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Message from the Chair

SchallerWelcome to the Department of Biochemistry in the West Virginia University School of Medicine. In the past five years, the Department has grown with the recruitment of three junior faculty members, Peter Stoilov (alternative splicing), David Smith (regulation of the proteasome) and Roberta Leonardi (regulation of co-enzyme A production/degradation). All three have successfully launched their independent research programs and secured extramural funding from the NIH. This past summer, we recruited Mioara Larion (kinetics of metabolic enzymes) as an Assistant Professor in Biochemistry. In collaboration with the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (WVCTSI) we have also recruited Valery Khramtsov, Andrey Bobko and Mark Tseytlin to assemble a group using electron paramagnetic resonance to monitor metabolic changes in the tissue microenvironment in animal models of cancer. The Department plans to continue recruiting to replace recently retired faculty and expand our expertise in research areas of emphasis within the Department. Our strengths broadly fall into the areas of metabolism, neurobiology, cancer cell biology, protein biochemistry, biophysics and regulation of gene expression. We are particularly interested in recruiting additional expertise in the regulation of metabolism as it applies to metabolic diseases, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Our growth in these areas aligns with strategic initiatives in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences Center. Research in obesity and metabolic disease is an area of emphasis for the WVCTSI, which provides support for pilot projects in the area of metabolism. Our faculty members also participate in the Obesity, Metabolism and Diabetes program that is part of the Prevention Research Center at WVU. This program seeks to foster collaboration in the study of metabolic diseases across disciplines including the basic and clinical sciences, public health, and community engagement. Developing infrastructure for metabolic research at the institution includes resources for analysis of body composition and metabolic measurements and state of the art imaging, genomics, metabolomics and flow cytometry facilities. We are striving to provide a supportive, collegial and collaborative environment in the Department to maximize everyone's potential in our research and teaching missions. I encourage you to explore the web site to learn more about the growing research programs in the Department, our efforts to mentor junior faculty, our commitment to the graduate and professional teaching missions and our history.


Vazhaikkurichi M. Rajendran, PhD, was recently inducted as a Fellow by the American Gastroenterological Association.

Vazhaikkurichi RajendranDr. Rajendran is currently a Professor in Biochemistry, where he performs research investigating electrolyte transport processes that regulate colonic fluid movement during physiological and pathophysiological (diarrhea and ulcerative colitis) conditions.

Dr. Michael Schaller, Chair of Biochemisty, sheds some light on the relevance and signifigance of his ongong research here at WVU. "Raj has a longstanding interest in the control of sodium absorption and potassium secretion in the colon, which drives the passive movement of water. His studies have provided insight into the normal physiology of the colon, and importantly, into mechanisms leading to diseases like colitis and inflammatory bowel disease".

The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), the nation’s oldest medical society, is dedicated to disorders of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Through the fellowship program, the AGA honors superior professional achievement in clinical private or academic practice and in basic or clinical research. Fellowships are awarded to AGA members whose accomplishments and contributions demonstrate personal commitment to the field of gastroenterology.

The mission of the AGA is to promote the science and practice of gastroenterology through the support of research, education, advocacy and practice.

"AGA acknowledges our members with superior professional achievement in the field of gastroenterology with fellowship within our organization," said Michael Camilleri, MD, AGAF, AGA Insitute President. "We are proud to annouce the 2016 inductees for the AGA Fellowship program who have been recognized by their peers and community as being at the forefront of our field."

Congratulations Dr. Rajendran!


Problem-Based Learning (PBL) Case published by Drs. Heimo Riedel and Mo Almubarak

This case describing patient Monia P. Neu is used in the PBL first year Medical School Curriculum to study clinical cases in a team-based effort by a small group of students. It is an example of how teaching related efforts can result in a peer-reviewed, scholarly publication. It is only the second PBL case published from the department at the MedEdPORTAL of the Association of American Medical Colleges. As a result the case is now also available to the benefit of Medical Students at any interested college.

Riedel H, Almubarak M. "Non-Small Cell Lung Adenocarcinoma Problem-Based Learning Case: Monia P. Neu".

Available from:

https://www.mededportal.org/publication/10198; http://dx.doi.org/10.15766/mep_2374-8265.10198

Heimo Riedel

Dr. Roberta Leonardi received a NIH-NINDS R21

The project, entitled "Modeling PKAN disease through neuron-specific degradation of coenzyme A“ is aimed at the generation and characterization of a mouse model for Pantothenate Kinase-Associated Neurodegeneration (PKAN) with the goal to understand the mechanisms that lead to the disease and generate a platform to test potential therapeutics to limit or reverse the neuronal dysfunction in PKAN patients.

Roberta Leonardi

Dr. Steven Frisch was awarded a Mary Kay Foundation Grant

The project, entitled "Suppression of breast cancer recurrence” will test the ability of a novel tumor suppressor gene characterized by the Frisch lab in preventing the recurrence of breast cancer.

Steven Frisch

Dr. Peter Stoilov received a 3-year award from the CDMRP Breast Cancer Research Program

The project is entitled "Evaluation of alternative splicing regulators as targets for selective therapy of triple negative (basal) breast carcinoma".

Peter Stoilov

Congratulations! to Dr. Smith & his lab

Their manuscript titled ‘ATP-binding to neighboring subunits and intersubunit allosteric coupling underlie proteasomal ATPase function" for publication in Nature Communications’ was accepted to be published in Nature Communications.

David Smith

Dissertation Defense

"Well Done!" goes out to Amanda Suchanek a Ph.D. student in our Biochemistry program from Dr. Lisa Salati’s lab who completed her dissertation on August 27, 2015. Amanda defended her dissertation. entitled "Enhancement of RNA Splicing by the Nutrient Regulated Splicing Factor, SRSF3". Amanda is on her way to Chapel Hill, NC to start a postdoctoral research fellowship where she will be studying lipid metabolism in the laboratory of Dr. Rosalind Coleman at UNC. Congratulations Dr. Suchanek!

Amanda Suchanek

WVU President Gordon Gee stopped by our Faculty meeting on September 8th

WVU President Gordon Gee visited during our Biochemistry faculty meeting. The President spoke about the overall focus that WVU has on talent and culture going forward into the future. Thank you Dr. Gee for sharing your wisdom and insights with our department.

President Gordon Gee