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May 2024 news and updates from the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research.<br /> <div></div>

Wells Center Newsletter | May 2024


4 MMIA students posing in a lab during the MMIA 2024 program

MMIA celebrates 25 years of inspiring young minds & fueling scientific passion
Molecular Medicine in Action (MMIA), hosted annually by the Wells Center, celebrated its 25th anniversary in early March by welcoming 50 new high schoolers to a growing list of more than 1,200 previous participants! MMIA aims to attract more young minds to careers in science and medicine by exposing them to a spectrum of career opportunities from a diverse group of IU experts and providing hands-on learning in a state-of-the-art medical research environment.
> Read about this exciting milestone

Headshots of Drs. Gaston, John, Evans-Molina and HainsFaculty honored among nation's top physician-scientists
Four Wells Center colleagues have been recognized among the nation's top physician-scientists as 2024 members of 2 prestigious societies! Benjamin Gaston, MD, and Chandy C. John, MD, MS, were elected into the Association of American Physicians (AAP), and Carmella Evans-Molina, MD, PhD, MS, and David Hains, MD, were elected into the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI).
> Read the news


Drs. Tran and Kapur pose with lab equipment$2.7 million grant to explore hypoxia’s impact on blood stem cells
With a new grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), Reuben Kapur, PhD, and Ngoc Tung Tran, PhD, will expand on research identifying hypoxia’s positive impact in sustaining the functions of hematopoietic stem cells, in particular stem cells derived from Fanconi anemia patients who possess defective stem cells.
> Learn about the grant


Dr. Mark Payne in his lab

Fighting Friedreich’s ataxia
Mark Payne, MD, has pioneered a promising treatment for Friedreich's ataxia, a degenerative nervous system condition with no present cure. Payne's journey with his drug, CTI-1601, involved extensive collaboration with numerous organizations, partners and colleagues over the last two decades. These efforts have culminated in the treatment's positive Phase 2 clinical trial results with the FDA.
> Read more about Payne’s journey



Group photo of 10 diabetes researchers at the IBJ Health Care Heroes awards posing near the event's sign

Diabetes researchers recognized as IBJ Health Care Heroes
Members from the Wells Center’s diabetes research team were honored as 2024 IBJ Health Care Heroes in the Innovations in Health Care category for their incredible efforts leading to the FDA-approval of teplizumaub, a groundbreaking drug that delays the onset of type 1 diabetes. 
> Read about this year's honorees



Wells Center scientists demonstrating lab techniques to Riley gala guestTeam Wells at Red for our Kids gala
On Saturday, March 9, the Riley Children's Foundation hosted the second annual Red for our Kids gala. Guests at the event were able to get a glimpse of what it's like to conduct pediatric research in Wells Center labs, chat with scientists and practice lab techniques using real equipment. The event raised more than $730K for Riley!
> Watch the "Experience Riley" recap video


Representatives from Reason to Dance, Riley Children's Foundation, Riley Children's and the Wells Center pose with a large check

Reason to Dance 2024
Reason to Dance, the annual fundraiser supporting Wells Center research and the Child Life Program at Riley Children's Health, raised $185K at this year's event on March 9, 2024! Representatives from Reason to Dance, Riley Children's Foundation, Riley Children's and the Wells Center gathered for a special check presentation celebrating this incredible achievement on Friday, May 3, 2024. 
Learn about Reason to Dance 


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 February 2024:

Adrienne Cantali
Ellen Gunn
William Hagopian
Hemavathy Harikrishnan
Ashley Kibbey
Keiko Kreklau
Bala Yaswanth Kumar Sunnapu
Marzieh Nemati
Aliee Nguyen
Sydney Parrish
Abigail Taylor
Senthilkumar Thirumurugan
Ellie Waechter
Eric York




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.

Simon J. Conway, PhD | “Validate the tamoxifen-inducible Postn-CreERT2-T2A-FLPo transgenic mouse” (Children's Tumor Foundation) / “Barth Syndrome Research Fund” (Riley Children’s Foundation)

Carmella Evans-Molina, PhD, MS, MD | “Clinical Trial of Denosumab for Type 1 Diabetes” (City of Hope)

Jamie Felton, MD | “Type I Interferons and B Cell Metabolism as Drivers of Type 1 Diabetes // Diabetes-Docs: Physician-Scientist Career Development Program (DiabDocs)” (Stanford University)

Melissa Fishel, PhD & Mark Kelley, PhD & Steven Rhodes, MD, PhD | “Investigation of redox signaling as a therapeutic target in MPNST” (DOD NRFP - Neurofibromatosis Research Program Funding)

