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Department of Pharmacology & Physiology News

December 2020

Drexel College of Medicine Faculty Awards

This year, two members of the department received awards for their outstanding work:

Dr. Peter Gaskill - assistant professor, received the New Investigator Award, which recognizes an outstanding investigator in the early stages of their career, based on their research accomplishments, potential to advance their research field, and involvement in graduate education and training. Basic science faculty with tenure-track appointments for a period of no more than seven years are eligible.

Dr. Olimpia Meucci - professor and chair, received the Elias Abrutyn Mentoring Award. This award is presented to a faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in mentoring colleagues, residents, or students, by creating a supportive, effective environment in research, clinical care, education or scholarship, while advocating for the advancement of their mentees, and serving as a trusted advisor and role model.

View a complete list of awardees.

Pharmacology & Physiology Student Awards

Three students in the department also received awards recognizing their hard work and achievements.

Anthony DiNatale received this year’s Benjamin Weiss Scholar Award. This Award was established in honor of former Drexel professor Dr. Weiss’ legacy of teaching, research, mentorship, and commitment to the advancement of scientific knowledge.

Zhucheng Lin and Jared Luchetta received this year’s Mary Hoffman Shaw Travel Award. This award was established in honor of Drexel professor Dr. Mary Hoffman Shaw after she passed away on May 20, 2004 from metastatic breast cancer. The award provides travel support for graduate students working in the department each year to present his or her research at a national meeting.

Drs. Gaskill and Jackson Receive W.W. Smith Grants

Congratulations to Dr. Peter Gaskill and Dr. Joshua Jackson for each receiving an award from the W.W. Smith Charitable Trust! The awards will support Dr. Gaskill’s HIV research project “Dopamine induced by substance abuse exacerbates HIV-associated neuroinflammation through epigenetic regulation” and Dr. Jackson’s heart research project “Altered Ca2+ clearance post-stroke exacerbates inflammation and inhibits neurovascular coupling.”

November 2020

Dr. Fatatis Receives Award from the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition Initiative

Further congratulations to Dr. Alessandro Fatatis for receiving a new grant from the PA Breast Cancer Coalition supporting his research on metastasis-initiating cells!

October 2020

Dr. Fatatis Receives Funding

Congratulations to Dr. Alessandro Fatatis for a new award from the Philadelphia Prostate Cancer Biome Project based at Thomas Jefferson University's Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center. Funding will start on October 30, 2020, and support ongoing exciting work on the role of AR-Negative Cancer Cells and IL-1β in skeletal metastasis.

Dr. Sato Participates in AHA Panel

Dr. Priscila Sato was invited to participate in an early career panel discussion titled “From Lab Rat to Fat Cat” for the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions conference. This virtual session will be available to conference attendees starting on November 17.

Discovery Day 2020

The Department of Pharmacology & Physiology was well-represented in Drexel’s first virtual Discovery Day on October 8.

Awardees from our department were:

  • Anthony DiNatale (Fatatis Lab) – 2nd place, Barry Waterhouse Outstanding Platform Presentation
  • Jason Wickman (Ajit Lab) – 1st place, Outstanding Junior Graduate Student Poster
  • Julia Farnan (Jackson Lab) – honorable mention, Outstanding Senior Graduate Student Poster

Discovery Day 2020

The complete list of presentations from our department includes:

Platform Presentations:

  • AR regulates IL-1ß expression in prostate cancer cells
    Anthony DiNatale (Fatatis Lab)
    2nd place, Barry Waterhouse Outstanding Platform Presentation

Poster Presentations:

  • hsa-miR-605 mediated downregulation of pro-inflammatory chemokine CXCL5 in CRPS patients
    Richa Pande (Ajit Lab)
  • Dopamine mediated epigenetic regulation of neuroinflammation and neuroHIV in myeloid cells
    Samyuktha Manikandan (Gaskill Lab)
  • Harnessing CADM1 associated caspase-independent cell death mechanism in melanoma
    Julia Oleksak (Hartsough Lab)
  • Immunomodulatory function of CADM1 in melanoma
    Jessica Smart (Hartsough Lab)
  • Exploring the fine-tuning capabilities of RAFi resistant melanoma
    Maria Cavallo (Hartsough Lab)
  • Characterization of CD8+ T cell exhaustion in HIV-1 controllers
    Amber Jones (Klase Lab)
  • Protective role of Xist-RNF139 complex in acute inflammation by modulating NF-κB activity
    Richa Gupta (Ajit Lab)
  • Clinical translatability of miRNA signature in small extracellular vesicles from mouse tibia fracture model of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
    Jason Wickman (Ajit Lab)
    1st place, Outstanding Junior Graduate Student Poster
  • Differential RNA packaging into small extracellular vesicles by neurons and astrocytes
    Xuan Luo (Ajit Lab)
  • The role of small extracellular vesicles in chronic pain
    Zhucheng Lin (Ajit Lab)
  • Effects of low dose ethanol exposure on reward seeking and motivation in mice
    Kathleen Bryant (Barker Lab)
  • Engagement of basolateral amygdala projection neurons to the nucleus accumbens during the performance of habitual versus goal-directed behavior
    Yue Lu (Barker Lab)
  • Investigating co-opted astrocytic metabolism in melanoma brain metastasis
    Julia Farnan (Jackson Lab)
    Honorable mention, Outstanding Senior Graduate Student Poster
  • Calcium clearance in reactive astrocytes post-stroke
    Kayla Green (Jackson Lab)
  • Comparison of image analysis software for examining synaptic injury in HAND
    Sophie Gonzalez (Meucci Lab)
  • A multielectrode array study to investigate changes in neuronal networks induced by the chemokine CXCL12
    Jared Luchetta (Meucci Lab)
  • Myo1c regulates neurite formation in mouse cortical neurons
    Xiaonan Liu (Toyo-oka Lab)
  • GRK2 alterations in human diabetic and non-diabetic pancreatic islets and adult cardiomyocytes
    Vishnu Kumar (Sato Lab)
  • GRK2 participates in myocardial fatty acid metabolic responses and ß-adrenergic receptor-mediated mitochondrial respiration
    Ruxu Zhai (Sato Lab)
  • GRK2 expression regulates glucose sensing in beta-cells impacting glucose tolerance relevant to Type 2 Diabetes
    Jonathan Snyder (Sato Lab)
  • RUNX1 protein and its involvement in the control of HIV-1 transcription
    Angel Lin (Klase Lab)

Dr. Ajit Co-Chairs Panel Discussion at NIH Workshop

Dr. Seena Ajit co-chaired a panel discussion entitled "Tools and Models to Test Hypotheses in vitro," which is part of the NIH HEAL Workshop on Target Validation for Non-Addictive Therapeutics Development for Pain, organized by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (October 19-20, 2020). Learn more.

September 2020

Students Awarded NeuroAIDS Fellowship

Jared Luchetta from the Meucci Lab was appointed as a National Research Service Award (NRSA) pre-doctoral fellow on Drexel University’s Interdisciplinary and Translational Research Training Grant in NeuroAIDS. The training grant is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health as part of a long- standing collaboration between Drexel and Temple University investigators.

Additionally, Emily Nickoloff-Bybel from the Gaskill Lab had her appointment in the same fellowship renewed for a second year.

Congrats to Jared and Emily!

Dr. Gaskill a Co-Investigator on New NIDA Grant

Dr. Peter Gaskill (co-I) and his collaborator, Dr. Dionna Williams of Johns Hopkins University (PI), were awarded a new R01 grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which supports their project “Cannabidiol and Macrophage Chronic Inflammation in a Virally Suppressed Rhesus Macaque Model.”

August 2020

Dr. Barker Awarded a R21 Grant From the NIAAA

Congratulations to Dr. Jacqui Barker for the award of a R21 grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism! The grant will support Jacqui’s new project, titled “Sex differences in regulation of reinstatement of ethanol seeking by nucleus accumbens glutamate signaling.”

Dr. Ajit's lab Presents at the International Society for Extracellular Vesicles Satellite Meeting

Dr. Seena Ajit and members of her lab participated in the ISEV 2020 virtual satellite meeting in the session titled: Emerging Trends in HIV, NeuroAIDS, Drug Abuse & EVs. Dr. Ajit was a panel discussion participant and gave a talk titled: Morphine induced hyperalgesia and miRNA alterations in small EVs.

