore House and Hawthorne Center, the IUPUI community collectively helped 39 families, impacting the lives of more than 120 individuals during the 2023 holiday season.



Group photo of Wells Center researchers and Lions club members holding a large donation checkOn January 20, Drs. Melissa Fishel, Karen Pollok and Steven Rhodes presented to representatives of the Lions Cancer Control Fund of Indiana who have partnered with the Riley Children’s Foundation and the Walther Endowment to support pediatric cancer research. The Wells Center investigators discussed ongoing work in their labs and the power of donations. 



Photo from above of individuals mingling at the Research Synergy SummitA generous new $2.5M donation from the Ricks Family Foundation has launched the Heartland Children’s Nutrition Collaborative, a joint effort between Purdue College of Agriculture and the IU School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics to address how early-life food intake can shape and influence short-term and long-term health. Several Wells Center researchers gathered with Purdue investigators on January 25, 2024, to kick off this exciting initiative. 



PUDM Committee pose with Dr. Saadatzadeh at Riley HospitalIUDM Committee leaders at the Wells Center

On Saturday, February 3, 2024, the Wells Center connected with two Indiana Dance Marathon organizations making a difference for Riley Hospital for Children and pediatric research at the Wells Center through their diligent fundraising and campus efforts. Reza Saadatzadeh, PhD, represented the Pollok Lab at the Purdue University Dance Marathon (PUDM) executive board retreat held at Riley Hospital (pictured above on the left). PUDM has raised over $11 million since 2005. Indiana University Dance Marathon (IUDM) committee leaders also visited Riley Hospital and the Wells Center (pictured above on the right) to learn more about their impact from the Wells Center's Director Reuben Kapur, PhD. IUDM has raised more than $50 million since 1991, including $3 million in 2023 alone.

Welcome to the Wells Center
Help us extend a warm welcome and congratulations to the members of Team Wells who have recently joined us or accepted new roles since November 2023:

Nermeen Al-Omari
Emily Anderson-Baucum
Suraya Farhana Allie
Allison Kosins
Madison May
Stuti Patel
Rachel Ramos
Ankit Tamta



Congratulations to Grant and Award Recipients

Joan Cook-Mills, PhD | “Development of allergy in offspring is enhanced by maternal eicosanoids and lung microbiota composition dysbiosis.” (NIH R01 - National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases)

Michael D. Davis, PhD, Erick Forno, MD, & Troy A Markel, MD  | “Obesity and Childhood Asthma: The Role of Adipose Tissue” (NIH R01 - National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute)

Carmella Evans-Molina, MD, PhD | “Data Coordinating Center for Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet” (University Of South Florida)

Alka Khaitan, MD | “Virologic and Immunologic Correlates of Disease Progression in Perinatal HIV” (NIH R21 - National Institute of Child Health and Human Development)

Benjamin Landis, MD | “Novel molecular and cardiac imaging paradigms for precision medicine in aortopathy” (NIH R01 - National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute)

Karen Pollok, PhD | “Radovanovic Gift: Therapeutic Strategies for targeting rare FUS-TFCP2 fusion positive intraosseous rhabdomyosarcoma” (Riley Children's Foundation

Emily K. Sims, MD | “Hybrid Closed Loop Therapy for Beta Cell Preservation in New Onset Type 1 Diabetes (CLVer): Extension Study (CLVerEX)” (University Of Minnesota)

Robert Tepper, MD, PhD | “Continued follow-up of the Vitamin C and Smoking in Pregnancy (VCSIP) cohorts through the ECHO consortium, focus on Echo-wide protocols, respiratory outcomes, airway function, and epigenetic changes” (Oregon Health & Science University)

Stephanie Ware, MD, PhD | “Clinical Site Operations Support for Indiana Undiagnosed Rare Disease Clinic” (Washington University)





  • Eyram Kpenu of the Kelley Lab and Rada Malko of the Pollok Lab were awarded fellowships from the IU Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Pediatric and Adult Translational Cancer Drug Discovery and Development Training Program (PACT-D3) T32!
  • David Hains, MD and Carmella Evans-Molina, MD, PhD, were elected as members of the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) for 2024. The ASCI seeks to support the scientific efforts, educational needs, and clinical aspirations of physician-scientists to improve the health of all people.
  • Mark Kelley, PhD, is celebrating the positive Phase 2 trial results of his oral therapeutic to treat diabetic retinopathy called APX3330. The news was recently highlighted by IU Impact. APX3330, and its parent company Ocuphire Pharma, were also recently recognized by Nasdaq for representing one of six biotech stocks developing promising treatments for hard-to-treat diseases.
  • Mark Kelley, PhD, has marked 26 years of service to the editorial board of the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, which he joined in January of 1998!
  • Mark Kelley, PhD, and Timothy Corson, PhD, were issued a new patent in Australia "Targeting Ocular Diseases With Novel APE1/REF-1 Inhibitors"
  • Mark Payne, MD, was featured in an article by TCTMD about the latest findings from his SAXOPHONE clinical study which investigates apixaban as a direct oral anticoagulant option for pediatric heart disease.
  • Emily Sims, MD, was interviewed by Medscape to discuss her study about the drug α-difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) to help preserve beta-cell function in people with new-onset type 1 diabetes.
  • Stephanie Ware, MD, PhD, was featured as part of IU School of Medicine’s Women in Leadership Series which highlights the journey that led her to become a nationally recognized leader in genetics.
  • Weidong Xiao, PhD, and Anh Lam, a former postdoctoral scientist, developed modified adeno-associated viral (AAV) capsids aimed at providing more treatment options for patients with genetic diseases. The news was recently highlighted by IU Impact as IU’s Innovation and Commercialization Office (ICO) filed a provisional patent for their innovation.

Learn more about the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research

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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. 

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.