Elizabeth Morrison-Banks Receives $55,000 Training Grant

Elizabeth Morrison-Banks

Elizabeth Morrison-Banks, M.D., M.S.Ed., an expert on multiple sclerosis (MS), has received a training grant of $55,000 from AbbVie, a global, research-driven biopharmaceutical company, to support an MS fellowship for Lynsey Lakin, nurse practitioner.

“At the end of her fellowship, Lynsey will be a subspecialty-trained nurse practitioner and a great resource for the inland Southern California multiple sclerosis community,” Morrison-Banks said.

During her fellowship Lakin will see patients with Morrison-Banks and other neuroimmunologists in the region, attend didactic conferences, and collaborate on research exploring the use of telemedicine to treat multiple sclerosis.

Committed to developing innovative advanced therapies for some of the world’s most complex and critical conditions, AbbVie aims to improve treatments across four primary therapeutic areas: immunology, oncology, virology and neuroscience.

Potential New Cancer Therapy Explored

Researchers at UC Riverside have converted a naturally occurring fluorescent protein from corals into a biosensor that can be used to monitor the cellular thioredoxin (Trx) system, which is a promising target for cancer therapy.

Their paper, titled “Monitoring thioredoxin redox with a genetically encoded red fluorescent biosensor,” was recently published in Nature Chemical Biology. The research team includes Huiwang Ai, an associate professor in Department of Chemistry; Yichong Fan, a graduate student in the Environmental Toxicology program and lead author of the paper; Merna Makar, an undergraduate student; and Michael Wang, a high school student who is gaining research experience at UCR.

Thioredoxin (Trx) family proteins play critical roles in the regulation of cellular redox processes. Clinically, it has been shown that Trx levels are elevated in the plasma of patients with solid cancer and leukemia, and decreased when the tumor is surgically removed. The Trx system is thus a validated cancer drug target and drugs that inhibit the Trx system are now in clinical development with early promising results. In addition, the Trx system has been proposed as a drug target for certain bacterial and parasite infections.

This new sensor unlocks new opportunities for understanding the biology of cellular Trx, and moreover, for high-throughput screening of novel molecular modulators of the Trx system. Yichong Fan, a graduate student in Ai’s lab, is currently working on rapid and quantitative screening of compound libraries using TrxRFP1 as an indicator. The screening may lead to the identification of potential inhibitors of the Trx system, which may have therapeutic applications.

The work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

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