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Created by CDC microbiologist Frederick A. Murphy, this colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) reveals some of the ultrastructural morphology displayed by an Ebola virus virion. An outbreak of deadly Ebola virus disease, also known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, has killed at least 2,800 people in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. The 2014 Ebola outbreak is the largest in history, the first Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and is actually the world's first Ebola epidemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ebola Q&A: UR researchers share their views

Given the widespread attention regarding the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa, four URMC faculty with expertise in viral infections agreed to field questions on this topic.

David Topham, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, is an expert in immune responses to respiratory infections, especially those caused by viruses. His research focuses on how the immune system clears a virus infection and provides long term immunity, in order to design more rational vaccination and treatment strategies.

John Treanor, Chief of the Infectious Diseases Division in the Department of Medicine, is a widely recognized expert in influenza and vaccine research, who helped lead the nation's efforts to find a vaccine to protect against bird flu and has has long been recognized as a top researcher on more common strains of flu.

Luis Martinez-Sobrido, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, has spent more than a decade researching the molecular biology, immunology, and pathogenesis of negative-strand and positive-strand RNA and DNA viruses, including Ebola. For example, he was coauthor of a 2003 paper on "The Ebola virus VP35 protein inhibits activation of interferon regulatory factor 3."

Tracey Baas, an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, is senior editor at Science-Business eXchange, a weekly publication from Nature and BioCentury that evaluates novel science and technology with potential translational impact in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical area.

Question: Death rates during outbreaks of Ebola can be as high as 90 percent, depending on the subspecies of virus involved. Why is the Ebola virus so lethal?

Topham: There are no vaccines, no treatments. And unfortunately, like a lot of viruses that enter humans from a zoonotic (animal) source -- in this case apparently from fruit bats -- they can often be more pathogenic, and more unpredictable than viruses that have been circulating longer in humans.

Martinez-Sobrido: When we are exposed to viruses that have been circulating in humans, like the common seasonal influenza, we have some preexisting immunity to protect us against these viral infections. But when we are exposed to a new zoonotic virus, like Ebola, with no preexisting immunity, it is that much easier for the virus to replicate. In this case, Ebola also induces a cytokine storm. (Cytokines are proteins that help modulate our immune response.) This is responsible for the pathogenesis and is what kills you. It is our own immune system, which wants to protect us from the virus, that is actually harming us.

Question: Why is this particular outbreak proving so difficult to contain?

Topham: In the past, Ebola outbreaks have affected relatively small populations in isolated areas. The best control measure is quarantine, so in the isolated areas it was effective to just circle it off. This outbreak is occurring in populated areas where it is socially, geographically and politically difficult to put quarantine into place and have it be effective.

Ebola is also a relatively rare disease. A big factor in the current outbreak is that Ebola is occurring in countries that haven't seen it before.

Question: Given the scope of this outbreak, is there a need for the U.S. government to devote more funding to developing vaccines or antiviral drugs?

Baas: There are developmental therapies on the shelves that could be potentially taken forward, but where's the money going to come from? Businesses are hesitant to invest because therapies would be targeting a small group of people. The government is getting somewhat involved, but philanthropies and academic sources have also been coming forward. In recent days the Gates Foundation has put together $50 million to support the emergency response to Ebola. A group of people from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) has put together $24.9 million for the antibody therapy that is being worked on. (BARDA, in the Office for Preparedness and Response, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides an integrated, systematic approach to the development and purchase of the necessary vaccines, drugs, therapies, and diagnostic tools for public health medical emergencies.) Another group, involving NIH, GlaxoSmithKline, the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council, has come up with $4.7 million to fund trials of a vaccine. (The vaccine is based on an attenuated strain of chimpanzee adenovirus. It is used as a vector to deliver benign genetic material derived from the Ebola virus to human cells but does not replicate further).

Topham: The primary reason the U.S. needs to be interested in this is a humanitarian one.

Also, the instability that the virus has caused both politically and economically is going to generate political issues for us in the affected countries, which are going to be a threat and problem in ways we cannot possibly predict.

These are poor countries, with tenuous governments to begin with, tenuous health care and fragile economies. Just the stigma of having this in your country is enough to break down some of these structures, which could lead to political instability. I think that's going to have more consequences than the virus itself.

(Next: What should be the role of pharmaceutical companies? What if Ebola emerges in the United States? How do pandemics occur?)

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Correction: Session on Brain Start-up Challenge is Monday

Graduate students, MD students and postdocs are invited to learn about the Neuro Start-up Challenge, which aims to accelerate the commercialization of federal agency brain-related inventions, spur economic growth, and provide Universities a platform to further develop their entrepreneurship-learning portfolio.

