banner USF Home College of Arts & Sciences OASIS myUSF USF A-Z Index

USF Home > College of Arts and Sciences > Department of Cell Biology, Microbiology and Molecular Biology


January, 2014 to present

Archived CMMB News

To submit CMMB related news please visit CAS NEWS

CMMB Director James Garey welcomes the new CMMB Chair, Dr. Charles Chalfant [9.18.2018]

It has been a pleasure serving the CMMB Department as Chair for the past 11 years. We had a somewhat chaotic beginning when we emerged from the reorganization of Biology that began in 2006. Our goals were simple: to meet the ever increasing demand for classes for STEM students, strengthen our emerging academic programs, and to be an outstanding biomedical-oriented research department with close ties to the College of Medicine, the Moffitt Cancer Research Center, and other USF entities. Together we hired many talented faculty, developed excellent new curricula, and extraordinary undergraduate and graduate programs, and our research has blossomed, helping USF in its move toward Pre-eminence. From the very beginning we nearly doubled the seats available in our classes, allowing students to graduate in a reasonable time, contributing to student success early on. We have a terrific relationship with the Moffitt Cancer Biology PhD Program and are engaged with the College of Medicine departments through individual researcher collaborations. I think it is fair to say that CMMB is one of the great academic departments at USF and we should all take pride in making it so. I welcome Dr. Charles Chalfant, who will become CMMB Chair effective Monday, September 25th and I feel certain that he can work with you all to move CMMB to the next level.

CMMB and Moffitt Welcome Incoming Graduate Students [10.31.2016]

CMMB and The Moffitt Cancer Center welcomed incoming graduate students to the Cancer Biology and CMMB programs on August 31, 2016. The event was held at the USF Traditions Hall in the Sam & Martha Gibbons Alumni Center. Faculty and current graduate students from both graduate programs attended. CMMB congratulates you on your admission and welcomes you to graduate school!

Antarctic sponges could help fight the battle against MRSA [5.20.2016]

nunes interview

A chemical isolated from a sponge brought back from Antarctica is showing promise in fighting antibiotic-resistant Staphlococcal infections, called MRSA.

University of South Florida researchers have been searching the Antarctic since the 1990's.  They say, because of the extremes in conditions in the area, the creatures that live there have to develop unique protective mechanisms to keep predators or the environment from wiping them out.

In 2011, USF chemistry professor Bill Baker brought back a sponge called Dendrilla membranosa.  USF microbiologist Dr. Lindsey Shaw and his team created an extract from the sponge.  They tested it against the methicillin-resistant Staphlococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria in two ways. 

In the first test, they looked at the bacteria's response to the extract.  Dr. Bill Baker says those results were disappointing. They later found it showed promise not against the MRSA bacteria, but instead against something called a biofilm. 

"Biofilm is probably the natural way bacteria grow in the wild and in human beings," Dr. Shaw explained.  "They get together in these little groups and then they put on a protective coat of proteins and DNA and sugars, and so this particular protective coat just stops the immune system and drugs killing them. And so they've got this natural way to avoid killing by almost anything, so it's the way they like to live; it's cozy, it's protective, and you can't get rid of them."
Initially, the team wasn't very impressed with the extract's performance against the bacteria.  Then, Dr. Baker said, they realized how well it worked against the MRSA biofilm.

"That was really the eureka moment with this -- wow, this thing is four times more potent against the biofilm than it is the free living form, and that was really exciting just to notice that."

The team is calling the discovery Darwinolide and say it will take five or six years before they can even begin to approach clinical trials.

Reported & Written by Dr. Joette Giovinco, Fox 13 News

CMMB Professor and Researcher, Dr. Cecilia Nunes reaches out to help local shoppers find the freshest fruits and vegetables [5.17.2016]

nunes interview

Riverview, Florida --  How many times have you had to throw out fruits or vegetables because they've gone bad? You buy them thinking you have time and instead it's like throwing money in the trash. 10News WTSP has 4 tips to help you get fresh food to your table.

The fruits and vegetables at your neighborhood grocery store can sometimes look a lot better than they actually taste. In the near future some companies hope a gun-looking device, called a mass spectrometer will help customers know more about their produce.The prototype measures things like vitamins or moisture. The hope is that one day it will be able to scan your fruit and vegetables and you'll instantly know where the fruit was grown, when it was picked and how long before it goes bad.

But we wanted to get answers for you now about how to get the most out of your fruits and vegetables. We went to Dr. Cecilia Nunes at the university of South Florida  for help.  Nunes has been researching the quality and shelf life of produce for some 30 years.

Here are her top 4 tips:

Tip 1) Temperature matters. Nunes says many grocery stores refrigerate some produce that shouldn't be such as peppers, eggplant, squash, and cucumbers. Nunes says it's important to look for chilling injury which is where the skin on the veggies has pits in them. That reduces how long produce will last before you even get them to the cash register. She says it makes the situation only worse when you take the produce out of the store and into warmer temperatures. Nunes adds, "It also changes the composition - the flavor."

Tip 2)   Buy produce labeled Florida Fresh. Speaking of flavor, who wants to eat strawberries or oranges that aren't sweet? Nunes says when you buy produce that is in season it's much more likely to taste better and last longer when you get it home. She says, "When there's no strawberries in season. They come from California so they arrive here after about 5 days. Strawberries on average have about a 7-day shelf life."

Nunes says there are some exceptions to that rule. She adds, "Apples, potatoes, onions, oranges, those are a particular group that have a longer shelf life."

Tip 3) Look for use buy and buy by dates -  Nunes says don't buy blindly. You should inspect everything.  Nunes showed us one packaged of bagged salad that according to the date on it should have been good for a few more days but it's was already going bad. Nunes says, "It's still a while but look at it - it's deteriorating really fast so you don't want to pick by just looking at the date - there's slime - there's dark leaves here. This is unacceptable."

