Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Track Faculty

The primary department of each Biochemistry and Molecular Biology track faculty member is listed.

*not accepting students as a major advisor

Giulia Baldini, MD, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
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My research focuses on Melanocortin-4 receptor, a G-protein coupled receptor involved in appetite control.

Steven Barger, PhD
Geriatrics
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My lab is focused on Alzheimer’s disease. Current research is examining the role of diabetes-related disruptions in glucose metabolism and the impact this has on brain function. Evidence indicates that both Alzheimer’s and diabetes involve processes connected to inflammation, which has been another of my longstanding areas of research.

Alexei Basnakian, MD, PhD
Pharmacology and Toxicology
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The lab studies the role of DNases in tissue injury and cell death.

Michael Birrer, MD, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
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Dr. Michael Birrer will be focused on developing new types of drug models and molecular approaches to help create alternative forms of treatment for multiple types of ovarian cancers. While his primary focus will be on of ovarian cancer, he hopes his research, and ongoing clinical trials will also help in the development of new treatments for multiple types of cancers studied here at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. Dr. Birrer has also been chosen to lead the UAMS goal of achieving the National Cancer Institute designation, and he has assembled a top-notch team of doctors, oncologists, surgeons, and researchers to help him on this journey.

Gunnar Boysen, PhD
Environmental and Occupational Health
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My research focuses on how environmental and occupational exposure, nutrition, and genetic diversity influence cancer initiation, promotion and progress.

Marie Burdine, PhD
Department of Surgery
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Our laboratory focuses on two main areas of research 1) understanding how epigenetic proteins regulate pancreatic tumor cell response to chemotherapy and 2) identifying targets for the development of immunosuppression therapies for solid organ transplant patients.

Alicia Byrd, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Web Profile
The major focus of my research is to characterize the molecular mechanisms of helicases involved in regulation of the DNA damage response using biochemical, biophysical, and systems biology approaches with the overall goal of designing better cancer treatments.

Stephanie Byrum, PhD
Web profile
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
My research focuses on developing technologies for the high-resolution analysis of chromatin and histone post-translational modifications at specific genomic loci. Therefore, I analyze both the genomic, epigenomic, and proteomic data associated with the chromatin biology. I have formal training in bioinformatics and mass spectrometry. I recently successfully developed the ChAP-MS technology in yeast for proteomic study of a specific single genomic locus. I am also involved in many projects involving the analysis of next generation sequencing data, such as RNA-seq and ChIP-seq, as well as proteomic data.

Mari Davidson, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular BIology
Web profile
The lab studies chromosome dynamics in meiosis.

Alan Diekman, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Web profile
The lab studies the structure and function of carbohydrate-binding proteins in prostate cancer and reproduction.

Eric Enemark, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
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Dr. Enemark’s research focuses on DNA replication, a fundamental event that is required in all life forms, and its disruption can lead to several forms of the disease, including cancer.

Robert Eoff, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Web profile
Our lab studies DNA replication and DNA damage tolerance: mechanisms and roles in cancer.

Abdelrahman (Abdel) Fouda, BPharm, PhD
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Web profile
Our lab studies central nervous system (CNS) injury mainly in the retina and brain. The lab employs different molecular/cell culture techniques, human tissue samples, and animal studies to model critical disease conditions in these two organs. Among the diseases under study are diabetic retinopathy, retinopathy of prematurity, traumatic optic neuropathy, traumatic brain injury, and stroke. Our studies aim to elucidate the underlying pathological mechanisms in these conditions and identify new therapies that can be translated from bench to bedside to help patients affected by these disease conditions.

Robert Griffin, PhD
Radiation Oncology
Web profile
Research interest areas include radiation and cancer biology, exosomes and cell to cell crosstalk in stem cell differentiation and activity, nanomedicine applications.

Thomas Kelly, PhD
Pathology
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My lab is interested in tumor biology.  Our work has focused on extracellular matrix degrading proteases and their roles in facilitating tumor growth and metatstasis.

Samantha Kendrick, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
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Our overall research goal is to identify the molecular mechanisms behind the genomic instability at critical oncogenes in lymphoma and the role DNA secondary structures may play in facilitating these genomic alterations. We are also interested in the impact of HIV infection on the molecular oncogenesis of lymphoma. To address these important questions we integrate basic and translational science using in silico, ex vivo, cell-based and tissue-based genomic and proteomic approaches.

