Breakthrough Discovery Symposium II

Mandy Hill, DrPH, MPH
Department of Emergency Medicine
Chair, Breakthrough Discovery Symposium II

Dr. Hill is the first and only research track faculty member in the Department of Emergency Medicine at  McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.  Appointed in 2009, she successfully crafted a research niche at the intersection of emergency medicine and public health whereby she offers public health based, HIV/STI prevention and substance use treatment interventions to a vulnerable population seeking care during an emergency department visit.  She teaches future clinicians about strategies to incorporate public health principles within their practice, and engages in public health initiatives both domestically and internationally.  Publication of 28 peer reviewed manuscripts, 15 of which she first authored, alongside multiple keynote presentations both internationally and nationally in diverse areas addressing health disparities among minority populations, and extramural funding support through the NIH, SAMHSA, CDC, and industry sponsors during her tenure here at UTHealth attest to her scientific contributions to date.

Ashish Kapoor, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Institute of Molecular Medicine, Center for Human Genetics
“Electrocardiographic QT interval:  From GWAS to molecular mechanisms”

Ashish Kapoor is an Assistant Professor at the Center for Human Genetics, Institute of Molecular Medicine, McGovern Medical School, UTHealth since 2018.

Ashish received his Bachelor’s degree in Zoology in 1998 and Master’s degree in Genetics in 2000, both from University of Delhi (India). He carried out his doctoral studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bangalore (India) and received his Ph.D. degree in 2007. From 2007 to 2013, he was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Aravinda Chakravarti, a prominent leader in human genetics and genomics, at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he continued as a research associate in the Division of Cardiology before moving to UTHealth.

Ashish has 20 peer-reviewed publications with almost 450 citations in top-tiered journals including Cell, NEJM, American Journal of Human Genetics, Genome Research, PNAS and Human Molecular Genetics. He has been an editorial board member for Scientific Reports since 2014 and has been ad-hoc peer reviewer for various journals including American Journal of Human Genetics, Genome Research, PLoS Genetics and Journal of Molecular Medicine. He has presented his research work in multiple conferences and meetings including the American Society of Human Genetics meetings, Gordon Research conferences and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory meetings, and has recently given invited seminars at Institute of Molecular Medicine (UTHealth), School of Public Health (UTHealth) and Texas Heart Institute.

Ashish’s research utilizes electrocardiographic QT interval, a measure of cardiac repolarization time, as a model quantitative trait to understand the role of non-coding sequence variation in trait/disease risk. The overall aim of his research is to understand how sequence variation in cis-regulatory elements controlling gene expression leads to phenotypic variation (trait) and risk for sudden cardiac death (disease). His research work is currently supported by the start-up fund from the McGovern Medical School and the UT Rising STARs Program award.

Wenbo Li, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
“The noncoding regulome in human health and disease”

Dr. Li received his PhD  from National University of Singapore in 2009, where he studied oligodendrocyte development in mammals, and identified a novel role of the sirtuin family of proteins. Dr. Li then moved to UCSD for postdoc training with M. Geoff Rosenfeld, where he made seminal contributions to the field of nuclear receptor gene control and enhancer regulation. His work was among the first to characterize the role of enhancer generated noncoding RNAs, or eRNAs.  Dr. Li and colleagues also characterized roles of cohesin and condensin complexes in higher-order chromatin architecture.

Dr. Li’s current lab aims to further understand the noncoding regulatory elements of the human genome, and how noncoding mutations underlie human diseases focusing on enhancers and long noncoding RNAs in cancer and neuro diseases. His lab uses cutting edge epigenomic and epitranscriptomic methodologies, for example, PRO-seq, ATAC-seq, eCLIP-seq and HiC.

Banhu Priya Ganesh, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Neurology
“Gut-brain axis in relation to amyloid-β aggregation “


Dr. Ganesh’s research primarily focuses on elucidating the communications within the “BRAIN-GUT Axis” by investigating how the interaction of the microbiome and their secretory products on modulating physiology of the brain in age related diseases.  She has been involved in the development of novel germ-free rodent models that help us understand the interaction between single or multiple known bacterial species and their secretory products on shaping intestinal epithelium and beyond.  She has used germ-free mouse models extensively to investigate the effects of both pathogenic or beneficial (probiotic) bacteria in understanding the role of different bacteria in gut homeostasis.  She hopes to identify the changes in mucosal modifications, including the immune response with respect to dysbiotic gut microbiome as possible biomarkers in predicting aging related diseases at an earlier stage.

Dr. Ganesh earned her PhD from The German Institute of Human Nutrition-Potsdam Rehbruecke, Leibniz Institute in  Potsdam, Germany. She accepted a position at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in biological engineering in 2016 and later completed postdoctoral fellowships at Baylor College of Medicine and University of Texas Health Science Center before accepting an Assistant Professor position in the department of Neurology at UTHealth Medical School.