Dr. Sonia Lobo Planey
Interim Associate Dean for Research
Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine, Scranton PA

Development of Mechanism-Based Therapeutic Interventions for Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis is a bladder condition marked by thinning and/or ulceration of the epithelial lining, causing pain and discomfort that is often chronic and severe.  IC is frequently misdiagnosed due to complex presentation, and it is also complicated to treat, as the etiology remains unknown and treatment is limited to symptom management.  Antiproliferative factor (APF) is a glycopeptide produced specifically in the bladders of IC patients that causes characteristic pathological changes observed in IC, including inhibited cell proliferation, reduced epithelial growth factor production, and altered expression of genes involved in cell adhesion (1,2). Importantly, APF’s effects on bladder cell proliferation and altered gene expression require its cellular receptor, cytoskeleton associated protein 4 (CKAP4), as CKAP4 knockdown desensitizes cells to APF activity (3-7); however, the underlying mechanism responsible for APF signal transduction by CKAP4 remains largely unknown. In this study, SPR revealed specific binding of APF to the CKAP4 extracellular domain (Aa 127–524).  We determined that the CKAP4127-360 and CKAP4361-524 mutants exhibit improved binding activity to APF as compared to the full-length extracellular domain, making it possible to detect low concentrations of as-APF in urine, thereby establishing a foundation for a non-invasive diagnostic assay for IC.  Further, these data have revealed novel APF binding site(s) suggesting that targeting this region of CKAP4 to inhibit APF binding may be a useful strategy for treating IC-related bladder pathology.

Sonia Planey, Ph.D. is a tenured Associate Professor of Biochemistry in the Department of Basic Sciences at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine in Scranton, PA and is currently serving as the Interim Associate Dean for Research. Dr. Planey received her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and completed her postdoctoral training at the University of Florida. She has also held industry positions at Medarex Inc., in Bloomsbury, NJ and at Genaera Corporation in Plymouth Meeting, PA as well as editorial positions at BioCentric, Inc., JK Associates, and for the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) Magazine.  Her areas of research expertise are in signal transduction, palmitoylation, and cancer biology with a specific focus on the signaling networks under the control of the CKAP4 gene that are important to cancer and interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome.

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Dr. Terry Sweeney
Department Chair of Biology
University of Scranton, Scranton PA

The Scranton Cardiovascular Model – clarifying cardiovascular function in scientific and clinical settings.

We have invented a computer-driven mechanical model of the cardiovascular system for teaching cardiovascular physiology in both the basic science and clinical settings. The highly visual and hands-on approach of the model facilitates mastering of cardiovascular concepts by revealing to the user elements of the cardiovascular system that are typically hidden from view.  The ability to easily model a number of clinical scenarios, including cardiac valve dysfunction, expands the utility of the model beyond the undergraduate laboratory setting and into the realm of clinical cardiovascular dysfunction. A variety of cardiovascular conditions will be demonstrated to illustrate how the model may be used in a wide array of instructional settings.

Terrence E. Sweeney, Ph.D. is Professor and Chair of Biology at The University of Scranton.  Dr. Sweeney received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and physics from Colgate University and his masters and Ph.D. in biophysics from the University of Rochester. He joined the University of Scranton faculty in 1992. His research and teaching interests include cardiovascular and microvascular physiology, cardiovascular modeling, and the physiology of human performance.

Dr. Sweeney’s efforts to integrate his research expertise and his passion for teaching led to the development of the Scranton Cardiovascular Model, a mechanical model of the cardiovascular system that enables trainees to investigate critical concepts of cardiovascular physiology. The computer-driven, mechanical model illuminates the operation and roles played by the key elements of the cardiovascular system. Recent advances in the model, such as the ability to incorporate dysfunctional cardiac valves, has increased its utility in the clinical setting.

In 2012, in recognition of his invention, the American Physiological Society presented Dr. Sweeney with the ADInstruments Macknight Progressive Educator Award. In addition, in 2014, he was awarded third place in tecBRIDGE’s Business Plan Competition for his plan for marketing the model.

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Dr. Lisa Antoniacci
Marywood University, Scranton PA

Do Chromosome Dynamics Revolve around the SUN?  A Characterization of the SUN-domain Protein Mps3 and Its Implications in Human Disease.