Justin Leung, PhD
Radiation Oncology
Web profile 
My research interests focus on DNA damage response (DDR) pathway, chromatin biology, epigenetics, genome stability, and cancer biology.

Vladimir Lupashin, PhD
Physiology and Biophysics
Web profile
My laboratory is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms responsible for the generation and maintenance of intra-cellular membrane-bounded compartments. In all eukaryotic cells intracellular membrane trafficking is critical for a range of important cellular functions including protein secretion, post-translational modifications, cell signalling, cell polarization, and cell maintenance. Defects in membrane trafficking can underline, or even exacerbate, a number of human diseases including cancer, diabetes mellitus, Alzheimer’s, cystic fibrosis, Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome and Congenital Disorders of Glycosylation.

Angus MacNicol, PhD
Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences
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My research focuses on cell cycle control, stem cells, cancer stem cells, drug discovery, mRNA translation, and vertebrate development.

Mark Manzano, PhD
Microbiology and Immunology
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We are interested in studying primary effusion lymphoma (PEL), an aggressive B cell cancer caused by the Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus or human herpesvirus 8 (KSHV/HHV8). PEL tumor cells rely on the constitutive expression of virally encoded genes that globally reprogram host gene expression to create a conducive environment optimal for tumor cell proliferation and survival.

Sayem Miah, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Web profile
My research vision is to understand how cells perceive signals that vary in healthy and cancer cells and how this perception regulates tumorigenesis and metastasis.

Grover P. Miller, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Web profile
My research group investigates the role of enzymes, especially cytochromes P450 (CYP), in the activation and processing of xenobiotic chemicals, such as drugs, pollutants, and dietary compounds, from a chemist’s perspective. We specialize in the identification and validation of biochemical mechanisms through experimental approaches and often develop analytical tools along the way. Nevertheless, our projects are often multi-disciplinary and collaborative to effectively tackle complex challenges by recruiting experts in computational, analytical, and clinical research.

Isabelle Racine Miousse, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Web profile
I specialize in epigenetics, with a focus on how environmental factors linked to cancer affect DNA and histone methylation. I investigate how the supply and metabolism of the methyl donor methionine modulates these responses and alters cancer development. My current project studies how to modulate dietary methionine to alter autophagy and improve the response rate to immunotherapy in patients with metastatic melanoma.

Roy Morello, PhD
Physiology and Cell Biology
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We utilize genetically modified mouse models to understand the function of poorly characterized genes that have a function in skeletal development, homeostasis or disease. A special interest is in proteins that post-translationally modify collagens and in osteogenesis imperfecta.

Intawat Nookaew, PhD
Biomedical Informatics
Web profile
My research focuses on the area of applied bioinformatics/computational biology and systems biology for biomedical research. I have developed novel advanced algorithms and frameworks to accelerate the utilization and mining for biological interpretation of omics data (genome, transcriptome, proteome and metabolome) for biomedical research translation (cancer, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disease, metabolic dysfunction, etc.). In addition, I also focus on the impact of human gut microbiome on diseases progression and development.

Melda Onal, PhD
Physiology and Biophysics
Web profile
Our laboratory is interested in autophagy in osteoblast lineage cells in efforts to understand the role of autophagy in bone remodeling and age-related bone loss.

Nirmala Parajuli, DMV, PhD
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Web profile
The long-term interest of my laboratory is to understand molecular mechanisms responsible for cold storage (CS)-induced renal damage. My research focuses on exploring novel mechanisms by which CS alters protein quality and renal function after transplantation, and importantly, to identify a possible therapeutic target that could lead to improved renal outcome after transplantation. Specifically, I plan to investigate the roles of proteasome, heat shock proteins and complement pathway during CS plus transplantation. We have established a rat kidney transplantation model, which will be fundamental in studying my independent research project on CS mediated renal damage. In addition, I’m also collaborating with Dr. MacMillan-Crow to study the molecular mechanisms that disrupt mitochondrial dynamics during renal CS and transplantation using our rat kidney transplant model.