Tip  4)  Buy smaller amounts - Nunes says, "So we have to make sure we buy just a little and eat them the same day or the next day. It's very convenient to go to the grocery store and buy for the whole week but in terms of produce we should rethink because sometimes we lose a lot because we buy too much."

Nunes says less than 10% of Americans meet the recommended daily guidelines for consumption of fruits and vegetables and sadly up to 30% of the fresh produce purchased is thrown away by consumers. She says, in France tossing out food is against the law. Fruits and vegetables there are repurposed- used in smoothies and soups for example, donated to charity or used in compost.

Reported & Written by Tammie Fields, WTSP

Andy Weiss - 2016 Chih Research/Publication Award Recipient [3.30.2016]

Andy Weiss Chi Award

Andy Weiss has been selected by a faculty committee to receive the 2016 Chih Foundation Research and Publication Award. This $2500 award is made possible through the generosity of the Chih Foundation, which seeks to support exceptional third- or fourth-year Science, Engineering or Medicine PhD; PharmD; or MD students who are conducting transformative research that positively impacts the research community and society. In addition, this research has resulted in a significant number of technical publications in his field.

Andy was honored at a reception held in the Grace Allen room at the USF Library on Wednesday, April 6, 2016 at 10:30 am. The award was presented by Dr. Chih. As part of the ceremony, Andy gave a 20 minute talk covering his current research, following a luncheon with Dr. Chih. Andy is a pHd student studying in the laboratory of Dr. Lindsey Shaw.

Student success shines on at the CMMB Awards Ceremony || Fall 2015 [12.11.2015]

On December 11, CMMB faculty honored outstanding CMMB undergraduate and graduate students. The awards event, held in the Interdisciplinary Sciences Building presented over 12 awards including a Degree in Memoriam for undergraduate student Paul Rangel. Additionally, CMMB alumnus and practicing physician, Dr. Nicholas Devito was recognized for his outstanding achievements in the medical sciences and for his generous involvement in the CMMB department. Click the image below to view all the award recipients.

To graduating CMMB Students and award recipients: Your faculty congratulate all of you working towards or graduating with a degree from the CMMB Department. As you go forward in your careers, please remember to stay in touch with us! Check our alumni page often for updates and news pertaining to your colleges, and be sure to join our mailing list.

Dr. Nanjundan receives the 2015 Outstanding Research Achievement Award for 2015 [10.25.2015]

Meera Nanjundan research award

Dr. Meera Nanjundan studies the role of autophagy in endometriosis and ovarian cancer and the role of MiRNA in Renal Cancer.  Her primary appointment is in the Department of Cell Biology, Microbiology and Molecular Biology with a secondary appointment in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.  In 2014, she had active grants from National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institute of Child Health Development (NICHD), Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research, and the Braverman/Rudnick Family Grant in Ovarian Cancer Research, totaling $871,937.  Additionally, in 2014, three papers were published or accepted for publication with Nanjundan as the senior author and one provisional patent was filed on endometriosis research.  She also mentored one post-doctoral fellow, 17 PhD students, two Masters of Science students, and nine undergraduate students in the CMMB Cell and Molecular program and the Moffitt Cancer Biology PhD program in 2014, mentoring three of those students as their Major Professor.

Dr. Nunes Awarded USDA Grant [10.12.2015]

CMMB chair James Garey awarded outstanding faculty

CMMB faculty, Dr. Cecilia Nunes has been awarded a competitive $150,000 USDA grant, with an overall goal of curbing waste in specialty crops by working to develop new approaches in determining the impact level of each step along the supply chain. Reducing food waste and improving food security by ensuring the availability and accessibility of safe and nutritious food is a key problem of global importance.

Food is a valuable resource and yet around the world millions of tons that could have been eaten are wasted every year. Fresh fruits and vegetables (FFVs) are amongst the most frequently wasted foods (up to 50%) because of their high perishability and postharvest handling requirements and also because often their appearance quality is overemphasized. There is a need to reduce FFVs waste because while less than 10% of Americans meet the recommended daily guidelines for consumption of fruits and vegetables up to 30% of the FFVs purchased are thrown away at the consumer level. FFVs waste begins at the farm and accumulates throughout the supply chain. However, there is a lack of information regarding the level of impact of each step along the supply chain on FFVs quality and waste, and on how to prioritize actions along the supply chain to achieve an immediate and effective impact on waste reduction. New strategies (e.g., modernization of current technologies, development of new technologies and/or procedures, and training methods) need to be developed and implemented at strategic points in the supply chain in order to reduce waste of specialty crops.

This project, will address waste reduction and quality issues within the supply chain for blueberries, strawberries, peppers and tomatoes, which are valued specialty crops in Florida. The main goal of this project is to reduce specialty crops waste and economic losses, while promoting sustainability and increasing the availability of good quality FFVs. This project is important because reducing food waste andimproving food security by ensuring the availability and accessibility of safe and nutritious foodis a key problem of global importance. The benefits of this project will have a direct impact on the Florida blueberry, strawberry, pepper and tomato industry because will help improve efficiency within the supply chain and reduce waste of specialty crops and, will also generate information on good agricultural and handling practices that can be immediately transferred to commercial practices.  In addition, this project can have an important impact at the national level because by targeting critical points along the supply chain where (and why?) produce is wasted and quality consistently lost we can recommend new approaches to help targeting the points where actions with the greatest impact can be implement using good handling practices throughout the supply chain and reduce waste of specialty crops.

CMMB and Moffitt Cancer Center welcome Incoming Graduate Students[9.10.2015] Faculty and Students from two USF graduate programs, CMMB and Cancer Biology, Celebrated an evening of welcome at the Moffitt Cancer Center.

Dr. Younghoon Kee Awarded NIH Grant [8.5.2015]

CMMB chair James Garey awarded outstanding faculty

Dr. Younghoon Kee has been awarded a NIH R15 academic research grant for investigation of the Function and Regulation of the Fanconi Anemia Pathway in DNA Repair.