Students from Dr. Ajit's lab also presented the following posters:

  • Xuan Luo
    Title: Differential RNA packaging into small extracellular vesicles by neurons and astrocytes
  • Jason Wickman
    Title: Clinical translatability of miRNA signature in small extracellular vesicles from mouse tibia fracture model of complex regional pain syndrome
  • Zhucheng Lin
    Title: The role of small extracellular vesicles in chronic neuropathic pain

July 2020

NIMH Grant Awarded to Dr. Ole Mortensen

Congratulations to Dr. Ole Mortensen for the award of a R56 grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, supporting his project "Allosteric modulation of dopamine transport: functional and biochemical Studies."

Dr. Andréia Mortensen promoted to Assistant Professor (tenure-track)

Congratulations to Dr. Mortensen for a well-deserved promotion to the rank of Assistant Professor in the tenure track! During her time as a research faculty, Andréia has developed an exciting and innovative research program currently funded by the NIH NINDS (project title: The mechanism of allosteric modulation of glutamate transporters).

June 2020

Mary DeWitt Pettit, MD Fellowship Awarded to Dr. Barker

Congratulations to Jacqueline Barker, PhD, for receiving a Mary DeWitt Pettit, MD Fellowship, which will support her project “Astrocyte contribution to ethanol-dependence induced susceptibility to adversity in females.” The Mary DeWitt Pettit, MD Fellowship supports research or other special projects of junior female faculty members at Drexel University College of Medicine.

Dr. Giacometti Receives the Postdoctoral Enoch Gordis Award

Laura Giacometti, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Barker Lab, was awarded the Enoch Gordis Research Recognition Award by the Research Society on Alcoholism. Dr. Giacometti presented an oral and poster presentation of her work entitled “Astrocytic modulation reduces ethanol dependence-induced impairments in extinction in female mice” at RSA’s Virtual Conference in June.

Stacia Lewandowski Selected as Guest Editor for IBNS Newsletter

Stacia Lewandowski, a graduate student in the Ole Mortensen Lab, was selected as a guest editor for the June newsletter of the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society. She organized a section titled “Diverse Voices – LGBTQIA+.”

May 2020

Students Recognized at Graduate Student Day

Ruxu Zhai, a master's student in the Drug Discovery and Development program working in the Sato Lab, was a finalist for the Research Excellence Award for her work investigating the role of GRK2 in cardiac myocyte substrate utilization. Ruxu will start her PhD in the department this fall!

Ipek Eralp, a master's student in the Pharmacology and Physiology program working in the Meucci Lab, was a finalist for the Common Good Award, recognizing her outreach and civic efforts.

Congratulations to our students!

NIDA Avenir Grant Awarded to Dr. Barker

Congratulations to Dr. Jacqui Barker for the award of a new Avenir DP2 grant from NIH/NIDA! The Avenir award supports early stage investigators proposing highly innovative studies that address NIH HIV/AIDS research priorities. Dr. Barker's project focuses on preclinical models of HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders and alcohol abuse.

Welcome New Faculty

An enthusiastic welcome to the department's newest members, Drs. Zachary Klase and Rachel Van Duyne. Dr. Van Duyne has been collaborating with Dr. Klase for the last couple of years, and together they join us from University of the Sciences. The Klase Lab focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms of HIV integration and latency with a main interest in epigenetic regulation and neuropathogenesis in the context of substance abuse.

April 2020

NIDA Grant for Dr. Gaskill

Congratulations to Peter Gaskill, PhD, on securing an R21 award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse for his project "DAT-Psychostimulant Mediated Dopamine Release Increases Macrophage IL-1beta Production Through NF-kB Activation and Inflammasome Priming."

March 2020

Melisa Diaz Successfully Defends Thesis Via Zoom

Congratulations to Melisa Diaz for successfully Zooming through her PhD thesis on March 23. Melisa is a student in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems at Drexel University and has been working in the lab of Dr. Alessandro Fatatis for the past five years. The title of Melisa’s thesis is "The Role of IL1beta in Metastatic Colonization of Prostate Cancer Cells."

Great job, Dr. Diaz!

Dr. White Honored With Golden Apple Teaching Award

Michael White, PhD, professor of Pharmacology & Physiology, was selected by the Drexel University College of Medicine Class of 2022 to receive a Golden Apple Award for excellence in teaching Human Structure and Function 2 and Foundations of Disease. Dr. White also recieved a nomination from the Class of 2022 for his work teaching Human Disease Systems.

February 2020

New Italian Exchange Program Encourages Scientific Collaboration and Understanding

In the last few months, Drexel University College of Medicine and the University of Bologna in Italy have hosted students from each other’s institution to further future opportunities for research partnerships. Read more.

Exchange students from the DUniBo program between Drexel and the University of Bologna

Priscila Sato to Attend Translational Medicine Course

Priscila Sato, PhD, assistant professor, was selected to attend the Eureka Institute’s 12th annual international certificate course. The program will be held from March 29 to April 4 in Siracusa, Italy. Participants will analyze the business, scientific and regulatory aspects of translational medicine; explore the challenges professionals encounter in translational medicine; develop critical thinking skills to approach translational medicine's challenges; and develop communication skills for presenting complex scientific ideas to a broad spectrum of people.

Comprehensive NeuroAIDS Center Pilot Award

Jacqueline Barker, PhD, assistant professor, and Laura Giacometti, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Barker's lab, received a pilot award from the Comprehensive NeuroAIDS Center of the Department of Neuroscience at Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine. Their pilot project is “Sex Differences in HIV- and Cocaine-Induced Changes in Astrocyte Function and Reactivity.”

January 2020

Stacia Lewandowski Earns IBSN Travel Award

Stacia Lewandowski, a Pharmacology & Physiology PhD student working in the laboratory of Ole Mortensen, PhD, received a travel award from the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society to attend the society's 2020 annual meeting in Glasgow, Scotland. Recipients are given a cash award, certificate and waiver of registration fees to the meeting; they will present their research orally and in a poster session at the meeting.

2019 News

December 2019

W.W. Smith Grant Awarded to Drs. Hartsough and Jackson

Congratulations to Edward Hartsough, PhD, and Joshua Jackson, PhD, for receiving funding from the W.W. Smith Charitable Trust for their project “Organotypic brain slice co-culture for modeling melanoma brain metastasis.” The W.W. Smith Charitable Trust funds unique projects and researchers who have potential to compete for NIH grant funding.

Student Award Recipients

Congratulations to the following senior PhD students for receiving departmental awards:

  • 2019/2020 Mary Hoffman Shaw Travel Award presented to Jared Luchetta and Emily Nickoloff-Babel
  • 2019/2020 Benjamin Weiss Scholar Award presented to Ramanpreet Kaur
  • 2019 Chair’s Award presented to Stacia Lewandowski

Kudos to all!

DUniBo Kick-Off

The first two Drexel University College of Medicine student ambassadors (Julia Farnan and Anthony DiNatale) visited Bologna, Italy, as part of the Outlooking Scientist project recently awarded to Drs. Olimpia Meucci (Drexel) and Renato Brandimarti (University of Bologna). The goal of this project is to facilitate future international collaborations between the universities.

Employee Milestones

Kudos to the following department members for reaching their 10-year employment anniversaries this month:

  • Seena Ajit
  • Ole Mortensen
  • Liz Kopen

Dr. Meucci Joins National Academy of Inventors

Olimpia Meucci, MD, PhD, has been inducted into the National Academy of Inventors. A ceremony honoring all inductees will be held on April 10, 2020, in Phoenix, Arizona.

November 2019

Discovery Day 2019

The department was very well represented at Discovery Day, with numerous poster presentations and an excellent talk by Stacia Lewandowski, who was selected for one of the graduate student platform presentations. Department faculty and postdoctoral fellows generously offered their time as judges. Everyone contributed to the success of the event, helping to share cutting-edge research and support the department mission!