An information session on the unique business plan and start-up challenge will be offered at 3 p.m., this coming Monday, Sept. 29, in the Medical Center Class of '62 (G-9425).

Rosemarie Truman, founder and CEO of the Center for Advancing Innovation (CAI), will introduce the challenge. Omar Bakht, UR's Director of New Ventures and Technology Development; Greg Gdowski, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering; Todd D. Krauss, Chair and Professor of Chemistry; James McGrath, Professor of Biomedical Engineering; Mike Totterman, CEO, iCardiac; and Alex Zapesochny, President and COO, iCardiac, will explain why they believe in the lean start-up process and how it has helped them.

A networking reception will follow at 5 p.m. in Flaum Atrium.

The challenge is a partnership of the CAI, The Heritage Provider Network, and the National Institutes of Health.

March of Dimes award supports Steiner's research on HIE

Laurie Steiner, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Neonatology and a member of the Pediatric Biomedical Research Center, has received a Basil O'Connor Starter Scholar Award from the March of Dimes Foundation. This award is designed to support young scientists just embarking on their independent research careers and help them start their own research projects on topics related to the March of Dimes mission to prevent birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

Steiner's research focuses on genomics and epigenetics of hematopoiesis. Her Basil O'Connor award will support her investigation of the mechanism by which erythropoietin (EPO) -- a glycoprotein hormone that is a key regulator of red blood cell production -- functions in the central nervous system and its potential in the treatment of hypoxic-ischemic-related neurological disease in infants.

Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) is a common cause of perinatal morbidity and mortality. HIE can be caused by a variety of factors that result in inadequate cerebral oxygenation or blood flow around the time of delivery. Therapeutic options for HIE are limited and surviving infants are at high risk of poor neurodevelopmental outcome. Exogenous administration of EPO is a well-established therapy for anemia resulting from a variety of etiologies. EPO also has important roles outside of the hematopoietic system. Both EPO and its receptor, EpoR, are highly expressed in the fetal brain and recent studies have demonstrated that EPO is important for normal neural development.

Accumulating evidence suggests that exogenous EPO therapy may improve neurologic outcomes in infants following hypoxic-ischemic injury. Exogenous EPO therapy is neuroprotective in animal models of HIE, and clinical trials have suggested that EPO may improve outcomes for infants affected by HIE. Although the molecular mechanisms underlying the action of EPO in the hematopoietic system have been extensively studied, the molecular mechanisms by which EPO acts in the nervous system are not well understood. The goal of Steiner's study is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying the neuroprotective effects of EPO in the developing brain.

Series addresses intellectual property and commercializing technology

Graduate students, scientists, technicians and faculty are invited to attend a series of lectures by UR Ventures on how to protect, manage, grow and capitalize on intellectual property. These are topics that will be important to a successful career whether in academia or the corporate world.

Upcoming fall semester lectures in the series will take place in the Gowen Room of Wilson Commons from noon to 1 p.m. on these Tuesdays:

Oct. 21: Patents and the Patenting Process. Reid Cunningham, IP attorney, UR Ventures. Includes the UR evaluation process, what goes into a patent application, the U.S. patent process, and potential non-U.S. patent filings, with a focus on the inventor's role at each step in the process.

Nov. 11: Technology Commercialization at the University of Rochester. Patrick Emmerling, Licensing Manager, UR Ventures. The process of bringing innovative technologies from the "bench-top to the bedside," including reasons for an academic researcher to engage in the commercialization process and the support UR Ventures can provide.

Dec. 9: How to Find Inventions, What Makes a Good Invention, and How to Find Prior Art. Reid Cunningham, IP attorney, UR Ventures. Includes how to use the patent classification system to search for prior art and uses real examples to illustrate effective technical searching.

Additional sessions are scheduled for the spring semester. The series is sponsored by the Office of the AS&E Dean of Research. RSVP to

What you need to know about sharing data

NSF, NIH and other funders encourage (and in some cases require) you to share your research data. But sharing isn't always straightforward: How do you decide what to share and what, if anything, to hold back? What's the best way to make your data accessible to others?

The River Campus Libraries can help! Please join us for a workshop on data sharing from noon to 1 p.m., Oct. 2 at Carlson Library Room 310.

We will cover what data you should share and what you don't have to, as well as what options the University offers to make it easier for you to get your data out into the world. Bring your questions and your lunch.

Questions? Contact

Growing the next generation of community-based researchers

The Fall Research Conference of the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity on Oct. 28 will give participants an opportunity to:

1. understand key principles of community-based research taking place here at Rochester and nationally

2. appreciate the impact of community-based research within the University and community

3. learn about successful community-based research projects and share a platform to develop new partnerships

"Growing the Next Generation of Community-Based Researchers," which will be held from noon to 5 p.m. in Schlegel Hall, will include keynote speeches by Barbara Israel, Professor of Health Behavior at the University of Michigan and Principal Investigator of the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center, and by Zachary Rowe, Executive Director of Friends at Parkside.

