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Latest news and updates from the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research.

Wells Center Newsletter | May 2023

Top News

Wells Center PPG research group in March 2023
$13M grant to better understand congenital heart defects

The Wells Center's cardiac developmental biology and cardiovascular genetics groups received a grant renewal of nearly $13 million from the NHLBI to better understand congenital heart defects.

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Kapur Lab researchers in the Wells Center
New drug combination to treat JMML

Researchers from the hematologic malignancies and stem cell biology group published a study in Molecular Therapy about a promising new combination of drugs to treat juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML).

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Han Lab research group from the Wells Center

Investigating BVES in muscular dystrophy

A study published in Nature Communications by members of the gene and cell therapy research group sheds light on the development and treatment of a rare form of muscular dystrophy.

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Clinicians and patient at a hospital in Kampala, Uganda

Advancing acute kidney injury research

Andrea Conroy, PhD, received an R01 grant from NIAID to advance research about acute kidney injury in children with severe malaria by launching a multi-site prospective study across three hospitals in Uganda.

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Team Wells Updates

Collage of photos from MMIA 2023

MMIA 2023

The 24th annual Molecular Medicine in Action (MMIA) program for Indiana high schoolers interested in pursuing degrees and careers in medicine and science was held on March 5 & 6, 2023. This year, we welcomed 50 students and 13 teacher chaperones from across the state to learn about the latest techniques and research from our experts at IU.

Welcome to the Wells Center

Join us in congratulating and welcoming these newly hired Wells Center faculty and staff since January 2023:

Jayden Alley
Bridget Brian
Becca Davidson
Ali Garriga
Sanya Hayati
Elizabeth Hutton
Haiwen Li
Halley Mays
Hong Phuong Nguyen
Dianna Perez
Kassandra Sandoval
Van Anh Thi Do
Sai Tejaswi Bodempudi
Christi Calvert
Sanchita Day 
Renzhi Han
Weijing Hu
Sonia Kiran
Li Li
Mahrina Miller
Shari Parker
Caelan Rathke
Shilpa Thangirala
DeShawn Thompson

Discovery in Action

Congratulations to Grant and Award Recipients
Wells Center members have received a vast number of grants and awards in recent months. A select few are highlighted below.

  • Steve Angus, PhD | “PRC2 impact on the functional kinome in NF1-related MPNST” (U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity)
  • Steve Angus, PhD & Wade Clapp, MD | “Identification of novel therapeutic combinations for NF2 schwannomas” (NIH - National Institute Neurological Disorders & Stroke)
  • Olivia Bednarski | 2023 Elite 50 Recipient (IUPUI)
  • Wade Clapp, MD | "Indiana Pediatric Scientist Award (IPSA)" (NIH - National Institute of Child Health and Human Development) / "IU/Riley Pediatric Subspecialty and Discipline Support" (Riley Children’s Foundation) / "Pediatrics Restricted Research Fund" (Riley Children’s Foundation) / “Preclinical-clinical trials collaboration to effectively advance new combination therapies for atypical neurofibroma in neurofibromatosis type 1” (NIH - National Cancer Institute) / "Wells MPESC Program" (Riley Children’s Foundation & Danaher Foundation)
  • Ivana Daniels | 2023 Underrepresented Trainee Development Scholarship Chair Award (American Thoracic Society)
  • Linda DiMeglio, MD | “Immune Tolerance Network_ITN095AI, DESIGNATE” (Benaroya Research Institute At Virginia Mason renewal)
  • Carmella Evans-Molina, MD, PhD | 2023 Outstanding Scientific Achievement Award (American Diabetes Association) / "Diabetes Research Fund 2157" (Riley Children’s Foundation) / "Indiana Pediatric Scientist Award (IPSA)" (NIH - National Institute of Child Health and Human Development) / "Richardson’s Riley Children’s Foundation Award" (Riley Children’s Foundation)
  • Jamie Felton, MD | “Type I Interferons and B Cell Metabolism as Drivers of Type 1 Diabetes // Diabetes-Docs: Physician-Scientist Career Development Program (DiabDocs)” (Stanford University)
  • Benjamin Gaston, MD & Sherry Voytik Harbin, PhD | “Design of bioengineered, genetically corrected human airway stem cells for treatment for primary ciliary dyskinesia” (Engineering in Medicine pilot grant)
  • Heba Ismail, PhD | 2023 Trustee Teaching Award (IU School of Medicine)
  • Chandy John, MD | "Northern Pacific Global Health Leadership, Education, and Development for Early-career Researchers (NPGH LEADERs)" (University of Washington renewal)
  • Mark Kelley, PhD | "Post-Baccalaureate DICR Education Program (IADEP)" (American Cancer Society, Incorporated) / Tom Wood Lexus Foundation (Riley Children’s Foundation renewal)
  • Alka Khaitan, MD & Elsje Pienaar, PhD | “Examining immune dysfunction and restoration in perinatal HIV by ex vivo and computational methods” (Engineering in Medicine pilot grant)
  • Reuben Kapur, PhD | 2023 Glenn W. Irwin, Jr., MD, Research Scholar Award (IUPUI)
  • Kok Lim Kua, MD | “Alpha Lipoic Acid as a Maternal Supplement in Obese Pregnancies” (Research Foundation State University New York) / 2023 Trustee Teaching Award (IU School of Medicine)
  • Benjamin Landis, MD | “Defining cell populations and cell type-specific transcriptional dysregulation in pediatric coarctation of the aorta” (U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity)
  • Pankita Pandya, PhD | “21-A41 Evaluating Replication Stress Pathway in Pediatric Osteosarcomas” (Riley Children’s Foundation)
  • Mark Payne, MD | “An Integrated and Automated Tool for Quantification of Biomechanics in Fetal and Neonatal Echocardiography” (Purdue University)
  • Karen Pollok, PhD | “A Phase II Trial of Perioperative CV301 Vaccination in Combination with Nivolumab and Systemic Chemotherapy for Resectable Hepatic-Limited Metastatic Colorectal Cancer- HCRN GI16-288” (Hoosier Cancer Research Network) / “Expanding and Diversifying the Pediatric Cancer Precision Genomics Program in Aggressive Sarcomas at Riley Hospital for Children” (Riley Children’s Foundation & Danaher Foundation)
  • Weinian Shou, PhD | “The Role of RNA-Binding Protein QKI in Cardiogenesis” (Additional Ventures)
  • Pratibha Singh, PhD | “Center for High-Throughput Minimally-Invasive Radiation Biodosimetry” (Columbia University renewal)
  • Danielle Soranno, MD, Hyowon Lee, PhD & Aaron Lottes, PhD | “Expanding life-saving dialysis capabilities for critically ill children in low- and middle-income countries: Innovation of a neonatal peritoneal dialysis catheter” (Engineering in Medicine pilot grant)
  • Jason Spaeth, PhD | 2023 Trustee Teaching Award (IU School of Medicine)
  • Jignesh Tailor, MD, PhD | “Pittsburgh Comprehensive Endoscopic Endonasal Skull Base Surgery Course” (Riley Children’s Foundation)
  • Stephanie Ware, MD, PhD | “Developmental and genetic function of SHROOM3” (NIH - National Heart, Lung And Blood Institute)
  • John Wells | Travel Award (Medical and Molecular Genetics)
  • Wenting Wu, PhD | “dkNET Coordinating Unit: An information network for FAIR resources and data” (University of California, San Diego)
  • Junping Zhang, PhD | Excellence in Research Award (American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy)