Department of Pharmacology & Physiology members who participated at Discovery Day 2019

Winners from our department at Discovery Day were:

  • Lauren Plyer Buck (Barker Lab) – Second place, technician poster presentation: Dissociation of glutamatergic inputs to the nucleus accumbens shell in the regulation of ethanol seeking behavior
  • Hannah Johnson (Gaskill Lab) – First place, undergrad poster presentation: High content analysis of the neuropathogenesis of HIV infection in the presence of dopamine
  • Ipek Eralp (Meucci Lab) – Second place, junior grad poster presentation: Morphine regulation of the iron-dependent protein ferritin heavy chain in cortical neurons: is there a role for the divalent metal transporter-1?
  • Xiaonan Liu (Toyooka Lab) – Third place, junior grad poster presentation: Glutathione S-transferase pi (Gstp) regulates cortical neurite formation in the developing brain

Participation by the numbers:

  • 1 platform presentation, PhD student
  • 25 posters:
    • 19 MS/PhD students
    • 3 postdocs
    • 2 technicians
    • 1 undergraduate

Platform Presentations

In vivo studies of the role of erk1/2 phosphatase MKP3 in dopaminergic neurons on cocaine associated behaviors, dopaminergic signaling and gene expression
S. Lewandowski (Mortensen Lab)

Posters

Investigating the influence of astrocytes and astrocytes-secreted factors in melanoma invasiveness
A. Alharbi (Hartsough Lab)

Development of oral formulation to boost ATP load in erythrocytes for protection from ionizing radiation
A. Arora (Polyak Lab)

Dissociation of glutamatergic inputs to the nucleus accumbens shell in the regulation of ethanol seeking behavior
PRIZE WINNER: L. Plyler-Buck (Barker Lab)

The androgen receptor regulates IL-1B expression in prostate cancer cells
A. DiNatale (Fatatis Lab)

Morphine regulation of the iron-dependent protein ferritin heavy chain in cortical neurons: Is there a role for the divalent metal transporter-1?
PRIZE WINNER: I. Eralp (Meucci Lab)

Gap junction formation between melanoma and astrocytes facilitation pro tumor phenotypes of melanoma brain metastasis
J. Farnan (Jackson Lab)

Astrocytic regulation of reward seeking in ethanol dependent female mice
L. Giacometti (Barker Lab)

Effects of the chemokine CXCL12 on expression of postsynaptic density protein 95 (PSD-95) in rat cortical neurons)
C. Ho (Meucci Lab)

Sex and estrous cycle differences in the effects of D2 agonism on PSA-NCAM expression
F. Huang (Barker Lab)

Polysialylation regulates CADMI tumor suppressive function
Z. Huang (Hartsough Lab)

Morphine increases ferritin heavy chain in cortical neurons by modulating iron release from endolysosomes
E. Irollo (Meucci Lab)

High content analysis of the neuropathogenesis of SIV infection in the presence of dopamine
PRIZE WINNER: H. Johnson (Gaskill Lab)

RGS2 mediates the effect of dietary lifestyle on uterine vascular function
J. Koch (Osei-Owusu Lab)

The role of small extracellular vesicles in chronic neuropathic pain
Z. Lin (Ajit Lab)

Glutathione S-transferase pi (Gstp) regulates cortical neurite formation in the developing brain
PRIZE WINNER: X. Liu (Toyooka Lab)

Examining CXCR4-induced dendritic spine changes using targeted CRISPR Cas knockdown in excitatory and inhibitory cortical neuron
J. Luchetta (Meucci Lab)

Dopamine-mediated conformational changes in CCR5 in HIV infection of myeloid cells
S. Matt (Gaskill Lab)

Signaling mechanisms underlying dopamine-induced increases in HIV entry into macrophages
E. Nickoloff-Bybel (Gaskill Lab)

Time-dependent hyperactivity of primary somatosensory and anterior cingulate cortical neurons in awake rats after spared nerve injury
M. Nothem

Regulation of pro-inflammatory chemokine CXCL5 by microRNA has-miR-605
R. Pande (Ajit Lab)

The role of glutamate transporters in neuroprotection after in vitro stroke and cocaine addiction in vivo
B. Patel (Mortensen Lab)

Changes in dendritic spines induced by morphine and B-amyloid in rat cortical neurons
E. Riggs (Meucci Lab)

Pancreatic GRK2 participates in glucose mediated responses and insulin signaling
J. Snyder (Sato Lab)

Structure/function studies of a dopamine transporter allosteric modulator and its analogs
Y. Xu (Mortensen Lab)

The role of cardiac GRK2 in metabolic substrate utilization in isolated adult cardiomyocytes
R. Zhai (Sato Lab)

October 2019

Stacia Lewandowski to Give Discovery Day Presentation

Stacia Lewandowski, a PhD student in the pharmacology and physiology graduate program, was one of five platform presenters to be highlighted in a news article about the College of Medicine's annual day of research, Discovery Day. Read the article.

Society for Neuroscience Meeting

Artistic image of the entryway to Society for Neuroscience 2019

The department was well represented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience this month, with 13 presentations from students, postdocs and faculty on a variety of topics. Members of the Ajit, Gaskill, Meucci, Mortensen and Van Bockstaele Labs shared their work on HIV-associated neurological complications, pain, stress disorders, addiction, traumatic brain injury and more.

Ajit Lab

  • Zhucheng Lin, third-year PhD candidate, presented a poster: “The role of small extracellular vesicles in chronic neuropathic pain,” authored by Lin, Renée Jean-Toussaint, Yuzhen Tian, Ahmet Sacan and Seena Ajit.

Gaskill Lab

  • Hannah S. Johnson, undergraduate researcher, presented a poster: “High content analysis of the neuropathogenesis of SIV infection in the presence of dopamine.”
  • Emily Nickoloff-Bybel, fourth-year PhD candidate, presented a poster: "Dopamine modulates HIV entry into macrophages via Ca2+-dependent signaling mechanisms.”
  • Stephanie M. Matt, PhD, postdoctoral researcher, presented a poster: “Role of Dopamine-Mediated Conformational Changes of CCR5 in HIV Infection of Macrophages.”
  • Peter J. Gaskill, PhD, assistant professor, presented a poster: “Role of dopamine in the modulation of macrophage-mediated inflammation: Implications for NeuroHIV and drug abuse.”

Meucci Lab

  • Elena Irollo, PhD, postdoctoral fellow, presented an abstract: “Morphine modulation of endolysosomal iron stores leads to FHC up regulation and dendritic spines deficits in cortical neurons.”
  • Renato Brandimarti, PhD, research faculty, presented an abstract: “A novel strategy to precisely target individual steps in the APP amyloidogenic processing.”
  • Jared Luchetta, third-year PhD candidate, presented an abstract: “Examining the contribution of excitatory and inhibitory neurons to CXCR4-induced dendritic spine changes using a lentiviral CRISPRi approach.”

Andreia Mortensen Lab

  • Jennifer Green, former Drug Discovery and Development student, and Andreia Mortensen, PhD, presented “Development of broad activity positive allosteric modulator of glial glutamate transporters EAAT1 and EAAT2.” This work was part of Green’s master's thesis, in which she studied a new component of a spider venom that regulates the activity of glial glutamate transporters, and had in vitro neuroprotective properties. In collaboration with chemists from The University of Zurich, the authors were able to elucidate the structure of this compound and to synthetize it.

Ole Mortensen Lab

  • Caitlyn Rice, recently graduated Drug Discovery and Development student, presented a poster: “Behavioral and biochemical studies of novel allosteric modulators of the dopamine transporter with therapeutic potential.”

Van Bockstaele Lab

The following posters were presented by members of the Van Bockstaele Lab:

  • “Ultrastructural localization of serotonergic 5-HT3 receptors in the rat locus coeruleus”
    Horrillo I, Reyes BAS, Lhamo, T., Sarder S, Van Bockstaele EJ
  • “Alcohol reduces the number of myelinated axons in the prefrontal cortex in male adolescent rats”
    Reyes BAS, Lhamo T, Salamanca J, Al-Sibai A, Bengston L, Silva-Gotay A, Tavares E, Richardson H, Van Bockstaele EJ
  • “Sex differences in corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) receptor trafficking in the locus coeruleus of mice conditionally overexpressing CRF; implications for amyloid beta distribution”
    Ross J, Reyes BAS, Risbrough V, Van Bockstaele EJ
  • “Sex differences in endocannabinoid system adaptation to noradrenergic depletion in the murine locus coeruleus”
    Van Bockstaele, EJ, Ross JA, Urquhart M, Chamem T, Thomas SA, Mackie K, Reyes BAS
Elena Irollo, Pharmacology & Physiology postdoctoral fellow, at 2019 Society for Neuroscience
Jared Luchetta, Pharmacology & Physiology third-year PhD candidate, at 2019 Society for Neuroscience
Jennifer Green, former Drug Discovery and Development student, and Andreia Mortensen, Pharmacology & Physiology faculty, at 2019 Society for Neuroscience
Rentao Brandimarti, PhD, Pharmacology & Physiology research faculty, at 2019 Society for Neuroscience

September 2019

Emily Nickoloff Receives Pre-doctoral Fellowship

Emily Nickoloff, third-year Pharmacology & Physiology graduate student, was appointed as a National Research Service Award (NRSA) pre-doctoral fellow on Drexel University’s Interdisciplinary and Translational Research Training Grant in NeuroAIDS, funded by the National Institutes of Health. Emily is mentored by Peter Gaskill, PhD.

