Blumberg Institute Faculty News
Following is noteworthy news about people who work at the Blumberg Institute, which is the research arm of the Hepatitis B Foundation.
Oct. 9, 2023
Numerous Blumberg Institute scientists participated in the HBV International Meeting held in Kobe, Japan, Sept. 19-23.
Coordinated by the Hepatitis B Foundation, the meeting is the definitive annual conference covering scientific aspects of hepatitis B and hepatitis D, including biochemistry, molecular biology, traditional virology, immunology, pathogenesis and carcinogenesis, as well as the latest developments in antiviral therapies against these two viruses. You can read more about the meeting here.
Dr. Ying-Hsiu Su and Dr. Qiong Zhao gave oral presentations on their research. Dr. Chari Cohen, president of the Hepatitis B Foundation, co-chaired the Community Forum, which started the four-day event, and provided an update on the Foundation’s activities on the final day. Dr. Randy Hyer, president of the Blumberg Institute, also participated in the meeting, along with Dr. Ju-Tao Guo, the Blumberg’s chief scientific officer, and Dr. Liudi Tang, assistant professor.
Minghong Zhong, PhD, has joined the Blumberg Institute as adjunct professor of translational medicine, in residence. Dr. Zhong has over 22 years of experience in drug discovery in the pharmaceutical industry, including six years with J&J, specializing in medicinal and process chemistry of nucleic acids and small molecules. He obtained his doctoral degree in chemistry from Brigham Young University and did postdoctoral research at Yale University in biochemistry and biophysics. He is the scientific founder of GeneLancet Biosciences and inventor of the LgRNA technology and STAR editing platform for precise CRISPR gene editing. Dr. Zhong's current studies are focused on the development of LgRNA-directed precise CRISPR gene editors as cures for diseases of unmet needs.
Aug. 22, 2023
LightSeed, a company developing therapies to prevent damage to the heart from chemotherapy given to children and adults with cancer, has received an additional year of funding from an SBIR grant. Cardiac damage from current therapies causes series morbidity and death in children and adults undergoing cancer treatments. LightSeed has identified a drug that provides substantial cardiac protection in preclinical studies and aims to conduct validation in clinical studies. More here
June 6, 2023
Taimoor Khan, PhD, has joined the Blumberg Institute as a Post Doctoral Research Fellow. He received his doctorate in biology at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 2021. Prior to joining the Blumberg Institute Dr. Khan worked as a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of California San Francisco.
The Blumberg Institute was a sponsor of the 36th International Conference on Antiviral Research (ICAR), the annual meeting of the International Society for Antiviral Research (ISAR). Dr. Jinhong Chang was an invited speaker and presented on the topic “Development of an Orally Available Antiviral Drug for Yellow Fever.” Dr. Ju-Tao Guo and Dr. Yanming Du presented their hepatitis B and yellow fever research. Dr. Liudi Tang and postdoctoral researchers Dr. Fuxuan Wang, Dr. Biplav Shrestha and Dr. Hui Liu presented on research via virtual platform.
Dec. 7, 2022
Qiong Zhao, PhD, has joined the Blumberg Institute faculty as assistant professor in Viral Pathogenesis and Biopharmaceutics Programs. She received her doctorate in Microbiology and Biochemical Pharmacology from Peking Union Medical College and Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing, in 2014. Dr. Zhao is investigating the biosynthesis and transcription regulation of hepatitis B virus covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) minichromosomes and developing cccDNA-targeting therapeutics for the cure of chronic hepatitis B. Please read more about Dr. Zhao here.
Richard Pestell, MD, PhD, distinguished professor of translational medical research at the Blumberg Institute, has been elected to the fellowship of the 2022 Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (FRCPI). This fellowship is their most prestigious category of membership. Achieving FRCPI is an internationally recognized benchmark of professional excellence. Please read more about Dr. Pestell here.
Sept. 30, 2022
Ian Henrich, PhD, has joined the Blumberg Institute’s faculty as an assistant professor in experimental therapeutics. He leads the discovery, research and development of novel modulators of the innate immune system for cancer immunotherapy here at the Institute. Dr. Henrich also is co-founder and vice president of oncology at MERLIN Biotech. Please read more about the company here. He received a doctorate in pharmacology from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 2018 and was a postdoctoral researcher at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Please read more about Dr. Henrich here.