This DNA repair pathway is integral in the molecular physiology of myriad diseases as safeguarding genomic integrity from genotoxic stresses is critical for biology of a cell. DNA repair or DNA damage responses are under sophisticated controls that must be accurately and rapidly executed, when the genome integrity is challenged. Understanding the molecular regulation of DNA damage response factors that promote genome stability is a significant subject for basic biological perspective as well as clinical aspects. Fanconi Anemia DNA repair pathway is a genomic instability disorder with defective DNA repair activities. FA individuals display congenital anomaly, bone marrow disorder, and increased cancer incidence. At the cellular level, FA cells show hypersensitivity to DNA damaging agents such as Cisplatin and Mitomycin C. There There are currently 17 FA subtypes (FANCA ~ FANCT) identified, whose gene products are believed to function in a linear pathway that coordinate and execute DNA repair activities. Presence of such large number of protein subgroups that give rise to FA underscores the complexity of the genetics of the disease and presents FA as an important model disease to study how DNA repair activities are executed in response to genotoxic insults.

One of the underlying molecular events defective in the FA cells is monoubiquitination of FANCD2 protein by a group of nuclear FA proteins (FANC-A, B, C, E, F, G, L, and M) that function as an E3 ubiquitin ligase. The monoubiquitinated FANCD2 functionally associates with other DNA repair proteins, such as BRCA1, BRCA2, and RAD51, to facilitate DNA repair pathways to preserve genome from various genotoxic stresses. Dr. Kee’s research group is interested in understanding the regulation and function of FANCD2 monoubiquitination that are induced upon genotoxic stresses

Dr. Nunes Awarded Florida Strawberry Research and Education Foundation (FSREF) Grant [9.11.2015]

CMMB chair James Garey awarded outstanding faculty

Over four seasons (2010-2014), the Food Quality Laboratory at the University of South Florida has evaluated the quality and postharvest performance of new strawberry selections released by the University of Florida breeding program compared to commercial cultivars. Results from our work have been very helpful to the strawberry breeding program as they have led to the release of two new strawberry cultivars branded as WinterstarTM and Florida SensationTM. During the current season we have tested 11 new strawberry breeding selections currently under trial, by comparing their initial quality at harvest and their postharvest performance to that of commercial cultivars such as ‘Florida Radiance’ and ‘Florida Sensation’. In order to continue providing the Florida growers and the University of Florida strawberry breeding program with data on the physicochemical attributes and shelf life of new strawberry breeding selections, our main goal for the 2015-2016 strawberry production season is to test new strawberry selections and compare their performance with that of commercial standards.

Results from this work will provide additional data on postharvest quality and shelf life of new strawberry breeding selections. In addition, these data are necessary to fulfill UF/IFAS release committee requirements and also provide valuable information that can be made available to the Florida strawberry growers upon adoption of new varieties. This work is important because it will benefit Florida growers and will lead to the release of new strawberry cultivars that have been adequately tested.

CMMB 2015 Retreat for Faculty, Student and Staff [5.7.2015] Faculty, Students and Staff of CMMB retreated to St. Petersburg Beach for two days of presentations related to current research projects and academic programs.

Spring 2015 CMMB Outstanding Student Awards Ceremony [5.1.2015] Congratulations to all of the CMMB award recipients for our Spring 2015 Semester and for graduating with a degree from the CMMB Department! As you go forward in your career please stay in touch with us! You can do so simply by liking our facebook page or by registering as an alumni through our website. Registering will ensure you receive our regular newsletters. Thank you and again congratulations!!!!!

CMMB Professor and Chair, James Garey receives The University's 2015 Outstanding Faculty Award [4.10.2015]

CMMB chair James Garey awarded outstanding faculty

James Garey, Ph.D. was recently recognized by President Judy Genshaft as one of USF's 2015 Outstanding Faculty. Besides his accomplished service to the CMMB department as Professor and Chair, in May 2014 Dr. Garey was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London.

Elected for his contributions to the field of evolutionary biology, The Linnean Society was founded in 1788 and has historically focused on biodiversity, taxonomy and evolutionary biology. It holds most of the collections of Carolus Linnaeus. Charles Darwin originally presented his work on evolution at a meeting of the Linnean Society in 1858.

Sarah Martin receives award for Excellence in Research Administration [4.2.2015]

Sarah Martin Received USF TRAIN Award for Excellence

CMMB's Unit Research Administrator, Sarah Martin was the sole recipient of the most distinguished award recently given by USF's Division of Research Administration and Improvement Network (TRAIN). The award was granted to memorialize Sarah's exceptional dedication and outstanding commitment to The University's research administration enterprise, extraordinary contributions in support of the USF TRAIN mission and additionally to recognize a USF administrator who holds the highest of standards and excellence in research administration.

Sarah Martin received the USF TRAIN Associate Ambassador Award and was recognized as a USF TRAIN Associate of 2014-15. An additional CMMB staff member, Mildred Cummings was recognized for earning the TRAIN CRA-USF credential in 2012-13.

USF's Research and Innovation strives to make the University of South Florida a leading national research university in discoveries, publications, mentoring and training, and in the translation of research into health and economic benefits.

Research and Innovation at the University of South Florida envisions a dynamic, innovative, and diversified environment that will promote and support the research and creative scholarly activities of faculty, staff, and students.

CMMB graduate student recognized by The Florida Academy of Sciences [4.1.2015]

Valentina Caracas Award Recepient 79th annual Florida Academy of Sciences

Valentina Caceres, CMMB Thesis Masters student studying in Younghoon Kee's lab recently presented her research at the 79th Annual Meeting for The Florida Academy of Sciences held at St. Leo University. Valentina's poster titled, “Regulation and targeting of the FANCD2 activation and DNA repair for enhancing chemosensitivity” was delivered before the Academy and has been recognized as an Outstanding Graduate Student Poster Presentation by the Medical Sciences Section of the Academy.