The yeast nuclear envelope protein Mps3 is a SUN-domain protein found conserved in higher order eukaryotic organisms including humans.  Mps3 functions in several aspects of chromosome metabolism and dynamics such as sister chromatid cohesion, telomere clustering, and DNA damage repair. Mps3 physically and functionally interacts with many chromosome associated proteins to perform its role in chromosome dynamics.  In yeast, defects in Mps3 lead to several dire consequences for the cell, such as misregulation of the cell cycle, aneuploidy, and cell death.  The chromosome associated proteins that Mps3 physically and functionally interact with are linked to human diseases such as Roberts Syndrome, Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, Warsaw Breakage Syndrome, and a variety of cancers. Our lab is interested in characterizing the function of Mps3 with these proteins to determine its role in yeast as well as higher order eukaryotic cells.

Dr. Jillian Conte Fesolovich
Forensic Biology in NEPA: Collaborations, Research, & Education
The field of forensic biology is growing every day to keep up with changing laws and standards in the United States. With increasing sensitivities of instrumentation and methods, a full genetic profile can be obtained from a few skin cells left behind from coming into contact with an item. There will always be a goal of making processes and assay better, faster, and cheaper. My research focus is on creating new assays, improving current ones, and identifying potential new applications for current products. This presentation will highlight some current and future research at Keystone College and how undergraduate student involvement is crucial for research success. Additionally, the presentation will identify areas for collaborations to form between law enforcement, academia, and industry and potential services to be offered.

Jillian Conte Fesolovich is a tenure-tracked Assistant Professor of Forensic Biology in the Biological and Physical Sciences Department at Keystone College.  Professor Fesolovich received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Misericordia University and went on to complete her Master of Science in Forensic Science from Cedar Crest College in 2010.  Her thesis research focused on the synthesis of a novel ‘street drug’ and its characterization.  She held an industry position at Merck and Co., Inc until beginning her forensic career at NMS Labs as a Forensic Biologist.  During her time completing casework she worked for the prosecution and defense performing serological identification tests and forensic DNA analysis.  She has testified numerous times in state and federal courtrooms.  Since 2010, she was an adjunct professor at Lehigh Carbon Community College, University of the Sciences, Rutgers University, and Arcadia University at the undergraduate and graduate levels.  In 2013, she began her part-time journey towards earning her Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of the Sciences.  She is currently a Ph.D. candidate and hopes to receive her degree in 2018.  Her dissertation research focuses on developing genetic assays for African and Asian elephants for forensic purposes.  Professor Fesolovich is certified in Forensic Molecular Biology by the American Board of Criminalistics.  She is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Scientists, International Association of Forensic Geneticists, and the Council of Forensic Science Educators.  Her research focuses are in assay development and optimization for human and wildlife forensics.

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Dr. Yaling Liu
Associate Professor
Lehigh University, Bethlehem PA

Biomimetic Microfluidic Devices for In situ Cell Culturing, Drug Evaluation and Early Cancer Diagnosis

One of the major challenges in drug development and screening is to test drug efficiency in an environment that closely mimic in vivo physiological condition. In this talk, we will discuss mimetic microfluidic testing platform to culture cells, and evaluate drug delivery under various physiological conditions such as vascular flow, inflammation, and tumor. 3D tumor spheroids are cultured in situ and anti-cancer drug delivery and treatment process are quantified in real time. We aim to provide a systematic design and evaluation tool toward a biomimetic platform for drug testing.

Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) hold great promise for cancer diagnosis and prognosis, especially for early-stage cancer screening. Despite the significant progress in development of cell capture techniques, the capture efficiency is still limited and often accompanied with drawbacks such as low throughput, low selectivity, and cell viability issues. We designed a biomimetic surface with both micro and nano features which significantly enhance capture efficiency and selectivity of cancer cells. Assisted with magnetic field, our hierarchical surface allows release and re-culturing of captured tumor cells for post-diagnosis.

Yaling Liu is an associate professor in the Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics department and Bioengineering department at Lehigh University. His research interests include: biotransport at the micro/nano scale, microfluidics, bioMEMS, cardiovascular fluid dynamics, bionano interfacial phenomena, nanomedicine, and biosensing. He is seeking partners to commercialize a few patents related to microfluidic drug screening, circulating tumor cell capture, and 3D tumor spheroid culturing.

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Dr. Jun Ling
Associate Professor
Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine

Physiological Functions of PAK2 Kinase in Cancer Development

Jun Ling, PhD is an Associate Professor of Molecular Biology in the Basic Sciences Department. Dr. Ling holds a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Dr. Ling completed a postdoctoral fellowship at University of California-Riverside. He was a research assistant professor in the biomedical division with UCR/UCLA Thomas Haider Biomedical Program. Dr. Ling was also a visiting scientist at the School of Medicine, Loma Linda University, CA. His research interests are in the translational study on breast cancer development and therapies regulated by signal transduction and gene expression.

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