Jul 022020
 

Date: June 29th, 2020 in JABSOM News

Three students from the University of Hawaiʻi’s John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) were awarded 2020 Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Awards. Brien Haun, a Ph.D. student in Cell and Molecular Biology program, and Lauren Ching, a Ph.D. student in Tropical Medicine, Microbiology, and Pharmacology, both received Ellen M. Keonig Awards in Medicine. ARCS awarded the Starbuck Award in Medicine to Aileen Li, a fifth-year doctoral student in the Developmental and Reproductive Biology Program.

Brien Haun is studying protective antibody production under his advisor, Dr. Axel Lehrer. Emerging infectious diseases such as those caused by SARS-CoV-2, Ebola, and Zika viruses pose serious threats to human health. These viruses often result in uncontrollable epidemics or pandemics with substantial mortality and comorbidities. This prompts the scientific and medical communities to rapidly respond with treatments and vaccines to limit the damage caused by these pathogens. However, it is rarely clear how entire populations will respond to immunization, especially in those with underlying diseases that impact the immune system, such as cancer, diabetes, and HIV. Haun  and his colleagues work to respond to emerging and re-emerging threats through vaccine development and has produced successful vaccine candidates to Ebola, Sudan, Marburg and Zika viruses with proven efficacy in non-human primates. Haun’s current research involves unlocking the host’s immune system to improve vaccine responses. Haun is a high school graduate from Florida and earned a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Cell Biology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. In addition to solving puzzles in science, Haun enjoys traveling to new places, photographing the world, and surfing.

Lauren Ching is a Ph.D. student working with Drs. Vivek R. NerurkarMarian E. Melish, and Andras Bratincsak on a research project aimed at investigating the immunopathogenesis of Kawasaki disease to identify novel therapeutics. Kawasaki disease is a rare fever and rash disease that primarily occurs in babies and young children (less then 5 years old). Kawasaki disease is the leading cause of pediatric acquired heart disease in the developed world. For my research project, we are using clinical samples to understand the mechanisms by which Kawasaki disease-associated changes to the coronary arteries occurs and develop new therapeutics aimed at ameliorating these changes. Ching graduated from Punahou High School and earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Boston College. Ching enrolled in the TRMD Graduate program, because of her passion for human health and disease, and her interests in improving global health through basic science research. Upon completion of her PhD she plans to continue basic science research in human health and disease.  Her interests include hiking, running with her dog, and crafting.

Aileen Li’s research, conducted in the laboratory of Dr. Yusuke Marikawafocuses on gastrulation, the foremost and crucial stage in the formation and development of the embryo that results in the formation of three-germ layers, which are the foundation for all tissues and organs in the body. It is also the most sensitive to disturbances and can cause embryo lethality and birth defects. Li graduated from the President William McKinley High School, earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Colorado Denver, and later earned a Master of Science in Developmental and Reproductive Biology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. These achievements are all laudable as Aileen is the first in her family to graduate from high school, go to college, and pursue a graduate degree. Her goal is to finalize her research and complete her PhD, then transition to a career that focuses on teaching, which she found a passion for when she was working as a teaching assistant during graduate school.  Her interests include: cooking and baking, crafting, going out and playing with her dog Dai Dai, video games, jigsaw puzzles, and lounging and watching videos.

Haun, Ching, and Li each received $5,000 from the ARCS Honolulu Chapter Although the annual awards banquet was cancelled in light of the global pandemic, the local chapter still honored each promising young scholar during a critical time in their graduate studies. 

The ARCS Foundation is a non-profit organization that advances science and technology in the United States by providing financial awards to academically outstanding graduate and undergraduate students pursuing degrees in science, engineering and medical research. 

Last year’s link

Jul 022020
 

July 2020 GSO Newsletter

The Graduate Student Organization aims to support graduate students in timely completion of their course of study at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa through encouraging excellence in research. In order to support this aim, GSO Merit Based Awards in Research will be awarded to one (1) Master’s level student completing their Master’s Thesis, and one (1) Doctoral level student completing their dissertation. Successful applicants will demonstrate a history of scholarly contributions and commitment to research.

Louie Mar Gangcuangco, Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology, and Pharmacology (Master’s)

My Master’s thesis focused on comparing substances in the blood of persons with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) living in the Philippines and Hawaii.HIV is a virus that damages the immune system. Since the beginning of the epidemic in the 1980’s, the World Health Organization estimates that about 75 million people have been infected with HIV. There are medications to control HIV, but there is currently no cure or any vaccine against it.

The Philippines has the fastest-growing HIV epidemic in the Western Pacific region, registering more than 1,000 new HIV cases every month. Doctors have previously observed that the immune system of Filipinos with HIV seem to be damaged more rapidly compared with those living in developed countries. To help understand this observation, we compared several substances in the blood of HIV patients from the Philippines and Hawaii.