Jennifer Koch Earns Research Fellowship

Congratulations to Jennifer Koch, PhD student in the Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics program, who is the recipient of a 2019-2020 Dean’s Fellowship for Excellence in Collaborative or Themed Research Award. This fellowship is designed to support PhD-track students with innovative research projects to further develop their research experience. These students will receive financial support for one year in the form of a scholarship, in addition to funds for supplies and/or travel. Jennifer is mentored by Patrick Osei-Owusu, PhD.

August 2019

Dr. Osei-Owusu Accepted to Attend AAMC Leadership Seminar

Patrick Osei-Owusu, PhD, was accepted to attend the AAMC Mid-Career Minority Faculty Leadership Seminar in October of this year. The seminar is designed to address the specific needs of mid-career minority faculty while offering skill enhancement and strategies for advancing the attendees' careers in academic medicine.

July 2019

Dr. Osei-Owusu to Serve NIH Study Section

Congratulations to Patrick Osei-Owusu, PhD, who has accepted an invitation to serve as a member of the Cardiac Contractility, Hypertrophy and Failure Study Section of the Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health. His term will last from July 1, 2019, until June 30, 2025. Members are selected based on their demonstrated competence and achievement in their scientific discipline, as evidenced by the quality of their research accomplishments, publications in scientific journals, and other significant scientific activities, achievements and honors.

June 2019

Anthony DiNatale Presents at Prostate Cancer Retreat

Anthony DiNatale, an MD/PhD student in the Fatatis Lab, presented his work during the Prostate Cancer Program Retreat, held by the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, on Friday June 28, 2019. The title of Anthony’s talk was "AR Regulates IL-1beta Expression in Prostate Cancer Cells.” It was part of the Basic-Translational Studies in Prostate Cancer session.

Anthony DiNatale, MD/PhD student in the Fatatis Lab, presenting at the Prostate Cancer Program Retreat

Department Well-Represented at Faculty Day

The College of Medicine's Faculty Professional Development Day was held on June 7. The department participated through presentations from several faculty members, as well as inclusion in expert panels on translational research.

Edward Hartsough, PhD, gave a talk on "Mechanisms of Melanoma Metastasis and Susceptibility to Targeted Inhibitors."

During the Faculty Leadership Implementation Plan (FLIP) poster session, Seena Ajit, PhD, presented “Increasing Drexel Presence and Student Participation at Local Scientific Meetings,” and Patrick Osei-Owusu, PhD, presented “Establishing a Center of Excellence for Multi-Disciplinary Cardiovascular Research.”

Alessandro Fatatis, MD, PhD, Peter Gaskill, PhD, and Olimpia Meucci, MD, PhD, participated in the speed networking event, discussing translational research with colleagues.

Dr. Ajit Appointed to NIH Study Section

Seena Ajit, PhD, has been appointed to the Somatosensory & Pain Systems Study Section at the Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health. She will serve as a member for a four-year term.

Dr. Giacometti's Research Honored

Laura Giacometti, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Jacqueline Barker’s lab, has received a Junior Investigator Award from the Research Society on Alcoholism. She will present her findings on "Sex Differences in the Effect of Chronic Alcohol Exposure on Inflexible Ethanol Reward Seeking in Mice" this June during the society's annual meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

May 2019

Dr. Shenoda's Research Honored

Botros Shenoda, MD, former graduate student of Seena Ajit, PhD, and current internal medicine resident at Drexel, had his abstract chosen for oral presentation in the Resident Original Research category for the 11th annual Department of Medicine Research Day, which was held on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. Dr. Shenoda won first prize for his presentation.

NIDA Funding for Dr. Barker

Congratulations to Dr. Jacqueline Barker, who has been awarded a two-year, R03 grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse for her project "Alterations in corticostriatal control of cocaine seeking in HIV infection."

Dr. Matt Receives Fellowship Award

Dr. Stephanie Matt, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Peter Gaskill’s lab, has been awarded a Brody Family Medical Trust Fund Fellowship from the Philadelphia Foundation. This funding will support Dr. Matt’s research in the field of "incurable diseases," specifically her project titled "Mechanisms of dopamine-mediated conformational changes in CCR5 in HIV infection of macrophages."

April 2019

Dr. Barker's Lab Publishes Research on Ethanol-Seeking

Dr. Jacqueline Barker and her lab have published their first article featuring research completed here at Drexel:

"Sex differences in ethanol reward seeking under conflict in mice"
Xie Q, Buck LA, Bryant KG, Barker JM
Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research (in press)

First author Qiaowei Xie is a Drug Discovery and Development student who will defend this spring; this work is part of her thesis. The study results show sex differences in ethanol-seeking under conflict, such that females exhibit more ethanol-seeking despite an aversive experience. The lab also shows sex-specific effects of chronic alcohol exposure, where ethanol-dependent females (but not males) exhibit more ethanol-seeking behavior in the absence of conflict but are also more sensitive to aversive experience than non-dependent females.

An early online view is available from Wiley Online Library.

Drexel Well-Represented at 25th Annual SNIP Conference

Several members of the department represented Drexel at the 25th Annual Society on NeuroImmune Pharmacology (SNIP) Conference in Portland, Oregon.

  • Dr. Peter Gaskill presented a talk at the 2019 NIDA Satellite Symposium on Unraveling NeuroAIDS in the Presence of Substance Abuse Disorder, titled "HIV Immunopathogenesis in the Presence of a Disrupted Dopaminergic System."
  • Dr. Stephanie Matt, postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Gaskill’s lab, presented a talk during the young investigators in training symposium, for which she won the young investigator award for outstanding presentation. Her talk was "Role of Dopamine-Mediated Conformational Changes Of Ccr5 in Primary Human Macrophages."
  • Three posters were presented by Dr. Gaskill’s lab at the meeting:
    • "Role of Dopamine in the Modulation of Macrophage-Mediated Inflammation: Implications for NeuroHIV and Drug Abuse"
      Rachel Nolan, Kaitlin Runner, Yi Rong, Peter J. Gaskill.
    • "Dopamine Modulates HIV Entry Into Macrophages via Ca2+-Dependent Signaling Mechanisms"
      Emily Nickoloff-Bybel, Philip Mackie, Kaitlyn Runner, Rachel Nolan, Stephanie Matt, Habibeh Khoshbouei, Peter J. Gaskill.
    • "Role of Dopamine-Mediated Conformational Changes of CCR5 in HIV infection of Macrophages"
      Stephanie M. Matt, Yi Rong, Margaret O’Connor, Nicholas Radio, Peter J. Gaskill.

Dr. Meucci's Grant Renewed

Congratulations to Dr. Meucci on the renewal of her NIDA R01 grant,"Effects of opiates on neurons and their impact on HIV neuropathology." This award, covering the next five years of research, will support studies in the Meucci Lab investigating mechanisms of opiate-induced neuronal dysfunction causing alteration of synaptic plasticity, which may contribute to HIV-associated neurocognitive impairment as well as other cognitive disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

March 2019

Stephanie Matt Receives Travel Award

Congratulations to Dr. Stephanie Matt, a postdoc in Dr. Peter Gaskill’s lab, who received a travel award to present a short talk at the upcoming Society for Neuroimmune Pharmacology Meeting Portland, Oregon, in April. Dr. Matt will talk about the impact of dopamine on CCR5 expression in macrophages.

Qiaowei Xie, Sex and Gender Research Forum

Qiaowei Xie Earns Poster Recognition

Kudos to Qiaowei Xie, a Drug Discovery & Development student in the Barker Lab, who received an Outstanding Graduate Student Poster award at the Drexel Sex & Gender Research Forum held March 13, 2019. Her abstract was titled "Sex difference in ethanol reward seeking under conflict in mice."

