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Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research Newsletter

Wells Center Newsletter | November 2023


Closeup image of microscopeAwards to fuel pediatric research
The Wells Center recently recognized several researchers with awards as part of the center's spring 2023 round of funding to support five promising projects focused on emerging therapies and clinical and translational pediatric research.
> Learn about the awards and projects


Dr. Emily K. SimsRepurposed drug offers new potential for type 1 diabetes
A recent study led by members of the Wells Center’s diabetes research program presents exciting possibilities for the future management of type 1 diabetes and the potential reduction of insulin dependency.
> Read the study news
> Meet 10-year-old Emmaline, clinical trial participant

Dr. Nathan SchmidtSpecific gut bacteria increase risk of severe malaria
New research led by the Schmidt lab within the Wells Center's pediatric infectious diseases and global health research group identified specific gut bacteria linked to severe malaria, potentially leading to the development of new approaches to preventing the infectious disease.
> Read the news

Mark Kelley, PhD, and Melissa Fishel, PhD$2.4 million NCI grant to develop new pancreatic cancer treatments
Mark Kelley, PhD, and Melissa Fishel, PhD, from the Wells Center's molecular oncology and experimental therapeutics research group have received a five-year, $2.4 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to explore new therapies that target the critical pathways pancreatic tumors use to survive.
> Learn about the grant
> Read more on Dr. Kelley's commitment to innovation and discovery



Wells Center Retreat Poster Award winners from 2023

2023 Wells Center Retreat
The annual Wells Center Retreat was held on Tuesday, September 12, 2023, at the NCAA headquarters in downtown Indianapolis. All Wells Center faculty, staff, students and trainees were invited to attend the full-day event to learn about the organization’s latest research and engage with colleagues. Ten poster presentation awards were also presented to trainees from each Wells Center research program in recognition of their impressive work (pictured). 


Candid photo of IU researchers at ICAN 2023 event

In September, members from the Wells Center’s pediatric translational research group attended the 2023 International Collaborative Asthma Network (ICAN) Meeting in Milan, Italy. The ICAN was created to promote innovation and strengthen international collaborations on asthma, with a focus on severe asthma. The Wells Center was well represented at the gathering, with Dr. Ben Gaston serving on the organizing committee and Famuyi Yang, Ivana Daniels and Dr. Michael Davis among the selective group of 38 abstract presenters. 


Photo from Purdue University's Dance Marathon 2023

On November 4, 2023, Drs. Karen Pollok, Reza Saadatzadeh and Ms. Melissa Trowbridge from the IU School of Medicine In Vivo Therapeutics Core attended Purdue University’s Dance Marathon to be part of the opening ceremony events and to present remarks about pediatric cancer research on behalf of the Wells Center. They addressed Dance Marathon stakeholders including participants, Purdue student parents and several program donors. 



Team BETA Watch Out at JDRF One Walk

Members from the diabetes research group participated in the annual JDRF One Walk in Indianapolis on September 16, 2023. Their fundraising team, BETA Watch Out, raised over $5,000 to support type 1 diabetes research and advocacy efforts.



Collage of photos from the Wells Center's Halloween events in 2023

The Wells Center celebrated Halloween on October 26, 2023, with a festive gathering and the 4th annual Pumpkin Decorating Contest. More than 10 pumpkins entered the contest and 4 talented winners received prizes.

Turi family visiting the Wells Center with check

On November 1, 2023, the Turi family visited the Wells Center with the Riley Children's Foundation to tour Dr. Karen Pollok's lab and learn more about our innovative research. The family donated more than $63,000 to pediatric cancer research in honor of their daughter Roselynn Turi who passed away at the age of 2 from acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

group photo of attendees from the 3rd HPV and PyV Symposium

On November 3 and 4, Dr. Rachel Katzenellenbogen co-hosted the 3rd Midwest HPV and PyV Research Symposium on IU School of Medicine's Indianapolis campus. Nearly 45 people attended from 9 states to hear 21 presentations on great science. This symposium has led to collaborative internal and federal grant applications, the sharing of reagent and methodology best practices, and co-authored publications.