For Valentina and other competitors, student presentations are judged at the Academy’s contributed paper sessions by section officers, session chairs, and other regular members of the Academy. Based on Academy-wide guidelines, judging is generally founded on experimental or observational design, significance of the research, delivery, and response to questions. Valentina's recognition of her work is also a credit to the Younghoon Kee's laboratory and the CMMB program for it's research and training. This award most notably reflects Valentina's professional development as a scientist. The CMMB department and USF congratulates Valentina on her excellent work.

Thank you to everyone who attended the Spring 2015 CMMB Picnic [3.30.2015]

CMMB Annual Picnic 2015
CMMB Annual Picnic 2015
The Spring 2015 CMMB picnic was held for the second year in a row and was an outstanding success. Thank you to all the Faculty, Students and Staff who made this fun event possible!
CMMB Annual Picnic 2015

Curator of the CMMB Herbarium, Dr. Alan Franck raises awareness for a threatened Jamaican forest [3.23.2015]

 Alan Franck Visits Jamaica to perform a Biological Survey

In February, CMMB's Herbarium Curator Dr. Alan Franck, along with other Jamaican biologists, was chosen to participate in a research study on biodiversity sponsored by the Clarendon Parish Development Committee and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund to preserve and document a fragile ecosystem in Jamaica full of endemic species. 
Franck said informing the public about resources they may not be aware of leads people to protect those resources and may lead to a greater interest in biodiversity. 

“It is about preserving what we have,” Franck said. “We don’t tend to value something unless we know about it. There are other people besides botanists on this trip; there are people working with snails or birds to find out what we have. I guess it’s the wisdom of holding on to all parts until you know what you need. It’s important that students know there are threats to losing biodiversity.” The ecosystem in question, Peckham Woods, is a forest located in the central area of Jamaica. Because the need to grow food is so great, Franck said endangered species sometimes take a back seat to easier farming practices. 

“To clear the land, they sometimes set fires that will carry up the hillside and get into the forest,” Franck said. “There are not a lot of enforced land boundaries.”
“Jamaican habitats aren’t adapted to fire, unlike Florida where many species depend on disturbances such as fire."

 Alan Franck Visits Jamaica to perform a Biological Survey

Jamaica’s preeminent botanist, George Proctor, identified Peckham Woods as, “having outstanding importance for endemic plants,” and it has one of the highest densities of site-specific endemic plants on the island.  “One endemic species is in the genus Portlandia, and makes these beautiful, big flowers,” Franck said. “The area is composed of rugged limestone, so these limestone hills can be jagged and steep. The very top of these hills are very dry, so that is one of the plants that you always see at the top.” The study will not stay in Jamaica, however. After coming back from his second trip in May, Franck plans to archive and study the taxonomy of the specimens he brings home. Assisting the scientific community in species preservation is the ultimate goal. Franck finds the research important because Jamaica doesn’t have many resources to protect their endangered land and needs help preserving it.

“In Jamaica they don’t have a lot of resources to devote to protecting forests and through international efforts, we can try to make a greater difference,” Franck said.

Dr. Franck is the director of the CMMB Herbarium. Contact him directly or visit the web-page if you have any questions.

In the United States, more people die from Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) than AIDS. University of South Florida microbiologist Lindsey Shaw, Ph.D. focuses his research on understanding MRSA and other "super bugs" and identifying potential pharmaceuticals that can effectively treat these diseases. Recently, Shaw and his team were awarded a U.S. Patent for a promising pharmaceutical.

Associate Professor Lindsey Shaw knows a lot about Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus. After having hip surgery as a teenager, Shaw's doctors discovered he had a MRSA infection in his hip. After several years of antibiotic treatments, Shaw made a full recovery. Sadly, not everyone is able to successfully fight this type of infection, even with the help of antibiotics.

Each year, about 2 million people get a MRSA infection, which is equivalent to the population of the entire state of Nebraska. Of those 2 million people, about 100,000 people die from the infection. Some consider these to be conservative estimates.

Click here to contribute

In order to make Shaw's research lab even more efficient, we are raising money for a plate pourer, which prepares petri dishes for experiments. This machine will free up 1,040 man hours per year and allow our scientists to devote more time to scientific experiments and less time to time-consuming preparatory work.

We need you help to reach our goal of $18,700 so we can purchase the plate pourer for Shaw's lab. To break it down, we need only 19 people to give a generous gift of $1,000 or 38 people to give $500 or 374 people to give $50. Any size gift is greatly appreciated, and can be made securely online. You also have the option to give a one-time gift or give a monthly gift automatically--it's up to you!

If you have any questions, please contact Linda Breen at or 813.974.3200.

CMMB Faculty Dr. Daniel Lim receives $500,000 from the US Department of Agriculture to Improve Sample Processing Methods for Foodborne Pathogens [2.12.2015]

CMMB Faculty, Daniel Lim (left) CMMB Graduate Student, Sonia Magana (right)

Dr. Daniel Lim (left) and microbiologist Sonia Magaña Castillo (right) pictured at the Advanced BioSensors Laboratory at The University of South Florida, are developing methods for large volume concentration of produce wash water to improve the probability of detecting pathogens.

CMMB Distinguished University Professor, Dr. Daniel Lim, has been awarded a $500,000 two-year grant by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grants Program.  A total of 101 proposals were received by this program and eight were funded.  Dr. Lim’s proposal, titled “Rapid Concentration/Detection of Foodborne Pathogens from Wash Water for Enhanced Safety of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables”, was placed in the Outstanding category by the Review Panel, and was ranked among the top 3% of the 101 proposals.