February 2019

Golden Apple Teaching Award Recipients

Two faculty members from the department have been selected to receive Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching. Michael White, PhD, received recognition from the MD program Class of 2022. Joel Horwitz, PhD, was honored by the MD program Class of 2021.

Seena Ajit Receives CURE Award

Faculty member Seena Ajit, PhD, has received a 2019 Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement (CURE) grant for her project "Macrophage-derived Exosomes as Pain Therapeutic for Spinal Cord Injury." Her co-investigator is Megan Detloff, PhD, Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy.

January 2019

New Award to Support Drexel/Bologna Student Exchange

Olimpia Meucci, MD, PhD, professor and chair, Department of Pharmacology & Physiology, received a grant from the University of Bologna, Italy, to support a project, The Student Ambassador, which is intended to foster scientific collaborations between the institutions. Up to two graduate students from Drexel and Bologna will travel abroad to spend eight to ten weeks working on a research project at each other's school. Learn more about the program.

2018 News

December 2018

Stacia Lewandowski Awarded Pre-doctoral Fellowship

Stacia Lewandowski, a PhD student in the laboratory of Ole Mortensen, PhD, received a pre-doctoral fellowship in pharmacology/toxicology from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Foundation. The award includes a stipend of $20,000 per year for two years, and is intended to provide support for students in advanced stages of training and thesis research, particularly those "whose research will attempt to integrate information on a drug or chemical’s mechanism of action at the molecular or cellular level with a drug’s effect in a human or laboratory animal."

October 2018

Pharmacology & Physiology at Discovery Day

The department was well represented at Discovery Day, the College of Medicine's annual day of research, with participation of trainees, staff and faculty.

Renee Jean-Toussaint won second place in outstanding platform presentations, and Stacia Lewandowski received second place in outstanding senior student poster presentations.

Congratulations to Renee and Stacia—and their mentors, Drs. Ajit and Dr. Mortensen respectively—for their much-deserved awards!

Ben Weiss and Mary Shaw Awards

The Ben Weiss Merit Award and the Mary Shaw Travel Award recognize the hard work and accomplishments of graduate students working in the department. Congratulations to the following students for receiving the 2018 – 2019 awards:

Ben Weiss Merit Award Recipient
Chen Qian

Mary Shaw Travel Award Recipients
Anthony DiNatale
Rachel Nolan

Many thanks to the selection committee (Seena Ajit, chair, and Jacqueline Barker and Ole Mortensen) for their thoughtful review of the applications for these awards.

September 2018

MERIT Award for Dr. Meucci

Olimpia Meucci, MD, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology & Physiology, has been selected by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to receive a Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) Award for a research grant application entitled "Role of chemokines in neuronal function and survival." The NIH MERIT Award was created by the National Institutes of Health in 1986. The program comprises an initial MERIT Award and the opportunity for a five-year extension, totaling up to 10 years of funding.

Less than 5% of NIH-funded investigators are selected to receive MERIT awards. The objective of this prestigious program is to provide long-term, stable support to investigators whose research competence and productivity are distinctly superior and who are likely to continue to perform in an outstanding manner. It is expected that the provision of this support will foster the investigator’s continued creativity and lessen the administrative burdens associated with the preparation and submission of regular research grant applications. Unlike most NIH grant awards, investigators cannot apply for the MERIT Award. Instead, candidates are nominated by the funding NIH institute from a large pool of competing award recipients and endorsed by the institute’s advisory council and director.

Congratulations to Dr. Meucci on receiving this prestigious award!

Welcome Drs. Hartsough & Jackson

The department welcomed its newest members, Edward Hartsough, PhD, and Joshua Jackson, PhD, on September 1.

Dr. Hartsough joins us from Thomas Jefferson University where he was a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Andrew Aplin. Dr. Hartsough’s research focuses on studying the role of cell adhesion molecule 1 (CADM1) in melanoma tumor progression.

Prior to joining our Department, Dr. Jackson held the position of scientist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in the lab of Dr. Michael Robinson. Dr. Jackson was involved in studying the regulation of glutamate transporters, with a main focus on calcium-dependent processes and mitochondria.

August 2018

Welcome New Students

The department welcomes the incoming classes, including eight students in the Pharmacology & Physiology programs (five PhD and three MS students) and nine students entering the Drug Discovery & Development (DDD) master’s program. The DDD group includes a Fulbright Scholar whose award is supported by the department. Additionally, there are 19 students enrolled in the DDD online program. Orientation sessions and research presentations were hosted in the department in August to introduce the students to their respective programs, peers and faculty mentors.

Pharm/Phys PhD

Shelby Dahlen
Alethia Edwards
Julia Farnan
Xiaonan Liu
Jonathan Snyder

Pharm/Phys MS

Ipek Eralp
Chunta Ho
Shunyi Zhao

DDD MS

Abeer Alharbi
Anmol Arora
Sofia Castelli
Fangi Huang
Zongguan Huang
Bhumi Patel
Neha Rana
Yibin Xu
Ruxu Zhai

New NIH Award for Dr. Van Bockstaele

Congratulations to co-PI Dr. Elisabeth Van Bockstaele who, along with her collaborator, Dr. Steven Thomas (University of Pennsylvania), received a two-year NIH R21 award for their project entitled “Norepinephrine: A Novel Regulator of Amyloid Beta-42 Peptides.”

Postdoc Sujay Ramanathan to Speak at 2018 Gordon Research Seminar on Extracellular Vesicles

Sujay Ramanathan, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in Seena Ajit's laboratory, was selected to present an abstract at the 2018 Gordon Research Seminar on Extracellular Vesicles. Dr. Ramanathan's research is titled "Role of immune cell-derived exosomes in chronic pain and inflammation."

A Cure for Cancer's Spread?

A drug compound in development at Drexel would give breast cancer patients the gift of precious time, by keeping metastatic cells from seeding deadly new tumors. Read more in Exel: Drexel University's Research Magazine (2018).

July 2018

Funding Continues for Dr. Meucci

Congratulations to Dr. Meucci on the awarding of her project entitled “Role of chemokine receptors in neuronal function and survival,” which is now entering its 16th year of funding from the NIH. This award, covering the next five years of research, will support studies in the Meucci Lab investigating the mechanism whereby the CXCL12/CXCR4 chemokine/receptor axis regulates spatiotemporal expression of dendritic spines in prefrontal cortex neurons and the resulting effect on cognitive function. Additionally, the proposed studies will determine how opioids and HIV impact this pathway and shed light on the relationship of the observed spine changes with HIV-associated cognitive decline.

Faculty Promotions

Congratulations to Drs. Seena Ajit and Patrick Osei-Owusu for their well-deserved promotions to associate professor in the department, effective July 1, 2018!

June 2018

Faculty Professional Development Day Honors for Dr. Osei-Owusu

Patrick Osei-Owusu, PhD, received a Young Investigator Award, which was presented during Faculty Professional Development Day on June 1. Dr. Osei-Owusu also presented a "Faculty Snip-It" to attendees at the event.

May 2018

Faculty Presentations at Neuroscience Retreat

During the Neuroscience Retreat and Research Day held on May 16, 2018, at Queen Lane, the following Pharmacology & Physiology faculty presented:

  • Seena Ajit, PhD: “A protective role for exosomes derived from macrophages in attenuation of pain”
  • Huijuan Hu, PhD: “Store-operated calcium channels and pain plasticity”

Teaching Award for Dr. Mathiasen

Dr. Joanne Mathiasen has won the teaching award for the Division of Interdisciplinary and Career-Oriented Programs within the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professional Studies. She received the award at a reception at the Logan on May 10, 2018.

April 2018

Thesis Defense

Congratulations to Lindsay Festa, who successfully defended her thesis entitled “Defining the molecular pathways involved in CXCL12-mediated rescue of dendritic spines and cognitive deficits in an animal model of neuroHIV” on April 4. Lindsay is a former graduate student of Dr. Olimpia Meucci and will be doing postdoctoral work in Dr. Meucci’s lab.

