DCI Virologist Pursues EBV Pathways To Cancer. Micah Luftig was elected for his work on the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and the temporal regulation of gene expression in viral-induced cancers.  Luftig is interested in viral pathogenesis and immune response and how that differs between patients that do and do not go on to develop cancer. To read more, click here.


Heaton, Scent-Sensing Cells Have a Better Way to Fight Flu. A collaboration between Heaton’s team and the laboratory of Ashley Moseman in Duke immunology reports on the remarkably robust immune response of olfactory sensory neurons, the smell receptors that line the nose, where a virus might first be encountered. Their finding reveals not only a successful strategy against infection, it points out the diversity of immune responses from one kind of cell to another, Heaton said. To read more, click here.

Fowler to give lecture on IDWeek. Vance Fowler MGM Secondary Faculty Member will be featured on IDWeek October 23, 2020. IDWeek will feature Vance G. Fowler, Jr., MD, MHS in the Maxwell Finland Lecture on Friday, Oct. 23 at 5:30 p.m. ET. “Staphylococcus aureus: Lessons Learned from 20 Years with the Persistent Pathogen.” Listen to an expert on Staphylococcus aureus describe the impact that a project can have on improved patient outcomes as well as summarize the importance of clinical, bacterial, and host genetic factors in influencing the initiation and severity of infections caused by S. aureus.

Matt Scaglione headshotCongratulations to Matt Scaglione on being awarded the 2020 Dictyostelium Junior Faculty Award. Research in the Scaglione laboratory focuses on understanding how these pathways play a protective role in neurodegenerative diseases.  Our lab is particularly interested in how protein homeostasis (proteostasis) is maintained in the cellular slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum.  Our interest in Dictyostelium discoideum comes from its peculiar genome that encodes for nearly 10,000 proteins that contain homopolymeric amino acid tracts.  Among the most common repeats are polyglutamine tracts.  This is particularly surprising because expanded polyglutamine repeats cause a class of nine neurodegenerative diseases in humans.  We and others have found that unlike other organisms Dictyostelium discoideum is naturally resistant to polyglutamine aggregation.  Further work from our group has identified a novel type of molecular chaperone that suppresses polyglutamine aggregation in Dictyostelium discoideum and in human cells. Future work in the Scaglione lab is to both identify other novel factors that prevent protein aggregation in Dictyostelium discoideum and to determine if these factors can be utilized to treat neurodegenerative diseases in humans.

Briana DavisJohn RawlsTwo pairs of Duke SOM PhD trainees and their PIs which includes from MGM, Briana Davis and John Rawls, have been awarded the HHMI Gilliam Fellowship for Advanced study this year. The official new release came out a few hours ago from HHMI. This is a very prestigious award as there is an internal competitive process to be nominated and only 45 fellowships were awarded across the country.

Brief description of award:
The goal of the Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study is to increase the diversity among scientists who are prepared to assume leadership roles in science, particularly as college and university faculty. The program provides awards to pairs of students and their dissertation advisers who are selected for their scientific leadership and commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the sciences.

The link to the official announcement can be found here:

The full list of awardees can be found here-

From Duke (name, department/program, PI):
– Briana Davis, MGM, John Rawls lab
– Nina Marie Garcia, Pharmacology, James Alvarez

Permar awarded Gale and Ira Drukier prize in Children’s Health Research. Congratulations Sallie Permar, Professor of Pediatrics, on being awarded the fifth annual Gale and Ira Drukier Prize in Children’s Health Research. The Drukier Prize honors early-career pediatricians whose research has made important contributions toward improving the health of children and adolescents. Dr. Permar, associate dean of physician scientist development, professor of pediatrics, immunology, molecular genetics and microbiology, and founding director of the Children’s Health and Discovery Institute at Duke University School of Medicine, is being honored for her research into the development of vaccines to prevent mother-to-child transmission of neonatal viral pathogens.

To read more click here.

Sullivan part of international team of researchers that generated a complete human X chromosome sequence. In an accomplishment that opens a new era in genomic research, Beth Sullivan and her lab have joined with the Telomere-to-Telomere (T2T) consortium, including researchers at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), University of Washington, and University of California, Santa Cruz, to produce the first end-to-end DNA sequence of a human chromosome. The results, published on July 14th in the journal Nature, show that generating a precise, base-by-base sequence of a human chromosome is now possible, and will enable researchers to produce a complete sequence of the human genome.

After nearly two decades of improvements, the reference sequence of the human genome represents the most accurate and complete vertebrate genome sequence ever produced. Still, there are hundreds of gaps or missing DNA sequences that are unknown. These gaps most often contain repetitive DNA segments that are exceptionally difficult to sequence, and are likely to include genes and other functional elements that may be relevant to human health and disease.

In this study, researchers sequenced the X chromosome using Oxford Nanopore and PacBio technologies that can sequence long segments of DNA. The research teams used newly developed computer programs to assemble the many segments of generated ultra-long read sequence. A notable aspect of this effort was closing of the largest remaining sequence gap on the X chromosome, the roughly 3 million bases of repetitive DNA found at the middle portion of the chromosome, called the centromere that is responsible for chromosome inheritance and genome stability. There is no “gold standard” for researchers to critically evaluate the accuracy of assembling such highly repetitive DNA sequences, and the Sullivan Lab was called on to help confirm the validity of the generated sequence using the molecular approach of pulsed field gel electrophoresis and Southern blotting.

Sullivan’s co-authors include senior author Adam Phillippy at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), Jennifer Gerton, a Senior Investigator at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research and former trainee of MGM faculty member Tom Petes, and first author Karen Miga, a graduate of Duke’s University Program in Genetics and Genomics.

The T2T consortium, partially funded by NHGRI, aims to generate a more complete reference sequence of the human genome and is continuing its efforts with the remaining human chromosomes to generate a complete human genome sequence in 2020.

Derbyshire, Fighting Malaria in the Classroom and in the Lab. Trinity College of Arts and Sciences recently published an article on Emily Derbyshire, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Secondary MGM Faculty Member, focusing on how she wants to help people – and she wants to do it at scale. Derbyshire’s focus in the classroom is overcoming the fear chemistry inspires in many students. Derbyshire quotes, “I try to remove any intimidation or preconceived notions about how hard it is. I think sometimes people just never had the opportunity to be taught in a way that was accessible.” To read the full article please click here.

photo of Carlos, Victor, and MaribelCongratulations to Dr. Victor Garre, Professor of Genetics at the University of Murcia and his two Ph.D. students, Maribel Navarro Mendoza and Carlos Perez Arques, for receiving the Fleming Award for a recent article published in Current Biology on discovering the centormeres of Mucor.  The Fleming Award is granted by the Spanish Society of Microbiology (SEM).  With the receipt of the award, one of the authors is invited to give the closing plenary talk at the upcoming XV National Conference on Mycology.  This meeting is being postponed until 2022 because of the COVID-19 crisis.  Click here to read the paper.  This paper was a collaboration between several investigators including Dr. Joseph Heitman and Dr. Kaustuv Sanyal.

For past news articles please click here.