We found that the immune cells fighting infections (called ‘CD4 T cells’) are much lower in the Philippines compared with Hawaii. We also found that the rate of previous tuberculosis infection is higher in the Philippines. Furthermore, a certain chemical in the blood called ‘TGF-beta’ is higher among people living in the Philippines compared with those living in Hawaii. Interestingly, high TGF- beta was linked with a weaker immune system. Other researchers have reported that high TGF- beta is associated with various diseases such as hardening of organs, also known as ‘fibrosis.’

This study is part of a larger research collaboration between the University of the Philippines and the Hawaii Center for AIDS. Further research is being conducted to fully understand the effects of HIV not just to the immune system but also to the other parts of the body.

Jun 242020
 

Job Description

Title: (Casual Hire) Admin & Fiscal Support Specialist
Position Number: Casual****
Hiring Unit: Dept of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology & Pharmacology, John A. Burns School of Medicine
Location: UHM – Kakaako Campus
Date Posted: June 24, 2020
Closing Date: June 30, 2020
Salary: $21.21/hour or comparable to qualifications and experience
Full Time/Part Time: Full Time
Temporary/Permanent: Temporary, NTE 10/2/20
Other Conditions: To begin as soon as July 6, 2020.

****Applicants seeking short-term or part-time work with the University of Hawai’i may apply for Casual Hire appointments, which include administrative, professional, and technical (APT) or instructional-type positions. Because of the temporary nature of these appointments, Casual Hire employees are not eligible for most benefits provided to regular Board of Regents or Civil Service employees. Casual Hire appointments may last for up to 89 days for full-time employees, and up to 1 calendar year for part-time employees.

May 202020
 

UH News, May 19, 2020

The University of Hawaiʻi will help to expand COVID-19 testing capacity on Oʻahu as part of a new partnership with the City and County of Honolulu. 

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced the city will provide $3.9 million in funding from the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and additional funding from the Rockefeller Foundation to support the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) Tropical Medicine Clinical (TMC) Laboratory

Through this partnership the TMC Lab will collaborate with Community Health Centers across Oʻahu and provide capacity to perform up to 50,000 COVID-19 tests and 49,000 antibody tests through the end of 2020. Funding from the City and County of Honolulu will also support research efforts at the TMC Lab to develop innovative approaches for less invasive and more cost effective COVID-19 testing.

“We’re really excited about this opportunity to collaborate with the city and county, the mayor and his team to leverage our facilities and our faculty expertise,” UH President David Lassner said. “This lab will also be a crucial component for our ability to open the University of Hawaiʻi for the fall.”

The lab will operate out of the UH Mānoa (JABSOM’s Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology. Vivek Nerurkar, professor and chair of the Department of Tropical Medicine will lead the operation alongside a leadership team that reflects UH‘s extensive expertise in virology, bacteriology, parasitology, and immunology.

READ MORE

May 192020
 

The Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology & Pharmacology extends our warmest congratulations to our Spring 2020 graduates.  While the COVID-19 pandemic prevented us from gathering in person, we would like to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates with the accompanying video.  Our Spring 2020 graduates are:

PhD graduates & Alicata Award Recipients

  • Danielle Clements
  • Joanna Kettlewell

MS graduates

  • Louie Mar Gangcuangco
  • Taylor Tashiro

GCERT graduates

  • Diana Huynh
  • Emily Stack
  • Ashley Yuen

Here are messages from our graduates:

Danielle Clements, Tropical Medicine PhD graduate:

“I’d like to extend a big mahalo to all of the faculty, staff and students in the Department of Tropical Medicine for many years of support, memorable experiences and lasting friendships. I am so grateful to have been able to learn from and work beside so many of you. This department is full of bright minds and kind souls, and it’s the people (and parties) that I’ll miss the most.”   

Louie Gangcuangco, Tropical Medicine MS graduate:

“I am grateful to the graduate students, faculty, and staff of the Dept. of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology, and Pharmacology for their support and patience on me these past two years. The Master’s program deepened my understanding of immunology and pathogenesis of infectious diseases. More importantly, working in the lab provided me with the skills that I could build on to be a successful translational researcher in the future. I am confident that the lessons I have learned at JABSOM would allow me to become a successful physician who can bridge basic sciences, clinical practice, and public health.”

Joanna Kettlewell, Tropical Medicine PhD graduate:

“Thank you to all of the faculty, students, and staff in the Department of Tropical Medicine.  I am appreciative of the professional support during my time as a graduate student and I’m thankful for the friendships I’ve made.  All of you have truly helped to make JABSOM and Hawaii my home.”

Taylor Tashiro, Tropical Medicine MS graduate:

“My experience in the tropical medicine department has been invaluable.  Being here had helped me grow mentally as a student and researcher through its challenging curriculum and in-depth experiments.  My department has provided endless support, entertaining celebrations, and lifelong friends.  Because of the experiences I’ve gained as a graduate student, I am leaving as a stronger individual overall.  I did not ever think I could make it as a graduate student, but I did, thanks to my friends, lab mates, colleagues, and mentors in the department — for the all the encouragement, wisdom and knowledge that they have given me, as well as the smiles exchanged every morning and the comforting “see you later!” at the end of the long lab days.  This graduation is truly bittersweet, and I will never forget what I’ve gained from being here.”