This research project will utilize a dead-end ultrafiltration device (Portable Multi-Use Automated Concentration System, PMACS) developed by Dr. Lim’s Advanced Biosensors Laboratory to rapidly concentrate pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7 and Listeria monocytogenes from large volumes of produce wash water for subsequent qPCR detection of these bacteria.   Contamination of produce with foodborne pathogens, which can occur at various points throughout the farm-to-fork continuum, presents a serious public health risk.  Potential sources of contamination include irrigation water, domestic livestock, wild animals, field workers and harvesting equipment. Reliable detection and identification of bacterial pathogens in fresh-cut produce, such as bagged lettuce and spinach, is seriously compromised by the random distribution of relatively low numbers of pathogens in large volumes of commercial product.  PMACS concentration of pathogens from larger sample volumes should provide more representative samples and increase the probability of detecting potential pathogens compared to standard sampling methods.  As noted by the USDA Review Panel, the PMACS procedure is “a novel methodology to use in flume wash water systems” that has the “potential as a breakthrough technology for the produce processing/washing industry.”

This research will be spearheaded by Sonia Magaña Castillo and Dr. Elizabeth Kearns, with assistance from Sally Torres in Dr. Lim’s laboratory.  The work will be performed in partnership with Dr. Elliot Ryser, who will assist in refining and testing the PMACS technology at Michigan State University’s fresh-cut leafy green pilot-scale production facility, and SmartWash Solutions, which will field-test and validate the technology at its Lettuce Processing Facility in Salinas, California.

USF Researchers Discover Potential Antibiotic Cure for MRSA[1.30.2015] Extracted from USF News By Katy Hennig

CMMB Faculty, Lindsey Shaw (left) CMMB Graduate Student, Whitney Burda (right)


TAMPA, Fla. (Jan. 28, 2015) - A breakthrough discovery in antibiotic compounds used to treat resistant strains of bacteria has earned University of South Florida Associate Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Biology Lindsey (Les) Shaw Ph.D. and microbiology graduate student Whittney Burda a U.S. Patent for their novel research.

The research team works with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other drug resistant bacteria, and has now developed a compound that is effective in treating difficult to cure infections.

“The problem that we have in this country and globally is we develop antibiotics, but resistance develops very quickly so we are in a position where we have still an enormous number of infections but very limited treatment options for people,” said Shaw.

Shaw and Burda have conducted a series of testing by screening compounds in collaboration with several USF researchers and after years of lab studies, recently proved the compounds to be successful in treating MRSA.

The discovery comes after years of innovative research and innovation at USF, developing new compounds for fighting infections that are becoming increasingly hard to treat. According to Shaw, the new compounds are uniquely suited to combat particularly dangerous infections. “We’ve been working on a class of compounds, the chemical name is quinazoline, and we’ve developed novel versions of these which seem to work against MRSA, which kills tens of thousands of people every year and causes hundreds of thousands of infections,” said Shaw. “They work not only against MSRA, but also Acinetobacter, which affects troops in the Middle East and is another bacteria that causes a lot of problems, kills a lot of people, is very drug resistant and hard to treat.”

As a graduate research student, Burda has worked with screening the compounds against bacteria to uncover potential treatments. “We have found a group of compounds that work really well against both Acinetobacter and Staphylococcus,” Burda explained. “Typically what we do is we start out doing what’s called the Kirby Bauer assay, or disc diffusions. We take those samples that they give us and then screen them to find out which ones work best, so what modifications work best against the bacteria.” In December, the team received a patent for their discovery, which is more than half way along on the course for clinical testing and bringing a new antibiotic to the market.

The compounds that Shaw and the research team have developed fall within a group that is known to be effective for the treatment of a range of infections. With slight modifications, the discovery changes the structure of the antibiotic and maintains its efficacy. “The quinazoline class has been around a long time to treat a lot of different things, but the one that we’ve developed chemically are different to those that existed before, so discovered entirely here at USF, created and designed here at USF specifically toward MRSA and Acinetobacter infections; so chemically they are completely different to anything that people have done before,” said Shaw.

What’s Next?

The compounds will enter into preclinical testing and continue to be modified and developed to refine and create the most effective drug with the least side effects. There are other promising signs from the compounds, indicating that the use be applicable to a range of difficult to treat infections.

“If they continue to clear the hurdles as they do, they are quite promising,” said Shaw. “We do find that they work against a certain type of bacterial growth called biofilms; so when things go into the human body such a pace-makers, pins and plates, biofilms develop on those and they are very had to treat, even more so than regular infections. Some of these compounds are quite effective at targeting cells that grow in these biofilms, so this is another plus of this class of drugs that makes it very exciting.”

Alya Limayem, CMMB USF FacultyDr. Alya Limayem Receives a USF sponsored Research Grant to develop her studies on multi drug resistance[1.5.2014]

CMMB Faculty Dr. Alya Limayem has recently been awarded a research grant to continue development of research proposals studying the advanced mitigation techniques of infection risk from resistant fecal bacteria. Her research which utilizes techniques in cellular and molecular biology demonstrate that there is an urgent need to identify fecal indicator bacteria strains in an attempt to determine a sustainable therapeutic option.

When asked about the direction her research will be moving towards, Dr. Limayem stated that "We will explore nanoparticle technologies utilizing chitosan and Zinc monoxide (ZnO) components that are sufficiently broad spectrum to suppress microbial resistance from the environment and human populations with regard to selective toxicity."

The grant provided by the University of South Florida Division of Research will promote the development of current and future grant proposals for Limayem and her lab. This includes Several extramural grants and manuscripts that would result from the internal support grant. The findings from our proposed novel approach will be primarily used to support applications for extramural governmental agencies mainly the competitive NIH/R21 grant support related to the ZRG1 IDM-V(12) study section in addition to the NSF, Early Career Development Grant. Moreover, potential support from the Nanomedicine Research Center to our nanoparticle research study would enable to obtain further data to enhance our hypothesis of the current project entitled ”Advanced mitigation techniques of infection risk from resistant fecal bacteria.” The nano-based mitigation techniques for microbial contaminants will be also used for further interdisciplinary research studies to control microbial contaminants not only in humans or animals but also in plants (i.e., algae for biofuel) and waste waters. As such, the internal support to this study will hold promises to open up many different avenues involving a wide range of external grant proposals and publications.