Welcome to the Wells Center

Help us extend a warm welcome to the newest members of Team Wells who have joined us since August 2023:

Nermeen Al-Omari
Tehani Augustin
Emma Bratch
Rosie Gribben
Harsha Kamineni
Mahesh Lamsal
Jayla Miller
Aditya Sukumar Sheth
Kirsty Thompson
Connie Anoskey
Can Chen
Olivia Espericueta
Swetansu Hota
Tej Lad
Shannon Marshall
Kylie Nolan
Madison Stewart
Rebecca Winkler


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.

Jorge Canas, PhD student | Shrigley/Broxmeyer Graduate Student Research Award (IU School of Medicine Department of Microbiology and Immunology)

Wade Clapp, MD | “Department of Pediatrics Faculty Recruitment Fund” (Riley Children’s Foundation) / “Division Chief Recruitment” (Riley Children’s Foundation) / “IU/Riley Children's Behavioral Health Support” (Riley Children’s Foundation) / “IU/Riley Pediatric Subspecialty and Discipline Support” (Riley Children’s Foundation) / “Riley Children's Foundation Annual Endowment Awards for IU/Riley Programs” (Riley Children’s Foundation)  / “Riley Children's Endowment Community Education/Safety Store” (Riley Children’s Foundation)  / “Riley Pediatric Research Scholars” (Riley Children’s Foundation) / “Wells General Fund” (Riley Children’s Foundation) / “Ora Pescovitz MD Lectureship Endowment” (Riley Children’s Foundation)

Andrea Conroy, PhD | 2023 Bailey K. Ashford Medal (American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene)

Linda DiMeglio, MPH, MD & Carmella Evans-Molina, MD, PhD | “Data Coordinating Center for Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet” (University of South Florida)

Carmella Evans-Molina, MD, PhD | “George and Frances Ball Foundation” (Riley Children’s Foundation) / “Luke Bracken Wiese Fund for Juvenile Diabetes at Riley Hospital for Children” (Riley Children’s Foundation) / “Center for Identification and Study of Individuals with Atypical Diabetes Mellitus (Planning Grant)” (Baylor College of Medicine)

Carmella Evans-Molina, MD, PhD & Ronald Wek, PhD | “Diabetes and Obesity Training Grant” (NIH T32 – National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)

Renzhi Han, PhD | “Controllable base editing therapy for DMD” (NIH R01 – National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute) 

Roland Herzog, PhD | “CRISPR editing therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy” (University of Missouri) / “Novel AAV vector generation methods to prevent immunogenic unmethylated CpGsthat trigger efficacy-limiting CTLs in human gene therapy” (Stanford University)

Yunjie Huang, PhD | “Predicting Long-term Outcomes Using Patient-Derived Nasal Epithelial Cell Models in Individuals with Cystic Fibrosis” (Wells Center Translational Research Award)

Chandy John, MD, MS | “Zinc for Infection Prevention in Sickle cell anemia –2 (ZIPS2)” (Wells Center Emerging Therapies Award) / Segar Family MSPR Lectureship Award Recipient 

Rahul Kanumuri, PhD | “Loss of Rap1a and Rap1b isoforms in Osteoblasts results in impaired differentiation of B-cells “ (2023 Postdoc Symposium Poster Presentation Award Winner)

Reuben Kapur, PhD | “Wells Center Bridge Funding” (Riley Children’s Foundation)

Mark Kelley, PhD & Wade Clapp, MD | “Pediatric and Adult Translational Cancer Drug Discovery and Development Training Program (PACT-D3)” (NIH T32 – National Cancer Institute)

Alka Khaitan, MD | “Researching Covid to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) Initiative” (Children's Hospital Of Philadelphia)

Amelia Linnemann, PhD | “Evaluation of Oxidized Insulin as a Biomarker and Therapeutic Target in Type 1Diabetes” (JDRF)

Rada Malko, MD/PhD student | PACT-D3 fellowship award 

Santhosh Pasupuleti, PhD | “Role of Site-1 Protease (S1P) in the Pathophysiology of Obesity-induced Clonal Hematopoiesis.” (IUSCCC HHM Research Program Support of Basic Science Research Grant) 

Santhosh Pasupuleti, PhD & Reuben Kapur, PhD | “Targeting NLRP3 inflammasome in juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia.” (Wells Center Translational Research Award)

R. Mark Payne, MD | “Role of the Thromboxane-Prostanoid Receptor in FRDA Cardiomyopathy” (Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance) / “Cardiac Natural History Study in FA” (Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance)

