Category: Front Page
Dr. Arturo Vegas was recently featured in BU Today for his research into Type 1 Diabetes. The full article is called “New Targets to Treat Type 1 Diabetes” and there’s an excerpt from the article by Barbara Moran is below.
“Type 1 diabetes is rare but devastating. A person’s own immune system attacks the pancreas, destroying insulin-producing tissue and the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar. About five percent of people with diabetes—approximately 1.25 million Americans—have this form of the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association. Unregulated blood sugar can lead to blindness, kidney failure, and death.
Scientists aren’t sure what causes type 1 diabetes, though they suspect that a genetic predisposition, combined with an environmental trigger, causes a sudden disruption in the immune system that causes it to attack the body’s own tissue. The only treatment is a lifetime of careful blood sugar monitoring, with insulin injections as needed.
But what if there were a way to block the immune system before the damage was done, preserving at least some of the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin? That’s the goal of Arturo Vegas, a Boston University College of Arts & Sciences assistant professor of chemistry, whose lab combines biology, chemistry, materials science, and engineering to develop targeted therapies for complex diseases like diabetes. He recently was awarded a prestigious $1.4 million Type 1 Diabetes Pathfinder Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to pursue the work.”
Congratulations Dr. Vegas!
Undergraduate student Tyler Casselman, a rising Junior doing research in Prof. John Snyder’s laboratory, is the 2016 recipient of the Laursen Summer Research Scholarship (LSRS). Tyler’s summer research continues his investigations in the Snyder group into a synthesis of drug transport within a polymer. His work focuses on developing a procedure to integrate a highly reactive ring system, known as a tetrazine, into polymers. This has an immediate application to drug transport within a polymer via a cycloaddition, which will further the research of the Snyder Group.
Tyler, who is 21 and comes from East Amherst, New York, is interested in natural product synthesis and diversification methods. Once done with his undergraduate education here at BU he plans to continue his study chemistry in graduate school and is hoping to stay in the Boston area.
The scholarship is funded by the Laursen Endowment, which was created to honor Prof. Emeritus Richard Laursen by his former students. The goal of the Laursen Endowment is to advance the training of highly qualified BU chemistry students interested in pursuing scientific careers by providing salary support pursue research during the summer term.
On August 18, the Department of Chemistry is hosting a special cocktail reception for Chemistry Alumni, 5:30PM-7:30PM at the Cityview Ballroom of the Boston Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center.
In conjunction with the ACS National Meeting, the Department of Chemistry is hosting a special reception on August 18, 2015 at Boston’s Seaport Hotel.
Whether you are attending the ACS National Meeting or simply are in the area, we hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to enjoy a relaxing evening of drinks and hors d’oeuvres while reconnecting with fellow alumni and Chemistry faculty. The Seaport Hotel is within short walking distance of the Boston Convention Center and offers stunning views of the Boston skyline and Boston Harbor, making it a great environment in which to meet current students and learn about the Department’s latest research
In order to help us plan for the reception, please register by reserving complimentary tickets online. Visit the BU Alumni Association page to RSVP.
BU Chemistry has long been recognized for excellence in research and training at the undergraduate and graduate levels. We would love to hear about your accomplishments, and have you meet some of the 30 undergraduate and graduate students presenting talks or posters at the ACS Meeting. You can find a full list of student presentations here.
We look forward to seeing you at the reception!
When: Tuesday, August 18, 2015
5:30 PM-7:30 PM
Where: Seaport Boston Hotel, Cityview Ballroom
1 Seaport Ln, Boston, MA 02210
2015 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) award recipient, George Pantelopulos, has joined Chemistry to do his proposed graduate research in theoretical chemistry with Prof. John Straub and his group. George aims to model the kinetics of phase transitions in a system of components (lipids and cholesterol) commonly found in eukaryotic cell membranes using the Generalized ReplicaExchange Method (gREM) developed by the Straub group and constructing a Markov State Model (MSM) of a mixed bilayer. George believes that his study will yield a statistically detailed model of the thermodynamics and kinetics of mixed bilayer phases, something which has been sought for years via experimental techniques and previously out-of-reach for standard simulation methods.
George is no stranger to BU Chemistry. In 2013 he was one of the 10 students selected for Chemistry’s NSF site Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. At the time, he was at the Community College of Philadelphia. During his summer REU program here, he helped to synthesize nanohoops of high electron density, which were hypothesized to serve as high performance coatings for solar cells. In Fall 2013 he transferred to Temple University (Philadelphia, PA), where he did research with Prof. Vincent Voelz on simulation studies of the p53-MDM2 complex. MDM2 is an ubiquitin ligase protein which downregulates the tumor suppressor protein p53. As such, inhibition of the p53-MDM2 complex is a major goal in targeted cancer therapy research.