Fall 2014 CMMB Outstanding Student Awards Ceremony [12.12.2014] Congratulations to all of the CMMB award recipients for our Fall 2014 semester.

Dr. Gary Daughdrill's Recent Publication in Nature Chemical Biology explores the "Guardian of the Genome."
[12.5.2014 - Adapted from USF Research and Innovation, Judy Lowry]

A study conducted by CMMB Faculty Gary Daughdrill, Ph.D. has demonstrated that reducing the flexibility of an important protein, p53, has dramatic effects on a cell’s ability to repair DNA, which could ultimately lead to the onset of cancer.

The study was published online, Nov. 2, 2014 as a Brief Communication on by lead authors Dr. Gary Daughdrill, an associate professor in CMMB and member of the Florida Center of Excellence for Drug Discovery and Innovation at the University of South Florida, Dr. Alexander Loewer at the Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology, and Dr. Philipp Selenko at the Leibniz Institute of Molecular Pharmacology.

One of the proteins central to maintaining the integrity of the human genome is the human tumor suppressor p53, known as the “guardian of the genome,” because it helps the cell decide when to repair DNA damage. p53 is a very flexible protein containing long segments that are constantly changing their shape.

“Proteins are large organic molecules that assume different shapes to accomplish the different functions that keep cells alive and healthy,” said Daughdrill. “In general, proteins can be grouped into two broad structural classes; ordered proteins that are relatively rigid and assume a small number of shapes to accomplish their functions and disordered proteins that are very flexible and assume an almost incomprehensible number of shapes to accomplish their functions."

The inherent flexibility of p53 will determine whether cells will try to repair the DNA or undergo programmed cell death, also called apoptosis.

USF CDDI Protein NMR Facility
Dr. Daughdrill watches postdoctoral scholar Hongwei Wu load a protein sample into the 800 Mhz NMR spectrometer at the USF CDDI Protein NMR Facility (Photo courtesy Gary Daughdrill).

According to Daughdrill, “the work is a significant step forward in our understanding of protein structure and function because it shows that a protein like p53, which is known to assume many different shapes in the test tube, is also assuming these different shapes inside living cells. It also showed that the flexibility of p53 is essential for its proper function.”

“Interdisciplinary collaborations,” said Daughdrill, “especially ones that combine computational biology, biophysics, cellular biology, and molecular biology, are absolutely necessary for solving the biggest problems in human health, many of which are caused by proteins like p53 that are capable of assuming a large number of shapes.”

View full article in USF NEWS.

CMMB faculty member, James Garey Ph.D. supports a pristine part of “Old Florida” with his research findings. [10.30.2014]

Dr. Garey and his students have studied a unique coastal spring fed estuarine system located in Pasco County. A developer has been trying to build a large development on the site and dredge a boat channel through the estuary. In a letter to the editor of the Tampa Tribune, Dr. Garey supports the Army Corp of Engineer’s decision to deny the application of a permit to dredge the channel. Read the full letter to the Tampa Tribune.

CMMB Collaboration Wins at Oktoberfest! [10.17.2014] Crupa Kurien and Josean Cruz are the winners of best poster presentation in the Science, Medicine, and Society category. Crupa and Josean are both senior undergraduate students affiliated with the CMMB department.  The title of their poster was Mitochondrial electron transport chain (ETC) changes in spinal cord gray and white matter of ALS patients.  This was a collaborative project between the CMMB Department and the Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair.  The project was supported by departmental funds for Dr. Patrick Bradshaw, Ph.D., and Dr. Svitlana Garbuzova-Davis, Ph.D., D.Sc.

The 8th Annual Oktoberfest event was held on Friday, October 17, 2014 in the USF Marshall Center Ballroom [10.17.2014] Oktoberfest is a fun event for USF faculty, students and staff that provides a collegial environment to grow interdisciplinary collaboration as we learn about the exciting research happening across the USF-System. Oktoberfest is open to all USF faculty and graduate students. This event is positioned to build synergies across disciplines and invite collaboration across colleges. You don't want to miss this opportunity to promote the research strength of your cluster. Oktoberfest was able to showcase almost 100 posters along with scholarly displays that resonated with humanities scholars and policy scientists. Events like these show why the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching classifies USF in the top tier of research universities, a distinction attained by only 2.2 % of all universities. At Oktoberfest, the research engagement of USF students resonates with all who participate.

Dr. Daniel Lim receives the ASM Elizabeth O. King Award [10.5.2014]

CMMB Faculty, Dr. Daniel Lim has been awarded the ASM Elizabeth O. King Award. This award, established in 1970, is given to an individual who has made notable and significant contributions in diagnostic, public health, or medical microbiology as a member of the Southeastern Branch of the Americal Society of Microbiology. Qualifying contributions include publications, microbial systematics including collection, organization and interpretation of data, teaching and training, and/or evidence of superior performance as a diagnostic microbiologist.

Jessica Kennedy receives the 2014 Outstanding Student Research Award[9.8.2014] On Tuesday night, CMMB hosted the 2014 Student Welcome Reception for graduate students within USF's CMMB Department and students from The H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center's Cancer Biology Ph.D. program. The reception was held at the USF Marshall Center and the directors of both programs Dr. James Garey (CMMB) & Dr.Ken Wright (Moffitt), and the USF Provost Dr. Ralph Wilcox all welcomed the graduate students into the new year. One of the most prestigious awards from the CMMB department was presented to CMMB graduate student, Jessica Kennedy to recognize her for performing outstanding graduate research. Presentations from students in both departments took place as well. Welcome to all CMMB and Cancer Biology Graduate students into the Fall semester of 2014!!!