Rafael Polidoro, PhD | “A safe, non-invasive drug that strengthens the intestinal barrier can reverse the negative impact of gut microbiota on severe malaria model.” (Wells Center Translational Research Award)

Robert Tepper, MD, PhD | “Vitamin C to Decrease Effects of Smoking during Pregnancy on Offspring Airway Function, Airway Size, and Epigenetic Correlates: VCSIP cohort follow-up through 10 Years of Age” (Oregon Health & Science University)

Ngoc Tung Tran, PhD | “FANCC mutation correction using homology-independent targeted integration for gene therapy of Fanconi Anemia group C” (NIH R21 – National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute) 

Leslie Wagner, PhD student | “Beta Cell Heterogeneity in the Interferon Alpha Response" (NIH F31 - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)

Stephanie Ware, MD, PhD | “Riley Children's Foundation Clinical Program for Metabolism and Genetics” (Riley Children’s Foundation) / “Indiana University Undiagnosed Rare Disease Clinic: Foundation for a Diagnostic Center of Excellence.”

Ji Zhang, PhD & Reuben Kapur, PhD | “The role of hypoxia-induced metabolic reprogramming in HSC functionality” (Wells Center Translational Research Award)


“A Multicenter Analysis of Abnormal Chromosomal Microarray Findings in Congenital Heart Disease.” Published in Journal of the American Heart Association. Contributing IU authors: Benjamin J. Landis, Lindsey R. Helvaty, Gabrielle C. Geddes, Jennelle C. Hodge, Stephanie M. Ware 

“Alteration of tumor suppressors changes the endometrial tumor spectrum.” Published in EMBO Molecular Medicine. Contributing IU author: Lindsey D. Mayo

“Anticancer Peptides Derived from Aldolase A and Induced Tumor-Suppressing Cells Inhibit Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma Cells.” Published in Pharmaceutics. Contributing IU authors: Changpeng Cui, Qingji Huo, Xue Xiong, Kexin Li, Melissa L Fishel, Baiyan Li, Hiroki Yokota 

“APE1/Ref-1 as a Therapeutic Target for Inflammatory Bowel Disease.” Published in Biomolecules. Contributing IU author: Mark R. Kelley

 “Asparagine restriction enhances CD8+ T cell metabolic fitness and antitumoral functionality through an NRF2-dependent stress response.” Published in Nature Metabolism. Contributing IU author: Ji Zhang

“Bridging population pharmacokinetic and semimechanistic absorption modeling of APX3330.” Published in American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics. Contributing IU authors: Larissa L. Silva, Robert E. Stratford, Mark R. Kelley, Sara K. Quinney

“Cancer-associated fibroblasts influence Wnt/PCP signaling in gastric cancer cells by cytoneme-based dissemination of ROR2.” Published in PNAS. Contributing IU author: Melissa L. Fishel

“Cavin-2 promotes fibroblast-to-myofibroblast trans-differentiation and aggravates cardiac fibrosis.” Published in ESC Heart Failure. Contributing IU author: Simon J. Conway

“Cellular stress and coagulation factor production: when more isn’t necessarily better.” Published in Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis. Contributing IU author: Roland W. Herzog 

“Clinical exome sequencing efficacy and phenotypic expansions involving anomalous pulmonary venous return.” Published in the European Journal of Human Genetics. Contributing IU authors: Lindsey R. Helvaty, Benjamin J. Landis, Gabrielle C. Geddes, Stephanie M. Ware

“Combined CDK4/6 and ERK1/2 Inhibition Enhances Antitumor Activity in NF1-Associated Plexiform Neurofibroma.” Published in Clinical Cancer Research. Contributing IU authors: Alyssa C. Flint, Dana K. Mitchell, Steven P. Angus, Abbi E. Smith, Waylan Bessler, Li Jiang, Henry Mang, Xiaohong Li, Qingbo Lu, Brooke Rodriguez, George E. Sandusky, Andi R. Masters, Chi Zhang, Pengtao Dang, Jenna Koenig, D. Wade Clapp, Steven D. Rhodes

“Creation of a non-Western humanized gnotobiotic mouse model through the transplantation of rural African fecal microbiota.” Published in Microbiology Spectrum. Contributing IU authors: Kristin M. Van Den Ham, Morgan R. Little, Olivia J. Bednarski, Elizabeth M. Fusco, Rabindra K. Mandal, Nathan W. Schmidt