SNIP Meeting and Presentations

Members of the Barker, Gaskill and Meucci Labs attended the 2018 Annual Society on NeuroImmune Pharmacology Meeting held in Chicago, Illinois, at the Swissotel Chicago. Presentations included:

  • Abstract (Gaskill Lab): Alternative Dopamine Signaling in Macrophages Mediates Increased HIV Infection
  • Abstract (Gaskill Lab): Role of macrophage dopamine receptors in mediating cytokine production and neuroinflammation
  • Abstract (Meucci Lab): Amyloid precursor protein processing can be altered with molecular tools containing the raft targeting protein US9 from Herpes Simplex Virus: Implications for HAND
  • Abstract (Meucci Lab): Recovery of thin spine density is essential for rescuing cognitive function in a rodent model of HAND: role of the chemokine CXCL12 and the Rac1/PAK pathway

March 2018

Welcome Dr. Sato

The department welcomes its newest member, Priscila Sato, PhD. Dr. Sato joins us from Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine where she was a research instructor in the Center for Translational Biology. Dr. Sato studies the role of the G-protein coupled receptor kinase 2 in the mitochondrion.

NeuroAIDS Grant for Dr. Gaskill

Congratulations to Peter Gaskill, PhD, who has received a Comprehensive NeuroAIDS Center Pilot Grant Award for his project entitled “Evaluating the interaction of dopamine and microglia in HIV-associated neuroinflammation”

February 2018

Publication from Kim Lab

Christina Maher, graduate student in Felix Kim’s lab, first authored an article published in Molecular Cancer Research. It was a select highlighted article for the February 2018 issue and a figure from the article was the issue’s cover image:

Drs. Osei-Owusu and Tom Receive RO1 Award

A grant submitted by Drs. Patrick Osei-Owusu (Pharmacology & Physiology) and Veronica Tom (Neurobiology & Anatomy) was selected for funding by the National Advisory Neurological Disorders and Stroke Council. This is an R01, multi-year award.

January 2018

Dr. Kim Quoted in the Inquirer

Felix Kim, PhD, was mentioned in a Philadelphia Inquirer story about the sale of Argo Therapeutics to Context Therapeutics, the startup pharmaceutical company that Kim co-founded in 2015. Context is developing drugs to treat prostate and metastatic breast cancers.

Dr. Hu's Publication Reaches Key Milestone

Dr. Huijuan Hu’s article “Orai1 and Orai3 Mediate Store-Operated Calcium Entry Contributing to Neuronal Excitability in DRG Neurons,” published in December 2017 in Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, reached the important milestone of over 1,000 total views this month. Frontiers in Neuroscience is the most cited and largest open-access publisher of neuroscience articles. Congratulations to the Hu Lab!

2017 News

December 2017

Grant for Dr. Osei-Owusu

Dr. Patrick Osei-Owusu was awarded an NIH R01 grant for his project “In Vivo Mechanisms of Integrated G Protein Signaling Regulation by RGS Proteins.”

October 2017

Discovery Day Winners

Congratulations to the following students who received honors for their posters at this year's Discovery Day:

  • Ayush Parikh: First Place, Outstanding Undergraduate Poster
    Mentor: Seena Ajit, PhD
  • Sneha Kamarajugadda: Honorable Mention, Outstanding Undergraduate Poster
    Mentor: Huijuan Hu, PhD
  • Lindsay Festa: First Place, Barry Waterhouse Outstanding Platform Presentation
    Mentor: Olimpia Meucci, MD, PhD

Dr. Oyer Wins STAT News Wunderkind Award

STAT — a Boston-based national publication focused on science and health news — has named Halley Oyer, PhD, one of the "brightest young minds in life science." Oyer is a College of Medicine postdoc working in the laboratory of Felix Kim, PhD. Read more.

Dr. Mathiasen Serves as NASA Panel Reviewer

Joanne Mathiasen, PhD, served as a reviewer on a NASA Space Radiation-CNS Degeneration panel on October 3. The NASA Human Exploration Research Opportunities (HERO) research call solicits proposals for ground-based research that will provide the basis for accurate risk quantification reflective of the astronaut population; establish the validity of permissible exposure limits; and investigate in-flight cognitive and behavioral central nervous system risks, and biomedical countermeasures for in-flight and late central nervous system decrements resulting from exposure to space radiation. Dr. Mathiasen is very honored to have been selected to serve on this panel.

September 2017

Dr. Osei-Owusu Approved as AHA Fellow

Congratulations to Patrick Osei-Owusu, PhD, whose nomination as a fellow of the American Heart Association (FAHA) was approved at the conclusion of the 2017 Council on Hypertension Scientific Session in San Francisco, California, on September 17, 2017.

Dr. Campbell Receives ACS Award

Congratulations to Paul Campbell, PhD, whose application, "Small molecule inhibition of fractalkine:CX3CR1 chemokine signaling in malignant pancreatic ductal cancer," has been selected as an awardee for the American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant (ACS-IRG).

August 2017

Dr. Meucci Receives Funding

Congratulations to Olimpia Meucci, MD, PhD, on her successful application, "Determine whether stimulation of the chemokine/receptor axis CXCL12/CXCR4 can rescue dendritic spine deficits and neurocognitive dysfunction in animal models of schizophrenia," which has been funded through the Helen S. Vernik Schizophrenia Pilot Research Project Grant.

Dr. Singh Elected to Research Conference Leadership

We are excited to announce that Harpreet Singh, PhD, has been elected as vice chair of the Gordon Research Conference for 2019 and chair for 2021.

Dr. Ajit Receives NIH Grant

Seena Ajit, PhD, has been awarded an NIH R01 grant for her project entitled "Exosome-mediated signaling in neuropathic pain." Kudos and congratulations to Dr. Ajit!

July 2017

Coulter-Drexel Funding

Our congratulations are extended to the project team of Alessandro Fatatis, MD, PhD, and Olimpia Meucci, MD, PhD, who have received funding through the Coulter-Drexel Translational Research Partnership for their project entitled "New small molecule compounds for the therapy of metastatic breast cancer."

Master's Thesis Defense

Please join us in congratulating Erica Dalla, a master’s student in the Cancer Biology program, who completed her research with Olimpia Meucci, MD, PhD, chair, Department of Pharmacology & Physiology. On Monday, July 17, Erica successfully defended her thesis entitled “Investigating the Role of the Chemokine Receptor CX3CR1 in Metastatic Inflammatory Breast Cancer.”

Dr. Ponnalagu Receives American Heart Association Award

Congratulations to Devasena Ponnalagu, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Harpreet Singh’s lab. Dr. Ponnalagu has received the American Heart Association AWRP Winter 2017 Postdoctoral Fellowship Award for her project entitled "Splice variant chloride intracellular channel (CLIC) 5B determines mitochondrial localization and function of CLIC5." This is a two-year award.

Faculty Promotion

Congratulations to Harpreet Singh, PhD for his promotion to associate professor. Dr. Singh has been with the Department since May 2013.

Dr. Ajit Receives Mary DeWitt Pettit Fellowship

Seena Ajit, PhD, is one of two recipients of the 2017 Mary DeWitt Pettit MD Fellowship. This $10,000 fellowship supports research or other special projects of junior female faculty members at Drexel University College of Medicine. It is intended to provide the recipient with the opportunity to acquire additional credentials necessary to advance in academic rank. Dr. Ajit's project is entitled "The Role of X-Linked Long Non-coding RNA in Chronic Pain Disorders with Female Predominance."

May 2017

Dr. Singh Honored at Graduate School Awards

Each year, Faculty members of the Graduate School for Biomedical Science and Professional Studies are recognized for their outstanding research accomplishments and contributions to graduate education. Harpreet Singh, PhD, received the Early Investigator Award during this year’s ceremony, held on May 11 at The Logan. Congratulations to Dr. Singh for this recognition!

Recipients of the Graduate School of Biomedical Science and Professional Studies faculty awards

April 2017

Brody Fellowship

Shaili Aggarwal, postdoctoral fellow in Ole Mortensen's laboratory, was selected as a recipient of the Brody Family Medical Trust Fund fellowship for medical research in incurable diseases. The prestigious fellowships fund up to two consecutive years for full-time postdoctoral fellows in the early stages of their research into cutting-edge treatments. The fellowships were created to support local research into diseases that have a substantial societal impact and for which no consistently effective cure presently exists.

Shaili's research focuses on the development of alternative treatments for cocaine addiction by targeting a novel functional site within the dopamine transporter that is distinct from the cocaine binding site.

