Industry News: Two Postdoctoral Fellows Researching Immunology and Cancer Biology Win ACEA Bioscience’s Travel Award

29 Mar 2017


ACEA Biosciences, a privately owned biotechnology company that develops cutting edge instrumentation for cell-based assays, disperses a quarterly travel award to noteworthy scientists who will be presenting research using ACEA Biosciences’ technology at scientific conferences.  Today the company announced that its new round of awards are being given to two postdoctoral fellows studying pathogen capture by neutrophils, and the impact of epigenetics on chemotherapy efficacy.

Dr. Calum Robb (pictured left), a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Adriano Rossi at the University of Edinburgh Medical School, was selected for his poster entitled “Flow cytometric assessment, quantification and regulation of human neutrophil extracellular traps” which he will present at the CYTO 2017 Conference being held June 10-14 in Boston, MA.  Beyond their well characterized role as phagocytes, granulocytic neutrophils are also able to ensnare and neutralize pathogens using a secreted extracellular fibril matrix consisting of DNA, histones, and a variety of anti-bacterial proteins.  Though the employment of these neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) is thought to be an evolutionarily ancient defense strategy, the mechanisms regulating this process are not yet fully understood.  With the goal of elucidating these mechanisms, Robb developed a NovoCyte® flow cytometer-based assay that enabled him to track changes in NET formation when key proteins or pathways were pharmacologically modulated.  Using this approach, Robb probed the roles of superoxide anion, intracellular calcium pools, and the phospholipase C pathway in NET formation.  The efficiency and versatility of Robb’s  assay are expected to accelerate the rate of progress in this relatively new field.

Dr. Rentian Wu (pictured right), a postdoc in the lab of Dr. Robert Diasio at the Mayo Clinic, was selected for his poster entitled “Trimethylation and acetylation of histone H3K27 modulates 5-fluorouracil response by regulating DPYD expression” which he will present at the 2017 American Association for Cancer Research meeting taking place April 1-5 in Washington D.C.  Though it is one of the most widely used chemotherapy drugs, the antimetabolite 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) displays substantial variability in its efficacy and toxicity among patients.  This variability is due, at least in part, to differences in the activity of DPD, the enzyme which initiates the catabolic degradation of 5-FU to inactive metabolites.  Though mutations in the DPD gene can affect 5-FU metabolism, these variants are rare and cannot by themselves explain the variation in DPD activity that is observed among patients.  In search for the cause of variable DPD activity, Wu used the xCELLigence® Real-Time Cell Analyzer in combination with both chemical inhibitors and genetic approaches to demonstrate that the DPD gene is epigenetically regulated by histone modification at promoter and enhancer regions.  This new layer of information has the potential to help clinicians predict more accurately how a patient will respond to 5-FU treatment. 

To learn more about ACEA’s Travel Award, see profiles of past winners, or download the application form for future funding cycles, click here.