In addition to chemistry, George’s interests are broad and varied. He has a strong commitment to community service and have volunteered with such organizations as TeenSHARP, a weekend educational program for minority students in Philadelphia and Camden schools, where he was a science instructor and Habitat for Humanity.
The Director of the Consumer Safety and Sustainability Group for Consumer Reports, Dr. Urvashi Rangan, was the Distinguished Alumni Speaker at this year’s Chemistry Convocation (May 16, 2015). Dr. Rangan received her BA in Chemistry from Boston University in 1990, doing undergraduate research in organic chemistry with Prof. John Snyder. She received her PhD in Environmental Health Sciences from Johns Hopkins University in 1995 and did postdoctoral work at the Environmental and Occupational Health Science Institute (Rutgers University). She was an NIH fellow from 1990-97.
A noted environmental health scientist, Dr. Rangan has a column in Consumer Reports’ ShopSmart magazine and also serves as a top spokesperson for Consumer Reports in the areas of sustainable production and consumption practices. She has a wide area of expertise, including organic standards, food safety issues, environmental pollution, toxics in consumer products, and environmental health concerns and has appeared in numerous national broadcast outlets. Her expertise is called upon to respond to breaking product safety news, speak on behalf of CU investigative test stories, and to discuss production problems and consumer solutions around a wide range of sustainability topics including food safety issues, organic food, risky ingredients in personal care products, misleading labels, electronics recycling, and energy efficiency for household products.
At the Consumers Union, which she joined in 1999, she has been responsible for managing risk analysis, policy assessments, label evaluations and consumer advice for tests, reports, and related advocacy work. She developed the ratings system, database, and Web site, Eco-labels.org, for evaluating environmental and food labels. In 2005, she managed the launch of GreenerChoices,org, which covers green aspects over a wide range of products and services. To “meet” Dr. Rangan, please go to her 2012 TEDxManhattan talk, “From fables to labels.”
We are happy to announce that Arturo José Vegas will be joining the Department on July 1 as Assistant Professor. His research will aim to develop novel targeting therapeutics and delivery systems for selective cancer chemotherapy, immunomodulation, and diabetic immunosuppression. At the same time, the Vegas laboratory will create a general and systematic approach to developing targeted therapeutic carriers for treating multiple human diseases.
Arturo Vegas brings his unique training and experience in integrating chemistry and the biomedical sciences to come to bear on key challenges in medicine. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University (2008) working with Professor Stuart Schreiber (Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology). In the Schreiber laboratory, he adapted synthetic chemistry pathways developed in studies of diversity-oriented synthesis (DOS) to new pathways with clinical impact for cancer treatments aimed at targeting chromatin-modifying enzymes in human cells.
His postdoctoral training was in the laboratories of Professor Robert S. Langer and Professor Daniel G. Anderson both at the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT and Children’s Hospital Boston. Dr. Vegas’ research exploited the potential of chemical discovery in biomedical research. He applied chemical methods to modify polymers used in the encapsulation of islets, which is a promising approach for the treatment of type-1 diabetes. As a synthetic chemist, he prepared multiple libraries and unique chemical entities to facilitate siRNA delivery, a technology that is actively being explored for cancer treatment.
Dr. Vegas is already co-author on 20 publications and co-inventor of 8 patent applications as he begins his independent career at Boston University. He is also the Scientific Co-Founder of Preceres LLC (December 2013). His research was featured in Nature Medicine’s “Encapsulate This” (2014). As an educator, he was a multiple-year recipient of Harvard University’s “Distinction in Teaching” Award.
The College of Engineering has honored interdisciplinary scientist, Professor Mark Grinstaff (Chemistry, BME, MSE, MED), with the inaugural Charles DeLisi Award and Distinguished Lecture. Professor Grinstaff will present the Lecture on Thursday, April 2 at 4 p.m. in the Photonics Colloquium Room (PHO 906). In the lecture, “Clinically Informed Biomaterial Design and Engineering,” he will explore how over the past two decades, he and his students have translated ideas from the laboratory into new devices and materials for clinical applications.