CMMB Faculty Dr. Stanley Stevens has received a USF Faculty Outstanding Research Achievement Award for 2014.[8.1.2014]

The University’s Outstanding Research Achievement Award recognizes faculty who have received truly exceptional recognition of their research with preeminent awards, grants, or publications in top journals. These awards are part of an open competition judged by the USF System Research Council to underscore the professional recognition that USF faculty have received from national and international peers during the past calendar year. Within the past 18 months, Dr. Stevens has published 13 peer-reviewed scientific papers in high-impact journals including the Journal of Proteome Research, Human Molecular Genetics and Gastroenterology. Dr. Stevens laboratory utilizes mass spectrometry-based proteomics to understand the impact of oxidative stress on cell function.  In the past year, Dr. Stevens received three R21 grant awards from the NIH (NIAAA) to investigate alcohol-induced oxidative stress and its effects on epigenetic modification changes in various cell types including brain (microglia) and liver (hepatocyte) cells.

Dr. Lindsey Shaw Awarded NIH R21 Grant[7.12.2014]

CMMB Faculty, Dr. Lindsey Shaw has been awarded a grant to further understand how proteases (enzymes that cleave other proteins) influence cellular control in bacteria. The current project specifically focuses on virulence processes in S. aureus.

Staphylococcus aureus is a highly virulent and widely successful pathogen, which is speculated to be the most common cause of human disease. Currently, it is a leading agent of both community and hospital- acquired infections worldwide, causing a variety of ailments in a plethora of ecological niches within the host. With the advent of antibiotic resistance, and the emergence of clinical isolates resistant to last resort antibiotics, a thorough exploration of the pathogenic mechanisms employed by this organism is urgently required. Our group has previously published a number of reports documenting the role of secreted proteases as virulence factors in S. aureus infections. However, until now, the intracellular proteolytic enzymes of this dangerous bacterium have not been explored as virulence affecting entities. During a screen in our lab on the impact of such enzymes, we identified a mutant in an intracellular leucine aminopeptidase (LAP, pepZ) that strongly influences the pathogenic potential of S. aureus. Specifically we demonstrated significant attenuation of pepZ mutants using laboratory and clinical strains, localized and systemic infections, and human and murine models of disease.

These findings should not be undersold: few intracellular aminopeptidases have ever been shown to contribute to bacterial virulence; making the S. aureus LAP highly unique. Critically, it should be noted that the observed attenuation (i) does not result from a simple growth defect; and (ii) is not a common feature for other aminopeptidase in S. aureus. Enzymatically, aminopeptidases cleave N-terminal amino acids from protein substrates. Thus, our central hypothesis is that pepZ mutant cells fail to process key cellular targets, leading to decreased fitness, and pathogenesis. This is supported by preliminary data that reveals alterations in intracellular and extracellular proteomes upon pepZ disruption. Accordingly, we will explore the contribution of LAP to S. aureus disease causation by identifying LAP Targets within S. aureus Cells using proteomic tools. We will then determine the influence of LAP and on virulence determinant secretion. We contend that this analysis will provide a unique insight into a novel enzyme, enable us to better understand the pathogenic properties of S. aureus, and may aid in the rational development of new therapeutic treatments.

Dr. Younghhoon Kee is awarded Moffitt Cancer Center’s Spring 2014 American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant [7.5.2014]

CMMB Faculty Member, Dr. Younghoon Kee has received the Moffitt Cancer Center’s Spring 2014 American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant Program Award titled “Targeting FANCD2 activation for enhancing chemosensitivity”. The project involves studying how radiation and chemotherapeutic agents eradicate tumors by inducing irreparable DNA damages. Additionally, evaluating how cancer cells develop a resistance to conventional chemotherapeutic agents by heightening their own DNA repair capacities. Modulating the level of DNA repair activities may have beneficial effects, for treating such chemo-resistant tumors that are hyper-reliant on certain DNA repair pathways for survival. This study aims to investigate molecular mechanism involved in the modulation of the DNA repair activity in human cells. The study will further test if inhibiting the DNA repair pathway can sensitize cancer cells to conventional chemotherapeutic agents.

Meera Nanjundan is Awarded an NIH R21 National Cancer Institute Grant[7.1.2014]

CMMB Faculty member Dr. Meera Nanjundan has recently been awarded an NIH R21 grant (National Cancer Institute) titled “Transition from Endometriosis to Ovarian Cancer: Role of Iron-Induced Autophagy”.

Patients with clear cell epithelial ovarian carcinoma have a poor prognosis corresponding with a shortened survival due to lack of effective therapy. These ovarian cancers are frequently associated with endometriosis, a benign but painful gynecological disease. Endometriosis is a precursor lesion which may lead to the development of clear cell ovarian cancers. The proposed studies will focus on improving our understanding of the mechanism that underlies the transition from endometriosis (precursor lesions) to ovarian cancers. In particular, we will investigate whether autophagy, a survival mechanism which is activated in response to oxidative stress (such as heme, elevated in endometriotic cysts whose breakdown products (i.e., iron) elicits cell transformation), may be involved in this transition. These studies will serve to fill in an important missing link to our understanding of the development of endometriosis-associated ovarian cancers.

Dr. Richard Pollenz Receives a 1.2M Howard Hughes Grant to Develop a STEM Academy for USF[6.24.2014]

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has selected the University of South Florida for a five-year, $1.2 million grant to develop and implement a summer STEM Academy enrichment program for entering first-year students as part of a sweeping, $60 million effort to reinvigorate science instruction at 37 leading research universities.

USF's proposed STEM Academy program concept was successful through three-rounds of a competitive grant program that attracted 170 applicants.HHMI – which for more than a quarter-century has supported universities in improving undergraduate education – challenged research universities in 2013 to develop new approaches to science, technology, engineering and math education as part of a sweeping effort to bolster the nation's scientific and technological capabilities, particularly among populations under- represented in the sciences.