Recent Publications

Kudos and Recognition

  • The Gene and Cell Therapy program is celebrating five years at the Wells Center and leading the way in hemophilia research.
  • The diabetes research group’s clinical study discovered oral verapamil, a commonly used drug to treat high blood pressure and heart conditions, can also improve the pancreas’ insulin secretion in children with newly-diagnosed type 1 diabetes.
  • Wells Center members were among the IU researchers featured by WTHR in a report sharing innovative new ways to detect pancreatic cancer.
  • Sarah Burns, Alissa Novak and Staci Weaver were recognized as NIH F30/F31 Fellows at the second annual IUPUI Graduate Student Recognition Ceremony.
  • Wade Clapp, MD, and Megan McHenry, MD, MS, recently attended the National Academy of Medicine's invitation-only Emerging Leaders Forum in Washington, D.C.
  • Carmella Evans-Molina, PhD, MS, MD, has been awarded the 2023 Outstanding Scientific Achievement Award by the American Diabetes Association (ADA). The award honors her pioneering research in diabetes.
  • Melissa Fishel, PhD, received an NIH U01 grant. Fishel and her award colleagues hope to lessen or eliminate chemoresistance, immunosuppressive factors and drug-delivery barriers in pancreatic cancer treatment.
  • Benjamin Gaston, MD, Alka Khaitan, MD, and Danielle Soranno, MD, received inaugural Engineering in Medicine pilot funding program awards. This year's program focused on funding research projects related to cardiovascular health, cancer diagnosis and treatment, musculoskeletal health, otolaryngology and pediatric medicine.
  • Mark Kelley, PhD, was highlighted by IU's Innovation and Commercialization Office (ICO) to recognize their support in helping to advance his research innovations, bringing them to market, and positively impacting lives both in Indiana and beyond.
  • Mark Kelley, PhD, and Melissa Fishel, PhD, were granted a new United States patent, “Use of APE1/Ref-1 inhibitors for treatment of retinal diseases.”
  • Mark Payne, MD, has partnered with Purdue engineers on an innovative tool that can provide life-saving information for babies with heart defects.
  • Radek Kaczmarek, PhD, MSC, joined the EMJ Podcast to discuss the new generation of gene therapies for hemophilia and how they differ from current treatments.
  • Emily Sims, MD, shared her experience applying for a second R01 and advice for researchers hoping to do the same.


Learn more about the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research

Read the February 2023 Newsletter

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The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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Jackie Maupin

Jackie supports the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research at IU School of Medicine. As communications generalist, Jackie helps spread the word about the Wells Center's commitment to improving the health of children in Indiana and beyond through basic and translational research. She has several years of experience in non-profit and academic marketing and communications.