Concurrent breakout sessions will discuss funding opportunities, tools and expertise; group model building; and patient centered outcome research.

Click here for more information and registration.

New round of tech-development funding opens

The fall 2014 round of the Technology Development Fund will award winning applications from faculty, staff, or students with up to $100,000 to develop their technology to a commercial endpoint. A submitted invention disclosure to UR Ventures is required for an application. Pre-proposals are due Wednesday, Oct. 15, and can be submitted to Omar Bakht, director of New Ventures and Technology Development. Learn more here.

Grants available to fund trauma, AIDS research

The 2014 Pilot Award Program of the University's Center for AIDS Research is offering several new funding opportunities. Two $30,000 rewards are available to fund trauma-related research. An additional $50,000 reward will fund "innovative research that addresses key gaps in our understanding of HIV/AIDS." Applications are due by 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 2. Read more . . .

Deadline for "superpilot" award abstracts extended to Nov. 3

The SMD Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) sponsors a "superpilot" award with maximum funding of $125,000 per year for each of two years to foster the establishment of extramurally-funded, nationally-recognized centers of excellence in biomedical research with the potential to generate new strategic directions for the School of Medicine and Dentistry and the University. The deadline for initital abstracts has been extended until Nov. 3 at 5 p.m. Click here to read the full RFA.

Introducing a new faculty member

Dragony Fu has joined the Department of Biology as an assistant professor. His laboratory investigates the cellular stress response pathways that determine cell fate after exposure to cytotoxic and mutagenic damaging agents, using an integrated approach combining biochemistry, molecular biology and cell physiology in mammalian tissue culture systems and genetic mouse models. Fu has discovered novel targets and functions for proteins involved in DNA repair, RNA modification and programmed cell death. Since DNA damage poses a significant threat to genome integrity and cellular viability, a greater understanding of the molecular mechanisms that respond to DNA damage will provide critical insight into multiple aspects of human health, including cancer prevention and therapy, degenerative disorders and aging. Fu earned his PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of California, Berkeley in 2006. He has worked as a postdoctoral fellow at MIT. Prior to coming to the University of Rochester he was a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Zurich.

Congratulations to . . .

Richard Moxley, the Helen Aresty Fine and Irving Fine Professor in Neurology, and Charles Thornton, the Saunders Family Distinguished Professor in Neuromuscular Research, who were recognized by the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation (MDF) with an Outstanding Research Achievement Award at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month for their contribution to finding new treatments for myotonic dystrophy. Read more . . .

UR research in the news

University researchers believe they've uncovered a new function for a protein that may be key to preventing age-related illnesses like cancer. Biologists Vera Gorbunova and Andrei Seluanov report that the protein plays an important role in keeping parasitic DNA fragments called "jumping genes" from disrupting normal genetic instructions. Read more . . .

The Cancer Control & Survivorship program at UR Medicine's Wilmot Cancer Institute will receive an $18.6 million, five-year grant for a leadership role in a nationwide clinical research network to investigate cancer-related side effects. The National Cancer Institute award to Principal Investigator Gary R. Morrow is currently the largest investigator-initiated grant at the University of Rochester, and among the top five largest grants received by a UR Medical Center researcher in the past 10 years. Read more . . .

A new report has examined the host of potential health-related issues surrounding natural gas extraction, to help determine how future research can best address communities' health questions and inform their decision-making. "We hope that this assessment will help create a framework that provides for ongoing community engagement in research on the potential health, environmental, and economic impacts of natural gas extraction," said Katrina Korfmacher, Director of the University's Environmental Health Sciences Center's Community Outreach and Engagement Core and lead author of the study. "While this study is just a first step, it clearly indicates that the communities in areas that are considering hydraulic fracturing have many questions and environmental health research priorities -- and that these priorities may differ from those of technical experts and government agencies." The five most common concerns included Water Quality and Quantity, Air Emissions, Quality of Life and Economic Issues, Public Health and Health Care, and Vulnerable Populations. Read more . . .

PhD dissertation defenses

Cindi Anushka Lewis, Translational Biomedical Science, "Developing Novel Approaches to Improve Participant Comprehension of a HIV Vaccine Trial Informed Consent Protocol." Noon, Oct. 6, SRB 1412. Advisor: Amina Alio.

Mark Lifson, Biomedical Engineering, "Nanoparticles As Tools for Nano-/Micro- Biosystems." 11 a.m., Oct. 15, URMC 2-6408 K-20. Advisor: Benjamin L. Miller.

Brandon Rodenburg, Optics, "Communicating with Transverse Modes of Light." 2 p.m., Oct. 17, Goergen 101. Advisor: Robert Boyd.