The STEM Academy program concept is modeled in part after the highly successful pre-college STEM Academy programs that Pollenz and faculty members developed in 2012 to inspire high school students to enroll in STEM undergraduate programs. View full article in USF NEWS.

Trillitye Finlayson Named Tillman Military Scholar[6.11.2014]

Trillitye Finlayson, CMMB Ph.D. student in Dr. Sandy Westerheide’s lab and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, was recently named a 2014 Tillman Military Scholar and received a prestigious award given to “U.S. service veterans and military spouses” to pursue higher education in the fields of medicine, law, business, education and the arts. Trill endured a rigorous selection process and was chosen from more than 7,500 applicants as 1 of 59 scholarship recipients across the country and 1 of 3 recipients here at USF. Trill’s 3-year award will help support her doctoral education and ovarian cancer research in Dr. Westerheide’s lab. You can read more about Ms. Finlayson's prestigious award on the USF CAS Website.

Dr. James Garey Elected Fellow of the Linnean Society of London[6.4.2014]

CMMB Chair and Professor, Dr. Jim Garey, was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London in May 2014 for his contributions to the field of evolutionary biology. The Linnean Society was founded in 1788 and has historically focused on biodiversity, taxonomy and evolutionary biology. It holds most of the collections of Carolus Linnaeus. Charles Darwin originally presented his work on evolution at a meeting of the Linnean Society in 1858.

Patrick Bradshaw, Ph.D. is awarded a NIH RO3 Federal Grant [5.6.2014]

CMMB Faculty and cancer researcher Dr. Patrick Bradshaw, CMMB Faculty and Assistant Professor, has recently been awarded an NIH R03 grant to conduct research on the effects of amino acid supplementation on aging in C. elegans. The grant, entitled “Metabolic Mechanisms of Amino Acid-Mediated Lifespan Extension in C. elegans” will expand on “evidence that changing the composition of amino acids in the diet will influence the rate of aging,” according to Dr. Bradshaw. Dr. Bradshaw also stated that “we are testing which amino acids can extend lifespan of the C. elegans worm that only lives for 3 weeks. Once we find the amino acids that have life-extending effects we will try to formulate a diet that uses this information, so we can delay aging and fight off aging-related diseases such as heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Sarah Martin receives 2013 USF Outstanding Staff Award [5.2.2014]

The Outstanding Staff Award is one of the highest forms of recognition an Administration or Staff employee can achieve at the University of South Florida. The Outstanding Staff Awards Program recognizes the university’s outstanding employees for their exceptional dedication, commitment and innovative thinking. It is a tremendous honor to be considered as one of “the very best” by your colleagues, and I am sure you will join me in congratulating Academic Affairs recipients.  I also appreciate the efforts of the nominators and endorsers and would like to add a special thanks to all of you for your excellent work on behalf of Academic Affairs.

Dr. Stanley Stevens is awarded funding to determine mechanisms of microglial activation.

Stanley Stevens, Ph.D., CMMB faculty and expert in the field of proteomics, has received a USF internal award and an NIH R21 grant award to conduct research focused on the discovery of the mechanisms behind the activation of microglial cells by ethanol. Microglia are a type of glial cell that are the resident immune cells of the central nervous system and act as the first and main form of active immune defense. Dr. Stevens is identifying the relationship between ethanol-mediated effects on cellular metabolism and epigenetic modifications in microglia. These modifications are important in regulating gene expression profiles that can define the graded microglial activation response observed in cell culture and animal model systems of alcohol abuse used by the Stevens laboratory.

CMMB Faculty and cancer researcher Younghoon kee is awarded a USF proposal enhancement grant to evaluate DNA damage pathways

Dr. Younghoon Kee has recently been awarded an internal grant to continue development of research proposals studying chemotherapeutic drug resistance as it relates to DNA damaging agents. His research which utilizes techniques in cellular and molecular biology demonstrate that a specific enzyme that mediates protein neddylation is required for maintaining genome integrity, in part through activating Cullin 2 (CUL2) E3 ubiquitin enzyme. When asked the direction about the direction his research will be moving Dr. Kee stated that "We will test our hypothesis that neddylation of CUL2 is required for genome integrity, and identify novel functions of CUL2 neddylation in this pathway. . In a separate project, we will investigate whether specific disruption of the protein interactions in the DNA repair pathway implicated in a genome instability syndrome Fanconi Anemia (FA) can lead to cellular sensitization to platinum-based DNA damaging agents. We will particularly focus on regulation of protein ubiquitinating enzyme essential in the DNA repair. The outcome of the work will give us better insight on regulation of genome integrity, and may aid in designing molecular strategies for the purpose of enhancing chemosensitivity.

CMMB congratulates Aqeela Erwin and Valentina Caceres both awarded fellowships through the Office of Graduate Studies..

CMMB congratulates 2 of our own Graduate Students, Aqeela Erwin (pictured left) and Valentina Caceres (pictured right) were both awarded fellowships through the Office of Graduate Studies. Aqeela, a Ph.D. student in Dr. Bin Xue’s lab, was awarded a Graduate Student Success Diversity Fellowship to begin in Fall 2014. Valentina, a Master’s student in Dr. Younghoon Kee’s lab, was awarded The Delores Auzenne Fellowship that will also begin in Fall 2014. Both Aqeela and Valentina applied for the fellowships and were chosen by a campus-wide faculty committee to be recipients based on their contribution to diversity in USF graduate programs.

CMMB Faculty Stanley Stevens awarded multiple NIH grants.

Dr. Stan Stevens was recently awarded two NIH R21 grants. These grants focus on a proteomic approach to understanding the effects of alcohol in oxidative stress. One is “The role of PHPT1 in oxidative stress-induced epigenetic modifications by ethanol” and the other is “The role of microglia in ethanol-induced oxidative stress”. Dr. Stevens has a third proposal pending “ Impact of ethanol-induced protein nitration on the histone modification code”. These grants support graduate and undergraduate student researchers in his lab.