Renzhi Han, PhD | “Targeted editing of ASGR1 for cardiovascular diseases” (NIH R01 - National Heart, Lung And Blood Institute)

Swetansu K. Hota, MSC, PhD, MTECH | “Dissecting the functions of BAF chromatin remodeling ATPases during cardiogenesis” (American Heart Association Incorporated) 

Chandy John, MD, MS | “Severe Malaria And Risk to The Brain (SMART Brain)” (NIH R01 – National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)

Reuben Kapur, PhD | “The Roselynn Turi Fund” (Riley Children’s Foundation)

Reuben Kapur, PhD & Ngoc Tung Tran, PhD | “Hypoxia's role in regulating stressed hematopoietic stem cells” (NIH R01 - National Institute Of Diabetes, Digestive & Kidney)

Sarah Marrow, PhD student in the Angus lab | “Young Investigator Award” (Children’s Tumor Foundation)

Mark R. Kelley, PhD | “Tom Wood Lexus Foundation Lexxll” (Riley Children’s Foundation)

Chaitra Rao, PhD, MS | “Defining the role of islet-derived extracellular vesicle PD-L1 cargo in type-1 diabetes” (JDRF)

Steven D. Rhodes, MD, PhD | “UAB NFCTC Infrastructure Award” (University Of Alabama Birmingham)

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)

Mengyao Sun, PhD student in Lei Yang lab | “Deciphering the Cardiac Protective Role of Human IncRNA LIPTER against Doxorubicin-induced Cardiotoxicity” (American Heart Association)







  • Congratulations to the following Wells Center graduate students on their recent thesis defenses!
    Sarah Burns from the Kapur lab presented on March 7, 2024.
    John Wells from the Ware lab presented on March 11, 2024.
  • Congratulations to Wells Center members who received 2024 Cancer Research Day awards and recognition!
    Eyram Kpenu from the Kelley lab
    Rahul Kanumuri from the Kapur lab
    Erika Dobrota from the Pollok lab
    Jenna Koenig from the Pollok lab
    Rada Malko from the Pollok lab
  • Caylin Billingsley from the Katzenellenbogen lab has been recognized as a 2024 Elite 50 recipient  
  • Naro Biswas, MS, PhD, was featured in a Riley Children’s Foundation “Meet a Riley Researcher” blog. The article highlights her research with the gene and cell therapy group and the career journey that led her to Indiana.
  • Carmella Evans-Molina, MD, PhD, MS, was interviewed on DiabetesBio, the monthly podcast of the American Diabetes Association’s flagship research journal Diabetes, to discuss her research and her 2023 Outstanding Scientific Achievement Award.
  • David Hains, MD, received the 2024 Mid-Career Award from the American Society of Pediatric Nephrology (ASPN).
  • Ben Gaston, MD, was highlighted in a feature by IU Impact about his team's development of a drug formulation that significantly improves lung function by reducing airway inflammation and other symptoms with minimal side effects for patients.
  • Roland Herzog, PhD, was presented with the Keith Anliker Supporter of the Year Award at this year's IU Indianapolis Dance Marathon called Jagathon. This year Jagathon raised $307,605 to support Wells Center research and Riley Hospital for Children!
  • Roland Herzog, PhD, was presented with the 2024 Exemplary Service Award by the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ASGCT). The award recognizes individuals for their outstanding contributions to ASGCT and their commitment to the Society’s mission to advance knowledge, education, and awareness of gene and cell therapy. Exemplary service may include significant and sustained leadership, expertise, and/or creativity in addressing issues of importance to ASGCT.
  • Chandy John, MD, MS, was interviewed by NIH's Fogarty Institute for a Q&A titled, "Finding the connection between malaria and brain development" which was published in the January/February 2024 edition of their Global Health Matters newsletter.
  • Reuben Kapur, PhD, was featured in an article by IU Impact about his dedication to advancing treatments for pediatric leukemia through research and the development of novel therapies.
  • Mark Kelley, PhD, and Timothy Corson, PhD, were issued a new patent in Europe, "Targeting Ocular Diseases With Novel APE1/REF-1 Inhibitors."
  • Mark Payne, MD, recently celebrated positive top-line data and successful completion of the Phase 2 dose exploration study of his drug CTI-1601 for use in patients with Friedreich’s ataxia (FA). The news was announced by the drug’s investment company Larimar Therapeutics, Inc.
  • Nathan Schmidt, PhD, was named a 2024 Trustees' Teaching Award winner. Award recipients include faculty who have demonstrated a sustained level of teaching excellence and have completed at least three years of service to IU School of Medicine.

Learn more about the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research
Read the February 2024 Newsletter
Follow @IUWellsCenter on X

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.