Mark your calendar

Today: "From Reading to Writing: Reading Like a Researcher," first in a series of faculty conversations about the intersections of research, writing, and teaching. NOTE: This event is a conversation for persons who are currently teaching or are scheduled to teach a course during the current academic year in the College of Arts Science & Engineering. 3:30 to 5 p.m. Meliora Club's Potter and Trustee Room, FDB Room 305. Click here to find more information.

Today: Deadline for letters of intent for CTSI KL2 Mentored Career Development program proposals, which provide two years of support for new investigators interested in a career in clinical or translational research. Click here for more information.

Sept. 30: CTSI Seminar Series. High Morbidity, Low Mortality: Women's Health Conditions and Research Neglect. Donna Baird, Principal Investigator/Epidemiology. NIEHS/NIH. Noon, Helen Wood Hall Auditorium (1w-304).

Oct. 2: Data Sharing Workshop. Sponsored by River Campus Libraries, this workshop examines what research data you should share and what you don't have to, as well as what options the University offers to make it easier for you to get your data out into the world. Noon to 1 p.m., Carlson Library Room 310. Contact

Oct. 3: Show Business: Popular Culture vs. Art. Internationally renowned opera director Francesca Zambello delivers Eastman School of Music's annual Glenn Watkins Lecture. 3 p.m. Hatch Recital Hall.

Oct. 7: CTSI Seminar Series. Reproductive Issues in People with Epilepsy. Lynn Liu, Associate Professor, Neurology, Epilepsy, Anesthesiology and Pediatrics, Critical Care. Noon, Helen Wood Hall Auditorium (1w-304).

Oct. 8-10 Veils of Salomé Conference. Symposium presentations starting 9 a.m. Oct. 9 in the Hawkins Carlson Room of Rush Rhees Library; dance workshop 2-4 p.m. Oct. 10 at Spurrier Hall; exhibition of Salomé' images in Rare Books and Special Collections; two Table Top Opera performances of the Strauss opera, 8 p.m., Oct. 8 at Kodak Hall, Eastman Theatre and at 8 p.m., Oct. 10 at Interfaith Chapel. Free and open to the public. Read more . . .

Oct. 15: Pre-prosposals due for awards of up to $100,000 from UR Venture's Technology Development Fund for faculty, staff and students to develop technology to a commercial endpoint. Learn more here.

Oct. 21: Patents and the Patenting Process. Reid Cunningham, IP attorney, UR Ventures.Noon to 1 p.m., Gowen Room, WIlson Commons. RSVP to

Oct. 22: "Intellectual Property: Opportunities for Residents and Fellows," by Tom Guttuse, Associate Professor of Neurology at the University of Buffalo, and Scott Catlin, UR's Associate Vice President of Innovative Technology. Noon, Helen Wood Hall, 1W304 auditorium. Part of a CTSI skill-building workshop series "Good Advice: Case Studies in Clinical Research, Regulation and the Law." Click here for the full schedule.

Oct. 28: Growing the Next Generation of Community-based Researchers. Office of Faculty Development and Diversity Fall Research Conference. Noon to 5 p.m., Schlegel Hall. Click here for more information and registration.

Oct. 29; The Stanford Friedman Memorial Conference, from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Class of '62 Auditorium, will address gaps related to understanding the impact of child and adolescent development and behavior on engaging youth in health promoting behaviors, and the interface of health and behavior in conditions such as conversion reactions. Click here for a link with more information.

Nov. 2: Applications due in several funding categories for the 2014 Pilot Award Program of the University's Center for AIDS Research. Click here to learn more.

Nov. 3: Deadline for initial abstracts for SMD Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) "superpilot" awards. Click here to read the full RFA.

Nov. 11: Technology Commercialization at the University of Rochester. Patrick Emmerling, Licensing Manager, UR Ventures. Noon to 1 p.m., Gowen Room, WIlson Commons. RSVP to

Dec. 9: How to Find Inventions, What Makes a Good Invention, and How to Find Prior Art. Reid Cunningham, IP attorney, UR Ventures. Noon to 1 p.m., Gowen Room, WIlson Commons. RSVP to

Dec. 10: Celebration of Authorship, featuring printed and electronic books, edited volumes and texts, as well as published compositions and recordings produced by University faculty and staff from all fields. 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., Hawkins Carlson Room in Rush Rhees Library. Click here for more information.

Please send suggestions and comments to Bob Marcotte. To see back issues, click here.

Copyright 2013, All rights reserved.
Rochester Connections is a weekly e-newsletter for all faculty, scientists, post docs and graduate students engaged in research at the University of Rochester. You are receiving this e-newsletter because you are a member of the Rochester community with an interest in research topics.