Ashely Yuen, Tropical Medicine GCERT graduate:

“The GCERT program helped me to learn and study in ways that were not expanded upon at an undergraduate level. The structure of the program challenges you to not just remotely memorize, but think deeply about the intricacies of infectious diseases. I am so thankful for all the staff in the Tropical Medicine Department for offering this wonderful program. The program has better prepared me for a clinical career and has given me the confidence to continue to pursue this field of study.”

Diana Huynh, Tropical Medicine GCERT graduate:

“I also just wanted to express my deepest thanks to the whole Tropical Medicine Faculty and Staff. I truly love and enjoyed this program. It challenged me in ways I never thought of and offered me a new perspective and outlook on diseases and Human body. My Professors were wonderful and really guided me to view diseases from a micro to macro level while incorporating sociological contexts. I am so privileged and thankful to have received the education I have received.” 

Emily Stack, Tropical Medicine GCERT graduate:

“I had a wonderful experience in the GCERT program. I found the curriculum very interesting and applicable to my future. I also appreciate the tremendous support from my professors and other faculty members in Trop Med.”

Tropical Medicine GCERT students preparing for their exam
Olivia Smith (PhD student) with GCERT students Diana Huynh, Ana-Melissa Kea, and Ashley Yuen (left to right).
May 032020
 

Published in Hawai‘i Journal of Health & Social Welfare, May 2020, Volume 79, No. 5, ISSN 2641-5216.

Authors: Lauren Ching BS, Sandra P. Chang, PhD, and Vivek R. Nerurkar, PhD; Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology, and Pharmacology and Pacific Center for Emerging Infectious Disease Research, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, Honolulu, HI

ABSTRACT

Nationwide shortages of tests that detect severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and diagnose coronavirus disease 2019 (CO- VID-19) have led the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to significantly relax regulations regarding COVID-19 diagnostic testing. To date the FDA has given emergency use authorization (EUA) to 48 COVID-19 in vitro diagnostic tests and 21 high complexity molecular-based laboratory developed tests, as well as implemented policies that give broad authority to clinical laboratories and commercial manufacturers in the development, distribution, and use of COVID-19 diagnostic tests. Currently, there are 2 types of diagnostic tests available for the detection of SARS-CoV-2: (1) molecular and (2) serological tests. Molecular detection of nucleic acid (RNA or DNA) sequences relating to the suspected pathogen is indicative of an active infection with the suspected pathogen. Serological tests detect antibodies against the suspected pathogen, which are produced by an individual’s immune system. A positive serological test result indicates recent exposure to the suspected pathogen but cannot be used to determine if the individual is actively infected with the pathogen or immune to reinfection. In this article, the SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic tests currently approved by the FDA under EUA are reviewed, and other diagnostic tests that researchers are developing to detect SARS-CoV-2 infection are discussed.

Mar 092020
 
  • Strengthening Collaborations in Liberia
  • Northern Pacific Global Health (NPGH) Program
  • Dr. Frederick DeWolfe Miller’s Retirement Celebration
  • Congratulations to the Award Winners
  • Vietnamese Scientist Visits Pacific Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases Research, JABSOM
  • MHRT 2020
  • New Faces at the Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology
  • One Health Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Certificate Program
Feb 072020
 

As Hawaiʻi is a hotspot for Non-Tuberculosis Mycobacteria (NTM) pulmonary disease, the Hawaiʻi NTM Education and Research Conference was hosted by the National Jewish Health (NJH) and ʻIolani School on Feb. 1-2, 2020 to help educate and spread awareness of NTM lung disease to Hawaiʻiʻs students, scientists, health care providers, and the general public.

Photo of participants in NTM conference

The National Jewish Health team, led by Dr. Jennifer Honda, an Associate Professor and TRMD graduate faculty, established one of the largest citizen scientist projects in NTM including an outreach network of Hawai’i high school students, undergraduates, and their mentors from 11 different schools and involving more than 400 local students. Their goal is to understand the environmental, host, and microbial factors driving the emergence of this lung disease in the Hawaiian Islands. Volunteers also included local adult volunteers and family members of NTM patients, who act as citizen scientists to help collect > 2,000 household and non-household environmental samples from Oahu, Kauai, Hawai’i Island, and Maui. NJH also partnered with local pulmonologists and infectious disease physicians to obtain matched respiratory NTM isolates and environmental samples from NTM patients. By understanding the diversity of NTM in these environmental and respiratory samples, potential source points of infection can be identified and mitigated.

The purpose of the two day conference was to share their findings with the students and mentors that have helped procure samples as well to explain to the Hawai’i community the step-by-step process of how NTM is sampled, processed and cultured, and genomically identified, and to show how this data relates back to what is observed clinically. The presentations also showcased the overwhelming scientific accomplishments that can be made when local communities, researchers, clinicians, and patients work together to understand this under-recognized lung disease of public health importance.