The award – established by a generous gift by Professor and Dean Emeritus Charles DeLisi, widely considered the father of the Human Genome Project – is in recognition of Mark Grinstaff’s significant contributions to his field, both as an academic researcher and as an entrepreneur who has co-founded four companies that are translating his ideas into clinical products. In addition to his joint appointments in Chemistry and Biomedical Engineering, Professor Grinstaff directs the Center for Nanoscience and Nanobiotechnology (CNN) and an NIH-funded Translational Research in Biomaterials Training program, and is the inaugural College of Engineering Distinguished Professor of Translational Research and inaugural recipient of the Innovator of the Year Award from BU’s Office of Technology Development. He was also named a College of Engineering Distinguished Faculty Fellow and a Kern Faculty Fellow.
The Grinstaff laboratory, which is currently comprised of more than 20 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, is funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, The Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, Advanced Energy Consortium, the Center for Integration of Medicine & Innovative Technology, and other agencies. They have advanced several major biomaterials that range from a joint lubricant that could bring longer- lasting relief to millions of osteoarthritis sufferers, to a highly absorbent hydrogel that not only seals wounds, but can later be dissolved and gently removed.
The National Science Foundation’s on line magazine, Science Nation, is featuring a video entitled “Biophotonics poised to make major breakthroughs in medicine.”
Focusing on the Boston University Center for Biophotonic Sensors and Systems (CBSS), the video shows how engineers and scientists collaborate with industry to realize the potential of light waves in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Among the scientific work highlighted is that of Chemistry professor, Larry Ziegler, and his group who are working with the company, BioTools, to develop a test that uses lasers to diagnose a bacterial infection accurately and quickly.
“Science Nation” is a video series commissioned by the NSF Office of Legislative and Public Affairs. The series is distributed throughout the world, including to LiveScience.com and other media outlets on the Internet, the PBS Newshour Science page, local community TV stations in the U.S. via TelVue Connect Media Exchange, Voice of America for international broadcast distribution, the NSF STEM video portal Science360, the Knowledge Network video stream and Roku channel, and K-12 content distributors in the U.S. and abroad. Some episodes also appear in the nationally-distributed PBS documentary series This American Land.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a 4-year grant to computational chemists, Professor John Straub and his colleague at the University of Maryland (UMD), Professor Devarajan (Dave) Thirumulai, on “Probing the role of membrane and cholesterol on APP‐C99 structure and dynamics.” Protein aggregation in the brain is linked to Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). This neurodegenerative disorder accounts for nearly 50 percent of all cases of senile dementia, is the third leading cause of death in the elderly population, and – devastatingly ‐ is presently incurable. Familial mutations in the Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP), from which the amyloid β (Aβ) protein associated with AD is derived, have been linked with the early onset of amyloid disease.
This computational and theoretical research collaboration between the Straub and Thirumalai groups, augmented by synergistic experimental research collaborations, will explore the structure and dynamics of the 99 amino acid transmembrane fragment of APP (APP‐C99) in membrane environments. This work will have high impact because it has the potential to answer outstanding questions in the field that remain unresolved as a result of conflicting conclusions of experimental studies. By providing novel insights into the dependence of APP structure on familial AD mutations, membrane composition, and interactions with cholesterol, the work will advance the ability to develop preventive or early stage therapeutics for AD.
Professor Sean Elliott, who joined the Department of Chemistry in 2002 and was tenured in 2008, has been promoted to full Professor.
Professor Elliott’s research is at the intersection of biochemical processes and electron-transfer chemistry. By studying how electrons are moved within and between proteins in Biology, he and his group provide a novel, quantitative view of redox regulation, homeostasis, and oxidative stress. Using protein film electrochemisry (PFE), they probe how redox equivalents are stored, manipulated, and transferred in enzymes, in electron-transfer proteins, and in chains of electron-transfer proteins. They have addressed projects that reflect their interests in heme- and ironsulfur cluster-containing electron transfer proteins and enzymes. Professor Elliott has successfully developed new electrochemical methods for addressing questions of enzyme and metalloprotein function to monitor the flow of electrons themselves. Simultaneously, he has a growing research portfolio in the application of Bioinformatics to problems in Metals in Biology. Using sequence similarity network (SSN), he and his group examine the biological diversity of various multi-heme, iron-sulfur cluster and non-heme iron-dependent enzymes and proteins. Further, his group uses PFE and biophysical techniques to investigate the catalytic chemistry of multi-heme enzymes and bacterial peroxidases extensively.
Professor Elliott has received a Scialog Award from the Research Corporation for the Advancement of Science, a Smith Family Young Investigator Award, and the NSF-CAREER Award. In addition to his excellence in research, he has been recognized by Boston University for his educational skills with a Gitner Award for Distinguished Teaching and for advising with the Templeton Award for Student Advising.