Golden Apple Awards

Class of 2019 Golden Apple nominees, and Michael White, PhD, receiving his Golden Apple Award
The 2017 Golden Apple Awards: (L) nominees for awards from the Class of 2019, and (R) Michael White, PhD, receiving his Golden Apple from a member of the Class of 2019.

Successful Thesis Defense

Congratulations to Bradley Nash, PhD, who successfully defended his PhD thesis, “Intracellular Iron Is Involved in Opioid-Induced Changes of the Ferritin Heavy Chain Protein in Cortical Neurons.”

Success and Honors at SNIP

Drs. Peter Gaskill and Olimpia Meucci received the Outstanding Service and Support Award from the Society of Neuroimmune Pharmacology (SNIP). The award is given in recognition of extraordinary service in facilitating the operations of society initiatives and was presented during the 23rd SNIP Annual Conference, held in Philadelphia March 29 – April 1, 2017. This year's event was the largest SNIP meeting so far and received extraordinary support from several institutions, including a broad representation from Drexel University.

Drs. Meucci and Gaskill served, respectively, as chair of the Local Organizing & Scientific Committee and vice-chair of the Meetings Committee. Several other members of the Drexel community contributed to the success of the meeting. The conference featured:

  • An opening presentation by Dr. Ana Nunez, associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion at Drexel University College of Medicine, titled "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroimmune Pharmacology: A Mentoring Challenge"
  • Poster and oral presentations by Drexel students and faculty (view program for details [PDF])
  • A special symposium on neuroinflammation and CNS disorder
  • A closing event dedicated to academic drug discovery, which was presented by Dr. Paul McGonigle and included as guest speakers Drs. Katherine Jordan (Coulter program director, Drexel University), Sandhya Kortagere (associate professor of microbiology and immunology, DUCOM) and Michael Wood (principal, Neupharm, LLC).

Outstanding support for the conference came from both Drexel University College of Medicine and Drexel University College of Arts and Science. Special thanks go to Drs. Brian Wigdahl, Elisabeth Van Bockstaele, Itzhak Fisher and John Bethea for supporting training and scientific activities at the SNIP 2017 conference.

Olimpia Meucci receiving her Outstanding Service and Support Award from the Society of Neuroimmune Pharmacology (SNIP)
Peter Gaskill receiving his Outstanding Service and Support Award from the Society of Neuroimmune Pharmacology (SNIP)

Drs. Meucci and Gaskill receive recognition for their service and support of the 23rd SNIP Annual Conference.

March 2017

Drs. Fatatis and Kim to Present at Coulter Forum

Congratulations to Alessandro Fatatis, MD, PhD, and his team (Kerberos Biopharmaceuticals)* and Felix Kim, PhD, and his team (Context Therapeutics)* whose projects were selected for presentation at the Coulter Investment Forum being held in Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti, Michigan, May 16-17, 2017.  The teams will present their work, which is supported in part by the Coulter-Drexel Translational Research Awards:

  • Fatatis/Kerberos project: “New Small Molecule Compounds for the Therapy of Metastatic Cancer
  • Kim/Context project: “Lead Optimization of Sigma1 Inhibitor for Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer

*For more information about the Drexel-Coulter program or Kerberos/Context start-ups, please visit: drexel.edu/coulter/startups/overview

February 2017

Dr. Kim and Colleagues Publish in Cancer Research

Congratulations to Felix Kim, PhD, and his group, who recently published a new study in the journal Cancer Research. This work sheds light on a key mechanism of prostate cancer progression and was done in collaboration with Dr. Karen E. Knudsen, director of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center (SKCC) and chair of cancer biology at Thomas Jefferson University. The publication is entitled "Sigma1 Targeting to Suppress Aberrant Androgen Receptor Signaling in Prostate Cancer" (Thomas, JD, et al, Cancer Research [9.329] February 24, 2017).

January 2017

Dr. Fatatis Awarded Breast Cancer Grant

Alessandro Fatatis, MD, PhD, has been awarded a 2017 Breast Cancer Alliance Exceptional Project Grant for his work on metastatic cancer. Congratulations to Dr. Fatatis and his collaborators!

Dr. Meucci Receives Visiting Fellowship

Congratulations to Olimpia Meucci, MD, PhD, who was awarded a senior visiting fellowship at the Institute of Advanced Studies of the Alma Mater Studiorum, University of Bologna, Italy. The fellowship will enable Dr. Meucci to foster international interdisciplinary collaborations as well as new academic programs.

Successful Thesis Defense

Congratulations to Botros Shenoda, MD, PhD, who successfully defended his PhD thesis, “A Role for XIST in the Regulation of Inflammatory Response by Female Cells.”

2016 News

December 2016

New Faculty Positions Available

The Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at Drexel University College of Medicine announces the opening of two tenure-track faculty positions, with an anticipated start date of July 1, 2017. Read more [PDF].

Drs. Meucci and Gaskill Chair SNIP 2017

Olimpia Meucci, MD, PhD, is serving as committee chair for the upcoming Society on NeuroImmune Pharmacology (SNIP) international conference this spring. Peter Gaskill, PhD, is associate chair of the committee. Graduate School Dean Elisabeth Van Bockstaele and Microbiology Chair Brian Wigdahl are also serving on the leadership for the event. Learn more about SNIP 2017.

November 2016

Drs. Campbell and Singh Receive W.W. Smith Grants

Paul Campbell, PhD, and Harpreet Singh, PhD, are recipients of grants from the W.W. Smith Charitable Trust. Dr. Campbell's project is "Targeting a K-Ras-HuR Signaling Loop in Malignant Pancreatic Cancer." Dr. Singh's project is entitled "Regulation of Cardiac BKCaChannels and Their Role in Cardioprotection From Ischemia-Reperfusion Injury." The W.W. Smith Charitable Trust is a foundation that supports medical research primarily in the fields of heart disease, cancer and AIDS.

October 2016

Honors and Recognition at Upcoming Meetings

Second-year PhD student Stacia Lewandowski (Mortensen Lab) was selected from the poster submissions for an oral presentation of her work at the 2016 Mid-Atlantic Pharmacology Society Annual Meeting.

Shaili Aggarwal, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the Mortensen Lab, received a 2016 NIDA Diversity Scholar Travel Award to participate in the annual Society for Neuroscience Meeting. Dr. Andreia Mortensen's group was selected to present a Neuroscience 2016 Hot Topic at the same meeting, which will be held November 12–16. Their presentation is entitled "Neuroprotective properties of novel positive allosteric modulators of EAAT2."


Drs. Harpreet Singh and Patrick Osei-Owusu with their certificates

Excellence Recognized at AHA Dinner

Drs. Patrick Osei-Owusu and Harpreet Singh both received Certificates of Research Excellence from the American Heart Association at a dinner held on October 20, 2016.


Discovery Day Awards

The department would like to congratulate the following individuals for placing at this year's Discovery Day, the College of Medicine's annual day of research, held this year at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on October 20, 2016:

Outstanding Medical Student Poster: Honorable Mention
Aaron Wengrofsky | Mentor: Harpreet Singh

Outstanding Clinical Resident/Fellow Research Poster: First Place
Matthew Meleka | Mentor: Patrick Osei-Owusu

Outstanding Clinical Resident/Fellow Research Poster: Honorable Mention
Shontreal Cooper | Mentor: Patrick Osei-Owusu

Outstanding Senior Graduate Student Poster: Third Place
Lindsay Festa | Mentor: Olimpia Meucci

Outstanding Postdoctoral Fellow Poster: First Place
Devasena Ponnalagu | Mentor: Harpreet Singh

Outstanding Undergraduate Poster: First Place
Ayush Parikh | Mentor: Seena Ajit

In addition, Frances Munoz, PhD, postodoctoral fellow in Dr. Huijuan Hu's lab, was commended for her video on how to prepare a poster. Kudos as well to Botros Shenoda, MD, graduate student in Dr. Seena Ajit's lab, who was selected for platform presentation and delivered a very engaging and informative talk.


Fatatis Recognized by Kimmel Cancer Center

Alessandro Fatatis, MD, PhD, received the  Director’s Outstanding Investigator Award from the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center. This award recognizes Sandro’s unique contribution to the leadership and research mission of the SKCC and his critical role in spearheading a number of fruitful collaborations among members of the Center and other local institutions including, of course, Drexel University College of Medicine.


