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Department of Pharmacology & Physiology 2020 News Archive

December 2020

Dr. Klase Quoted in an Article from the Inquirer

Dr. Zachary Klase provided context for an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer called “Why the new COVID-19 mutations might not be as scary as you think.”

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

Faculty Receive CURE Grants

Dr. Priscila Sato and Dr. Jacqueline Barker were each awarded funding from the Pennsylvania CURE grant program. Dr. Sato’s award will support her project “Unraveling the Role of GRK2 in Diabetic Pancreases and Hearts” in collaboration with Dr. Longjian Liu, faculty in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. Dr. Barker’s award will support her project “Targeting the Glutamate System to Reduce Binge Eating Following Alcohol Dependence” in collaboration with Dr. Jessica Barson, faculty in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy.

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.

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Elements of a laboratory experiment.