Andy Berglund (PhD ’97) to talk about Myotonic Dystrophy

Professor Andy Berglund from the Institute of Molecular Biology at U. Oregon will be on campus on Wednesday, Jan. 19 to talk about Understanding Protein-RNA Interactions in Myotonic Dystrophy and a Small Molecule Approach to Target the Toxic Element in this Disease at the year’s Kaplan Lecture in the Joint Biology/Biochemistry Semester Series. Berglund received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Brandeis in 1997, working on RNA processing, yeast splicing more specifically, in Michael Rosbash’s lab. He did a seminal piece of work for his thesis, which showed that the yeast branchpoint binding protein BBP, also known as SF1 in mammals, recognizes the yeast branchpoint sequence UACUAAC. After doing postdocs with Steve Schultz and Tom Cech at U. Colorado, Berglund assumed a faculty position at U. Oregon in 2002, where he is now an Associate Professor. His current research aims in part to understand and develop therapies for a specific form of human muscular dystrophy, which is called myotonic dystrophy. This disease is caused by expression of a toxic RNA,  which interacts with the RNA binding protein muscleblind and thereby indirectly interferes with RNA splicing. So Berglund has continued his interest in splicing, but with this more human disease focus. Indeed, his lab has identified small molecules that could potentially be used to counter these splicing defects .

The Kaplan Lecture is held annually to honor the memory of Nate Kaplan, who was the first chair of the Graduate Department of Biochemistry at Brandeis, playing a huge role in the emergence of Brandeis as a major research university. Kaplan lecturers are members of the Brandeis Biochemistry community who have gone on to distinguished research careers elsewhere. The talk will take place in Gerstenzang 121 at 4:00 pm, Brandeis community members are invited to attend.

The Contribution of Childhood Trauma to the Neurobiology of Depression

On Thursday, Oct 28th at 3:30, Christine Heim, PhD, will speak in the Martin Weiner Lecture Series on the Psychology of Aging and the Brain, Body & Behavior program. Her presentation The Contribution of Childhood Trauma to the Neurobiology of Depression will take place in Levine Ross, Hassenfeld.
She will talk about how early life experiences, in particular childhood trauma, can have a long-lasting impact on human biology and psychology. Her research shows for example that childhood trauma can lead to specific neuroendocrine changes and contribute to the development of depression with a specific, biologically distinguishable profile, that is responsive to different types of treatment than other subtypes of depression.
Christine Heim is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA.
There are still some time slots available for meeting with Christine on Thurday (between 1pm and 3pm). Please contact Nicolas Rohleder if you’re interested!

Tuning up inhibition

On Monday, October 18th at 4:00, Karl Kandler, Ph.D. will be our third M.R. Bauer Colloquium speaker for the 2010-2011 academic year. His talk on Tuning Up Inhibition will be presented in Gerstenzang 121. Refreshments will be available at 3:45. Gina Turrigiano is the host.

Karl is interested in how experience refines inhibitory connections in the auditory system. Recent work has shown, among other things, that
GABAergic neurons can co-release glutamate early in development, and that this early glutamate-mediated excitation is necessary for refinement of an auditory map.

Karl Kandler is a professor in the departments of Otolaryngology and Neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Tuebingen, Germany.

Finding novel antibiotics in dirt using unculturable bacteria

Sean Brady from The Rockefeller University will be visiting campus to lecture on Culture Independent Approaches for the Discovery of New Bacterial Metabolites as part of the Joint Biology/Biochemistry Colloquium Series, Wednesday, Oct 13, at 4:00 pm in Gestenzang 121.

Sean’s research centers on the discovery, biosynthesis and characterization of new, genetically encoded small molecules from microbial sources, with a special focus on soil bacteria and pathogenic bacteria. One area of particular interest is the development of methods to access new biologically active small molecules from bacteria that cannot be grown in culture. Soil bacteria that can’t yet be cultured outnumber those that have been by orders of magnitude, and provide a huge pool of genetic diversity that can be searched for novel useful natural products.

Sean is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist. He was named a Searle Scholar, an Irma T. Hirschl Scholar, an Alexandrine and Alexander L. Sinsheimer Scholar and an Arnold and Mabel Beckman Young Investigator.

Breast cancer drug inventor to receive 2010 Gabbay Award

Angela Brodie, Ph.D. from the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center will receive the 2010 Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award in Biotechnology and Medicine. The award, administered by the Rosenstiel Center at Brandeis, consists of a $15,000 cash prize and a medallion. Dr. Brodie will deliver the award lecture, Aromatase Inhibitors and Breast Cancer: Concept to Clinic, on October 12, 2010 at 4:00 pm in Gerstenzang 121.

Dr. Brodie pioneered the development of aromatase inhibitors, a new class of drugs widely used today to treat breast cancer. Aromatase is the key enzyme in estrogen biosynthesis. Aromatase inhibitors reduce the level of estrogen produced by the body that fuels the growth of breast cancer cells. Although tamoxifen is effective in treating breast cancer, the antiestrogen is a partial agonist as well as an antagonist and may not be optimally effective against breast cancer. By using a different approach, Dr. Brodie reasoned that compounds that inhibit the production of estrogen without having significant estrogenic activity themselves might be more effective in treating breast cancer.
Dr. Brodie began developing aromatase inhibitors with her husband Harry Brodie in the early 1970s. She showed that the most potent inhibitor identified, 4-hydroxyandrostenedione (4-OHA) was effective in suppressing estrogen levels and causing regression of mammary tumors in animal models. Subsequently, she collaborated with the Royal Marsden Hospital in London to evaluate 4-OHA in breast cancer patients. The researchers found that the aromatase inhibitor not only suppressed serum estrogen concentrations, but also reduced tumors in postmenopausal patients with advanced breast cancer who had relapsed from tamoxifen or other treatments. This first selective aromatase inhibitor came into worldwide use in the early 1990s from Novartis. Dr. Brodie’s pioneering studies paved the way for three other FDA approved aromatase inhibitors.

Dr. Brodie is currently investigating new strategies for treating hormone resistant breast cancer based on understanding the molecular mechanisms involved. Dr. Brodie is also investigating androgen synthesis inhibitors to treat prostate cancer. A novel compound developed by her group has recently started clinical trials.

Boston Regional Inorganic Colloquium

The 22nd Boston Regional Inorganic Colloquium (BRIC) will be held at Brandeis University this Saturday, June 12, 2010 in Gerstenzang 123.  BRIC meetings are held several times a year at rotating universities in the “Boston region” (which, at this point has grown to expand all over the northeast). We would be delighted if you would join us for the event on Saturday.  Please RSVP to Chris Thomas (thomasc at if you plan to attend.


9-9:30 Refreshments
9:30 Dr. Anthony Fernandez (Merrimack College)
“Studies on the C-N Oxidative Addition Reactions of Pincer Complexes of Rh”
10:30 Dr. John Caradonna (Boston University)
11:30 Thomas Teets (Nocera group, MIT)
“Halogen Photoreductive Elimination from Late Transition Metal Complexes”
12:30 Lunch (free with registration)
2:00 Dr. Jianfeng Jiang (Yeshiva Univeristy)
“Synthetic Approach to the Active Sites of Hydrogenase”
3:00 Dr. Peter Caravan (Harvard/MGH)
“Lanthanide Coordination Chemistry, Biophysics, and Biomedical MRI”

Sponsors:  Strem Chemicals, Inc.; LC Technology Solutions Inc.; Sigma-Aldrich Inc.; M. Braun, Inc.

Special Thanks to the Brandeis Chemistry Department for generous funds and to members of the Thomas group for helping to organize this event.

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