Nolan Named Predoctoral Fellow

Rachel Nolan (a Neuroscience PhD student in the Meucci Lab) was recently appointed as a National Research Service Award (NRSA) predoctoral fellow on Drexel University’s Interdisciplinary and Translational Research Training Grant in NeuroAIDS, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Mental Health grant T32-MH079785).


Coulter Funding Received

Drs. Andreia Mortensen, Ole Mortensen and Joseph Salvino who received a $12,000 award from the Coulter program for the in-life, plasma and brain exposure studies (oral and IV) and ADME assays, for GT949 and GT939.

September 2016

Mary Hoffman Shaw

Mary Shaw Memorial Travel Award

In 2005, the Department of Pharmacology & Physiology established the Mary Shaw Memorial Travel Award in honor of Dr. Mary Hoffman Shaw, assistant professor of pharmacology and physiology, who passed away on May 20, 2004, after a battle with metastatic breast cancer.

As a faculty member, Dr. Shaw devoted the bulk of her efforts to the education of medical and graduate students, and served as co-director of the first-year Medical Physiology and Graduate Physiology courses. The travel award provides support for up to four graduate students in the department to present their research at a national meeting.

Congratulations go out to the following individuals who received awards this year:

  • Bradley Nash, PhD student (Dr. Olimpia Meucci, mentor)
  • Jennifer Ross, PhD student (Dr. Elisabeth Van Bockstaele, mentor)

Please contact Carmen Cruz-Adames, cc74@drexel.edu, for more information on the application process.

Anyone interested in making a contribution to the Mary Shaw Memorial Travel Award Fund should contact Liz Kopen at ek33@drexel.edu.


Welcome New Students!

The department is pleased to welcome the following students to our programs in 2016:

Pharmacology & Physiology PhD Program
Yixiao Mei
Emily Nickoloff
Gordon Hill (MD/PhD Program)
Catherine Theilen (MD/PhD Program)

Pharmacology & Physiology MS Program
Maggie Johnson
Xiaonan Liu

Drug Discovery & Development MS Program
Mariam Archer
Tyler Bernadyn
Guangyou Lu
Ziyan Ma
Qianman Peng

August 2016

Dr. Meucci Receives NIH R21 Grant

Olimpia Meucci, MD, PhD, received an R21 grant from the NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse for her project "Effects of HIV-1 neurotoxins on lipid rafts-associated proteins."

Drs. Fatatis and Meucci Receive NIH R01 Grant

Alessandro Fatatis, MD, PhD, and Olimpia Meucci, MD, PhD, received an R01 grant from the National Cancer Institute of the NIH for a project titled "Role of CX3CR1 in breast cancer metastasis."

July 2016

Faculty Promotions

Congratulations to Ole Mortensen, PhD, and Huijuan Hu, PhD, for their promotions to associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at Drexel University College of Medicine! Drs. Mortensen and Hu joined our faculty in 2009 and 2010, respectively, and are highly engaged in the research and educational mission of the department.

Grants Awarded to Dr. Osei-Owusu

Patrick Osei-Owusu, PhD, has been awarded an AHA Scientist Development Grant. This is a four-year grant examining the role of RGS2 in myogenic tone regulation. Dr. Osei-Owusu has also been selected to receive the AHA Kidney Council Young Investigator Award, which will be presented to at the AHA annual meeting in September. This award is related to his work on the role of elastin insufficiency in hypertension development and chronic kidney disease.

June 2016

Melissa Manners and Seena Ajit Recognized in Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN)

Recent Pharmacology & Physiology PhD program graduate Melissa Manners was quoted in Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN) about her research into the role of epigenetics in chronic pain. Her thesis advisor and co-author, Seena Ajit, was also quoted in the article. Read the article on the GEN website or the original research paper from the journal Epigenetics & Chromatin.

Coulter-Drexel Translational Research Funds Received

The department scored very well in the latest round of funding from the Coulter-Drexel Translational Research Partnership Program, which is dedicated to improving human health care by supporting translational research. 

Two projects in the Department of Pharmacology & Physiology have been awarded funds:

  • New Small Molecule Compounds for the Therapy of Metastatic Cancer
    PIs/Co-PIs: Fatatis, Meucci, Salvino
  • Lead Optimization Of Sigma1 Inhibitor For Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer
    PIs/Co-PIs: Kim, Salvino

May 2016

Dr. Singh Receives Two Grants

Harpreet Singh, PhD, received an American Heart Association grant for his project, "Role and Mechanism of Mitochondrial Chloride Intracellular Channel 5 in Cardioprotection." He also received a five-year R01 award from NIH for "Chloride Intracellular Channels in Cardiac Mitochondria and Their Direct Role in Cardioprotection."

Department Retreat Poster

(click to enlarge)

Department Retreat

The Department of Pharmacology & Physiology held a two-day retreat where faculty had an opportunity to share their research, present educational initiatives and lead student-focused activities.

The retreat was held on May 9 and 10 at The Hub Commerce Square on Market Street in downtown Philadelphia.

Faculty Honored with Graduate School Awards

Attendees of the 2016 Graduate School Awards

Three Pharmacology & Physiology faculty members received Graduate School Faculty Awards:

  • Alessandro Fatatis, MD, PhD: ICO - Mentoring Award, MS Career-Oriented Programs
  • Seena Ajit, PhD: DBS - Mentoring Award, PhD Programs
  • Ole Valente Mortensen, PhD: Outstanding Researcher Awards - New and Early Stage Investigator(s)

Dr. Mathiasen Awarded PEG Grant

Joanne Mathiasen, PhD, received a 2016-2017 Professional Enrichment and Growth (PEG) Grant from Drexel. Her award will be used to attend online training, workshops and conferences to learn about emerging techniques in online instruction.

Botros Shenoda Receives Dean's Fellowship

Pharmacology & Physiology PhD student Botros Shenoda was awarded a Dean's Fellowship for Excellence in Collaborative or Themed Research. This fellowship is designed to support PhD-track students with innovative research projects to further develop their research experience. Botros will receive financial support for one year in the form of a scholarship, in addition to funds for supplies and/or travel.

Dr. Campbell Receives PhRMA Foundation Award, April 2016

Paul Campbell, PhD, was chosen by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) Foundation as a recipient of a Research Starter Grant in Translational Medicine and Therapeutics. The award provides $100,000 for a one-year period.

April 2016

8th Annual Julius Axelrod Symposium

Dr. Mortensen Gives Invited Talk

Ole Mortensen, PhD, was invited to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to present a talk at the 8th Annual Julius Axelrod Symposium. Dr. Mortensen's talk was "Novel ways of modulating monoamine transporter function."



Golden Apple Award winners Joel Horwitz and Michael White

Golden Apple Awards

Congratulations to the following members of our teaching faculty who were recipients of 2016 Golden Apple Awards:

March 2016

Successful Thesis Defenses

We would like to congratulate the following department graduate students for successfully defending their thesis:

  • Hillevi Ets, PhD – defended March 17, 2016
  • Melissa Manners, PhD – defended March 18, 2016
  • Fei Shen, PhD – defended March 31, 2016

CURE Grant Awardees

Congratulations to the following faculty members, who received CURE Tobacco Formula Funds:

  • Shubha Gururaja Rao, PhD, MSc, for "Role of chloride Intracellular Channel (CLIC) in regulating mitochondrial structure/function and life span" (co-investigator: Harpreet Singh, PhD, MSc)
  • Patrick Osei-Owusu, PhD, for "Functional Profiling of Novel Tools for Dissecting Pathophysiological Mechanisms of Cardiovascular Disorders" (co-investigator: Huijuan Hu, PhD)
  • Andréia C.K. Mortensen, PhD, for "Novel allosteric modulator of glutamate transporter EAAT2 for neuroprotection after brain trauma" (co-investigator: Joseph M. Salvino, PhD)

February 2016

Career Development Grant Winner

Peter Gaskill, PhD, was awarded a Drexel University Career Development Grant. These awards are designed to help faculty increase their exposure to colleagues at other institutions who can be collaborators and role models while introducing outside scholars to faculty at Drexel. The program provides funding for Drexel faculty to develop networks, nationally or internationally, with colleagues whose work complements activities at Drexel.

 
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Elements of a laboratory experiment.