Scott Willett, PhD, who worked in the pharmaceutical industry for more than 30 years, now is the Blumberg Institute’s Director of Academic Affairs and a Professor of Experimental Therapeutics and Translational Medicine. Dr. Willett holds a doctorate in pharmaceutical chemistry from the University of California at San Francisco, and a B.S. degree in chemical engineering from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Please read more about Dr. Willett here.
Prof. Yanming Du, PhD, is principal investigator on a new $300,000 federal grant to Harlingene Life Sciences LLC, a Blumberg Institute startup company. The phase I project aims to modify a first-in-class small molecule, dihydroquinolizinone (DHQ), which rapidly reduces HBV RNA levels. The goal is to reduce the observed neurotoxicity of DHQ while increasing the concentration and residency time in liver. The research described above was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under Award Number R41AI167172. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH. Please read more about Dr. Du here.
Fuxuang Wang, PhD, of the Blumberg Institute, won first prize at the 2022 International Conference on Antiviral Research (ICAR) poster presentation contest for the category of post-doctoral research.
May 6, 2022
Thomas E. Shenk, PhD, has joined the Blumberg Institute’s faculty as Distinguished Professor of Experimental Therapeutics and Translational Medicines. Dr. Shenk is Emeritus James Elkins Professor of Life Sciences in molecular biology at Princeton University. He is the founder of Evrys Bio, a 10-year, on-site member company of the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center (PABC), which is managed by the Blumberg Institute. Please read more about Evrys Bio here.
Liudi Tang, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher working at Evrys Bio with Dr. Shenk, has joined the Blumberg Institute faculty as an assistant professor of experimental therapeutics and principal Investigator at the Baruch S. Blumberg Institute. Dr. Tang is a virologist with a particular focus on the hepatitis B virus (HBV). He received his PhD in 2019 from Drexel University College of Medicine. Please read more here.
Chari A. Cohen, DrPH, MPH, senior vice president of the Hepatitis B Foundation and Blumberg Institute professor, will be joining the Governing Board of the International Coalition to Eliminate HBV (ICE-HBV). Dr. Cohen also was appointed as the Inaugural Community Chair of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center’s Community Advisory Board. The Kimmel Cancer Center is a unit of Jefferson Health. Please read more about Dr. Cohen here.
Patrick Y.S. Lam, PhD, distinguished professor at the Baruch S. Blumberg Institute, has funded an annual award to recognize outstanding research in medicinal chemistry. Nicky Hwang, a research technician in the laboratory of Blumberg Institute Professor Yanming Du, PhD, from 2018 until very recently was chosen for the Inaugural Lam Excellence in Medicinal Chemistry Award.
A 2018 graduate of Cornell University, Dr. Du said she was extremely productive in generating hundreds of new compounds during her tenure here, resulting in several promising lead candidates in several projects, including liver targeting HBsAg reducer and capsid disassembly promoter in HBV field, novel leads against breast cancer (with University of Texas), modified natural product for the treatment of hematologic malignancies, etc. She now is a working at Genentech.
Richard G. Pestell, MD, PhD, distinguished professor of translational medical research at the Blumberg Institute, recently was elected by his peers to the Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians London, which is Britain’s “mark of excellence” for physicians. He was previously elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine (UK). Dr. Pestell is founder and CEO of EcoGenome (the Blumberg Institute is an equity partner), which recently completed a successful seed-funding round for the company. Please read more about Dr. Pestell here.
About the Baruch S. Blumberg Institute An independent, nonprofit research organization, the Blumberg Institute was launched in 2003 by the Hepatitis B Foundation to advance its research mission. Today, the Institute is one of the nation’s leading centers for translational research, particularly for hepatitis B and liver cancer. The Institute supports drug discovery, biomarker discovery and translational biotechnology around common research themes such as chronic hepatitis, liver disease and liver cancer in an environment conducive to interaction, collaboration and focus. The Blumberg Institute is located in the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center, which it manages, near Doylestown, Pa. For more, go to www.blumberginstitute.org and follow us on Twitter @BlumbergInstit1.