Craig Porter, PhD
Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center (ACHRI)
Web profile
The overall goal of our research program is to better understand the role of mitochondrion in health and disease. Areas of focus include studying the role of mitochondrial proton leaks in the regulation of metabolic rate, as well as studying the impact of lifestyle (i.e. diet/exercise) and pharmacological interventions on bioenergetics in several settings including developmental programming, obesity, and trauma. With a strong focus on metabolic physiology, we use a wide range of techniques such as respiratory gas exchange and stable isotope approaches to determine the metabolic rate and substrate metabolism at a whole-body level, as well as laboratory techniques including high-resolution respirometery, flurometry, and spectrophotometry to assay tissue and cell mitochondrial function.

Paul Prather, PhD
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Web profile 
I am a cellular/molecular pharmacologist whose research interests involve understanding the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the addictive states produced by drugs of abuse. Specifically, for over 20 years I have been investigating the cellular and molecular mechanisms of signal transduction mediated by G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) with which drugs of abuse interact, specifically opioids and cannabinoids.

Anna Radominska-Pandya, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Web profile 
Dr. Radominska-Pandya’s research interests include, but are not limited to: Structure-function relationship studies of human UGTs; Regulation of human UGTs; Roles of UGTs and lipids as anti-proliferation agents in various cancer models; Suppression of human UGTs in cancer cells; Interactions between UGTs and Cannabinoid Receptors and their combined role in cancer prevention and treatment; Delivering UGT genes, siRNA, and/or drugs into cancer cells using nanomaterial as delivery agents; and Roles of UGTs in the biotransformation of drugs including Coumadin (warfarin), resveratrols, and drugs of abuse such as Marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids.

Kevin Raney, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Web profile 
My research focuses on protein-nucleic acid interactions.

Robert Reis, PhD
Geriatrics
Web profile 
My research focuses on the molecular genetics of longevity and age-associated diseases. I was trained in genetics, and turned to C. elegans as a model system in which to define and characterize genes that govern longevity. Using novel gene-mapping methods we developed, we discovered over 27 highly-significant loci for lifespan, resistance to stresses, and Darwinian fitness.  Using chromosomal fine-mapping, we identified one longevity gene as REC-8, a meiotic cohesin that helps hold tetrads together and was thought to be silent in mitotic cells.  However, we showed that it actually makes somatic tissues more vulnerable to diverse stresses, while stabilizing the meiotic genome, and its depletion in C. elegans or knockout in haploid yeast increases lifespan.  My group was the first to identify the Pirin gene on the human X chromosome as a regulator of post-menopausal bone loss in women, a discovery confirmed in a Chinese population.  We also pioneered the role of homologous recombination in the development and progression of myeloma, prostate, and breast cancers. We were the first to note that cells from many different cancer types feature very high levels of homologous recombination, and high expression of the Rad51 recombinase complex that mediates it.  We are now working chiefly on genetic factors that regulate lifespan, and that contribute to protein aggregates — key toxic intermediates in neurodegenerative diseases.  We have identified proteins in specific aggregate types that are highly enriched in Alzheimer’s cortex, and many of them play functional roles in aggregate formation in C. elegans models. Their toxic effects turn out to be mediated in large part by blockage of proteasomes and autophagosomes.  We are combining exploratory proteomics and immunochemistry in human cortex and cultured neurons, with the facile genetics of nematodes, to better understand how aggregates begin, grow, and ultimately disrupt proteostasis.

Sung Rhee, PhD
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Web profile 
Calcium and potassium channels on the surface membrane of vascular muscle cells control calcium influx and potassium efflux, respectively, and thereby regulate arterial diameters. My research interests are 1) using ion channel genes as therapeutic agents to normalize blood pressure, and 2) understanding molecular mechanisms that regulate traffic and expression of ion channels in vascular muscle cells during hypertension and related conditions. We use a wide range of techniques including molecular biology, biochemistry, viral gene transduction, patch clamp, vessel perfusion, confocal and super-resolution imaging, and in vivo microscopy.

Analiz Rodriguez, MD, PhD
Neurosurgery
Web profile 
My main research interests include the use of laser thermal ablation for brain tumors and understanding the immune microenvironment.

