News & Announcements

Developmental Biology Research to Develop New Liver Model with NIH Grant Funding

Kimberly Tremblay

Developmental biologist, Kim Tremblay has studied extra-embryonic tissue development since she was a graduate student, through her postdoctoral years, and now as a principal investigator in the Veterinary and Animal Sciences Department at UMass, Amherst.  Her dedication to the study of extra-embryonic tissue development has lead her to new ways of studying liver function and mechanisms, a much needed area of research due to a current lack of model systems and a rise in liver disease.  Recently awarded a two-year $426,000 grant from NIH, Tremblay will focus on using the yolk sac as a proxy for studying the early liver and how embryonic cells communicate with surrounding cells from the vascular blood vessel network.  Read More

UMass Amherst Researchers Identify a Key Molecule in Nitrogen-Fixing Bacteria

Nitrogen-fixing symbiosis. A population of bacteria (colored blue) transverses the root tissue to colonize the incipient nodule.  (Photo credit Cara Haney)

Researcher Dong Wang (Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology), along with postdoctoral researcher and lead author Minsoo Kim and former undergraduate student Chris Waters and colleagues at the Noble Foundation in Oklahoma, report in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences their discovery of a peptide found in alfalfa that holds the potential to improve crop yields without increasing fertilizer use.  This peptide, DNF4 (also known as NCR211), is a “double agent,” having the ability to support nitrogen-fixing bacteria present inside the plant, while also killing free-living bacteria outside.  Wang’s comments about his research in this area: “Next we want to find out why this peptide helps the bacteria inside the plant, but it can kill free-living bacteria outside the plant. Why does one molecule function as a double agent?”  Read More

Gates Foundation Funds UMass Amherst Research on Deadly African Cattle Disease

Dr. Samuel Black and a veterinary technician collecting a blood sample from a trypanosome-infected Cape buffalo to assay trypanosome-specific antibodies in serum. Photo courtesy UMass Amherst

Samuel Black (Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences), a researcher in the Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) Program, along with collaborators elsewhere in the United States and Europe, has been awarded a $478,000 grant to develop a vaccine against trypanosomes, protozoan parasites that cause trypanosomiasis.  The disease, fatal to cattle in sub-Saharan Africa, is a major obstacle to raising livestock in the region.  Other researchers funded by the grant will focus on furthering the use of trypanosome variable surface glycoprotein (VSG) for these immunizations, while Black’s work will determine if immunization with other conserved trypanosome membrane proteins, possibly in concert with VSG, will have a positive impact on disease control.

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UMass Amherst Chemist Receives $6.25 Million Grant to Develop Molecular Signals

Sankaran Thayumanavan

Researchers in the Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) Program, Sankaran Thayumanavan (Chemistry Department) and Jennifer Ross (Physics Department) in collaboration with a team of chemists, physicists and chemical engineers have been awarded a $6.25 million grant to study molecular pathways and signaling processes.  The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is funding the interdisciplinary team of researchers to develop new algorithms and as Thaymanavan explains "If we can develop the fundamental science that provides pathways for detecting a variety of molecules around us, then the impact will be huge.  Developing the science to seamlessly connect molecular-scale events with macroscopically discernible processes is the focus of this MURI team."

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MCB Students Receive Fellowships

Safia Omer, 4th year student in Wei-Lih Lee’s lab in the Biology Department and Cameron Butova, 2nd year student in Scott Garman’s lab in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department have both been awarded fellowships from the Biotech Training Program (BTP) for the following two years.  The BTP training program is newly established through a T23 grant.  Students granted this fellowship will complete BTP curriculum, complete an Individual Development Plan (IDP) with the Office of Professional Development, and pursue an Industrial Internship in addition to ongoing research in their labs.

How Biotechnology Innovations are Transforming Pharmaceutical Research

Special MCB Colloquium in Collaboration with the Office of Professional Development
Monday, November 30th - 12:00pm-1:15pm
1634 Lederle Graduate Research Tower (LGRT)

Alexion Pharmaceuticals is a global biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and delivering life-transforming therapies for patients with devastating and rare diseases. Dr. Michael Perricone, Exec. Dir., Global Research Strategy & Operations, will discuss the launch of a new laboratory focused on network medicine to advance Alexion’s mission. He will share insights about the science behind the initiative and describe how other innovation initiatives are poised to disrupt traditional drug development processes and deliver more drugs to patients. Co-sponsored with the Molecular and Cellular Biology Graduate Program.

New Protein Cleanup Factors Found to Control Bacterial Growth

Illustrated electron micrograph of model bacterium Caulobacter crescentus

Researchers in Peter Chien's lab in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst report finding how an essential bacterial protease controls cell growth and division. Details appear in the journal CELL. Lead author Kamal Joshi, a doctoral candidate in the Chien lab, conducted experiments in the model bacterium Caulobacter crescentus. In this species, the ability to grow and replicate DNA is regulated by ClpXP, a highly conserved protease that in many bacteria allows them to cope with stressful environments such as the human body. Understanding how ClpXP is controlled could open a path to antibiotics that inhibit harmful bacteria in new ways. Read more