William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP, president of UT Health San Antonio, announced that the Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Fund is giving $900,000 to the university to support two research projects and one pilot research project, all conducted by rising young faculty.
The Voelcker Fund’s Young Investigator Awards, which provide each recipient $150,000 per year over three years ($450,000), are intended to support young scientists conducting medical research to find cures for cancer, heart disease, arthritis, muscular dystrophy, retinitis, and/or macular degeneration.
This year’s UT Health San Antonio Young Investigator Award recipients are:
- Yogesh K. Gupta, Ph.D., assistant professor of biochemistry and structural biology and member of the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute, is studying epigenetic modifications that regulate transformation of cancer cells. In addition to NMR spectroscopy, his lab utilizes X-ray crystallography and other approaches to study cancer development. His funded research is on “EEPD1 Rescues Oxidized Replication Forks.”
- David S. Libich, Ph.D., assistant professor of biochemistry and structural biology and member of the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute, is utilizing nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to gain understanding of basic mechanisms operating in both healthy and cancerous cells. His funded research is on “Exploring Hsp60 as a target for inducing apoptosis in cancer cells.” (Dr. Libich is receiving $350,000 for his award as he received $100,000 last year as a Voelcker Fund Pilot Research Award winner.)
A Voelcker Fund Pilot Research Award in the amount of $100,000 will support:
- Hye Young Lee, Ph.D., assistant professor of cellular and integrative physiology, “Developing a novel therapy for glioblastoma using CRISPR-Nanoparticles.”
“This vital program of the Voelcker Fund targets young investigators to support their careers,” President Henrich said. “Their initial research is evaluated by peer reviewers who are scientists on the national level. Thus, the selection of our young faculty members for these grant awards is meritorious and highly important for San Antonio.”
President Henrich announced last year that the Voelcker Fund Board of Trustees allocated nearly $850,000 to continue the Voelcker Biomedical Research Academy at UT Health San Antonio through 2021. The academy is a two-year immersive summer experience for high school students ages 16 and older to learn about and conduct biomedical research in preparation for college and for careers in science and health care.
The academy, which began in 2009 and has been continuously supported by the Voelcker Fund from the outset, has expanded its curriculum to include fundamentals in population health, precision medicine, bioinformatics/Big Data and biotechnology commercialization.. All high school participants are mentored by UT Health faculty, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students, who offer an individualized training plan and assess the students’ scientific progress.
Irene Chapa, Ph.D., is director of research and science outreach at UT Health San Antonio and director of the Voelcker Biomedical Research Academy.
To date, the Voelcker Fund has provided more than $23 million to UT Health San Antonio.