“Digital health and acute kidney injury: consensus report of the 27th Acute Disease Quality Initiative workgroup.” Published in Nature Reviews Nephrology. Contributing IU author: Danielle E. Soranno 

“Disease-modifying therapies and features linked to treatment response in type 1 diabetes prevention: a systematic review.” Published in Communications Medicine. Contributing IU authors: Jamie L. Felton, Gabriela S. F. Monaco, Carmella Evans-Molina, Linda A. DiMeglio, Heba M. Ismail, Emily K. Sims

“Defining and Promoting Pediatric Pulmonary Health: Developing Biomarkers for Pulmonary Health.” Published in Pediatrics. Contributing IU authors: Michael D. Davis, Benjamin Gaston

“Dynamic regulation of pancreatic β cell function and gene expression by the SND1 coregulator in vitro.” Published in Islets. Contributing IU authors: Sukrati Kanojia, Rebecca K. Davidson, Jason M. Conley, Jerry Xu, Meredith Osmulski, Emily K. Sims, Hongxia Ren, Jason M. Spaeth 

“Erythrocytic metabolism of ATLX-0199: An agent that increases minute ventilation.” Published in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. Contributing IU authors: Jonathan M. Krasinkiewicz, Dallin Hubbard, Nicholas Perez de Guzman, Andi Masters, Yi Zhao, Benjamin Gaston

“Existing and Developing Preclinical Models for Neurofibromatosis Type 1−Related Cutaneous Neurofibromas.” Published in Journal of Investigative Dermatology. Contributing IU author: Steven D. Rhodes

“Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency Possibly Related to Atypical Chronic Graft-versus-Host Disease.” Published in Case Reports in Oncology. Contributing IU author: Daniel Peliter

 “Exploring the Tumor-Suppressing Potential of PSCA in Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma.” Published in Cancers. Contributing IU authors: Kexin Li, Qingji Huo, Sungsoo Na, Melissa L. Fishel, Hiroki Yokota 

“Generation of Atp6v1g3-Cre mice for investigation of intercalated cells and the collecting duct.” Published in the American Journal of Physiology-Renal Physiology. Contributing IU authors: Vijay Saxena, Samuel Arregui, Shaobo Zhang, Jorge Canas, David S. Hains, Andrew L. Schwaderer

“Gut Bacteroides act in a microbial consortium to cause susceptibility to severe malaria.” Published in Nature Communications. Contributing IU authors: Rabindra K. Mandal, Anita Mandal, Chandy C. John, Nathan W. Schmidt

“High proinsulin:C-peptide ratio identifies individuals with stage 2 type 1 diabetes at high risk for progression to clinical diagnosis and responses to teplizumab treatment.” Published in Diabetologia. Contributing IU author: Emily K. Sims

Hypoxia releases S-nitrosocysteine from carotid body glomus cells-relevance to expression of the hypoxic ventilatory response.” Published in Frontiers in Pharmacology. Contributing IU author: Benjamin Gaston

“Incidence Trends, Clinicopathologic Characteristics, and Overall Survival Prediction in Retinoblastoma Children: SEER Prognostic Nomogram Analysis.” Published in The Oncologist. Contributing IU author: Narasimha M. Beeraka 

“Inhibition of polyamine biosynthesis preserves β cell function in type 1 diabetes.” Published in Cell Reports Medicine. Contributing IU authors: Emily K. Sims, Audrey Hull, Stephanie E. Woerner, Teresa L. Mastracci, Susan M. Perkins, Fangqian Ouyang, Carmella Evans-Molina, Linda A. DiMeglio

“Looking to the future of gene therapy for hemophilia a and B.” Published in Expert Review of Hematology. Contributing IU authors: Radoslaw Kaczmarek, Roland W. Herzog

“Mechanistic insights into the interaction between the host gut microbiome and malaria.” Published in PLOS Pathogens. Contributing IU authors: Rabindra K. Mandal, Nathan W. Schmidt

“Missense variants in ANKRD11 cause KBG syndrome by impairment of stability or transcriptional activity of the encoded protein.” Published in Genetics in Medicine. Contributing IU author: Stephanie M. Ware

“Molecular classification of human papilloma virus-negative head and neck squamous cell carcinomas: Cell cycle-based classifier and prognostic signature.” Published in PLOS One. Contributing IU author: Narasimha M. Beeraka