Brian Storrie, PhD
Physiology and Biophysics
Web profile 
My esearch focuses on organelles of the secretory pathway using HeLa cells as an easy cell for molecular manipulations of the Golgi apparatus and plalelets as structure/function example of a stored secretory granules.

Alan Tackett, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Web profile 
My laboratory focuses on histone epigenetic mechanisms that regulate gene transcription and that are coupled to melanoma progression. We utilize a suite of techniques in our studies including proteomics of human biopsies, immunohistochemistry, cell culture, tumorigenicity assays, ChIPseq, biochemical and proteomic approaches for analyses of protein complexes, and cutting-edge mass spectrometry for the analysis of histone post-translational modifications.

David Ussery, PhD
Biomedical Informatics
Web profile
We are using ‘third generation sequencing technology’ (such as Oxford Nanopore flow cells) to do metagenomics of clinical isolates and environmental samples.

Wayne Wahls, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Web profile 
My research focuses on chromosome dynamics, epigenetics, cellular growth controls.

Jerry Ware, PhD
Physiology and Cell Biology
Web profile
My research focuses on the role of circulating blood platelets, in thrombosis, inflammation, and cancer

Patricia Wight, PhD
Physiology and Cell Biology
Web profile 
The focus of research in my laboratory is centered on CNS development, particularly with regard to the formation and maintenance of myelin. Myelin is the tightly compacted multilamellar sheath, which surrounds axons and promotes saltatory conduction of nerve impulses. The myelin proteolipid protein gene (PLP1) encodes the most abundant protein found in mature myelin from the CNS. Expression of the gene is regulated spatiotemporally, with maximal expression occurring in oligodendrocytes during the myelination period of CNS development. PLP1 expression is tightly controlled; misregulation of the gene in humans can result in the X-linked dysmyelinating disorder Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease (PMD), and in transgenic mice carrying a null mutation or extra copies of the gene can result in a variety of conditions from late onset demyelination and axonopathy to severe early onset dysmyelination. With the use of transgenic and transfection paradigms, we have been able to show that the first intron of the PLP1 contains an enhancer region that is required for expression in oligodendrocytes as well as in other cell types that express PLP1. This region also overlaps a couple of recently discovered, alternatively spliced exons that are primarily restricted to the human species. Current efforts in the laboratory are focused on: identifying the transcription factors/architectural proteins that mediate enhancer function in PLP1 intron 1; test whether critical mutations in the enhancer could be the cause of PMD in patients with unaltered PLP1 coding sequence and gene dosage; understand the and spatiotemporal expression and function of intron 1-dervied splice isoforms in man. We are also using our PLP1-lacZ transgenic mice as a tool to screen for small molecules that stimulate myelination as a possible therapeutic for demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

Fen Xia, MD, PhD
Radiation Oncology
Web profile
In my lab, I conduct federally funded research that focuses on the Replication stress response and DNA damage repair mechanisms in normal and tumor cells after radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Understanding the interplay between defective DNA repair and cancer cell growth, as well as normal cell injury could lead to new avenues for both cancer prevention and personalized cancer treatment. My research team and I are motivated by an unyielding desire to find answers.

V. Laxmi Yeruva, PhD
Pediatrics
Web profile 
Our lab focus on two aspects 1. Role of Chlamydia variants in host pathogenesis. 2. Role of infant diet in gastrointestinal tract development and immune function.

Donghoon Yoon, PhD
Myeloma Institute
Web profile 
We are interested in the pathophysiology of multiple myeloma (MM), a B cell cancer characterized by proliferation of malignant plasma cells in the bone marrow, presence of a monoclonal serum immunoglobulin, and osteolytic lesions. We are investigating roles/mechanisms of PTH axis (PTH signal transduction) in MM development and therapeutic agents that target this axis. Additionally we are exploring the roles of Hypoxia (low oxygen tension) and microRNA (miRNA) in MM.

Fenghuang (Frank) Zhan, PhD
Myeloma Institute
Web profile
Dr. Zhan is interested in understanding how the genetic alterations in cancer cells contribute to tumor progression, alter treatment response and create vulnerabilities that may be targeted therapeutically.

Boris Zybaylov, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Web profile
I am interested in the role of non-canonical DNA structures and long non-coding RNAs in human disease. I am also interested in clinical applications of microbiome-derived protein biomarkers.