“Nocturnal High-Flow Nasal Cannula Therapy and Sinonasal Symptoms During Cystic Fibrosis Exacerbations.” Published in Respiratory Care. Contributing IU author: Michael D. Davis

“Recommendations for the collection and annotation of biosamples for analysis of biomarkers in neurofibromatosis and schwannomatosis clinical trials.” Published in Clinical Trials. Contributing IU author: Steven D. Rhodes

“SARS-CoV-2 viral genes Nsp6, Nsp8, and M compromise cellular ATP levels to impair survival and function of human pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes.” Published in Stem Cell Research & Therapy. Contributing IU authors: Juli Liu, Shiyong Wu, Yucheng Zhang, Cheng Wang, Sheng Liu, Jun Wan, Lei Yang

“Second international consensus report on gaps and opportunities for the clinical translation of precision diabetes medicine.” Published in Nature Medicine. Contributing IU authors: Jamie L. Felton, Linda A. DiMeglio, Carmella Evans-Molina, Arianna Harris-Kawano, Heba M. Ismail, Dianna Perez, Gabriela S. F. Monaco

“SERCA2 regulates proinsulin processing and processing enzyme maturation in pancreatic beta cells.” Published in Diabetologia. Contributing IU authors: Hitoshi Iida, Tatsuyoshi Kono, Chih-Chun Lee, Preethi Krishnan, Matthew C. Arvin, Staci A. Weaver, Renato C. S. Branco, Madeline R. McLaughlin, Robert N. Bone, Carmella Evans-Molina

“Suppression of osteosarcoma progression by engineered lymphocyte-derived proteomes.” Published in Genes and Diseases. Contributing IU authors: Pankita H. Pandya, M. Reza Saadatzadeh, Melissa A. Kacena, Karen E. Pollok, Hiroki Yokota

“Sweeten the deal: Glycopolymer-based engineering to modulate autoreactive T cell responses.” Published in Molecular Therapy. Contributing IU author: Moanaro Biswas

“The beta cell-immune cell interface in type 1 diabetes (T1D).” Published in Molecular Metabolism. Contributing IU author: Amelia K. Linnemann

“The inhibition of pancreatic cancer progression by K-Ras-overexpressing mesenchymal stem cell-derived secretomes.” Published in Scientific Reports. Contributing IU authors: Melissa L. Fishel, Hiroki Yokota

“The Nobel Prize awarded to pioneers of mRNA vaccines.” Published in Molecular Therapy. Contributing IU author: Roland W. Herzog


  • Congratulations to the following Wells Center graduate students on their recent thesis defenses!
    Farinaz Barghi from the Pollok Lab presented on November 17, 2023
    Adnan Gopinadhan from the John Lab presented on November 10, 2023
    Staci Weaver from the Evans-Molina Lab presented on October 24, 2023
  • Andrea Conroy, PhD, was honored with the prestigious Bailey K. Ashford Medal by the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH).
  • Rachel Katzenellenbogen, MD, and David Hains, MD, have been elected into the American Pediatric Society!
  • Rachel Katzenellenbogen, MD, was also named the recipient of the 2024 Norman J. Siegel Outstanding Science Award by The American Pediatric Society (APS).
  • Stephanie Ware, MD, PhD, has been named the new Chair of the Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics.
  • In August, a Riley Children's Health patient of Jamie Felton, MD, became the first child in Indiana to receive teplizumab, a groundbreaking therapy that delays the onset of stage 3 type 1 diabetes by an average of three years. 
  • Mark Kelley, PhD, and D. Wade Clapp, MD, have received a T32 grant from the National Cancer Institute to establish the Pediatric and Adult Translational Cancer Drug Discovery and Development Training Program (PACT-D3) within the IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center. The award supports three graduate fellows annually, with the cancer center adding to the grant to support an additional two students. 
  • Carmella Evans-Molina, MD, PhD, was interviewed for an article published in the September 2023 edition of The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
  • Mark Kelley, PhD, and Melissa Fishel, PhD, were issued a new U.S. patent titled “USE OF APE1/REF-1 INHIBITORS FOR TREATMENT OF RETINAL DISEASES.”
  • The oral therapy to treat diabetic retinopathy called APX3330, created by Mark Kelley, PhD, has received phase 3 trial approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


Learn more about the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research

Read the August 2023 Newsletter

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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. 

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.