Breakthrough Discovery Symposium II


Ba-Bie Teng, Ph.D., FAHA,
Professor, Center for Human Genetics
Institute of Molecular Medicine
Chair, Breakthrough Discovery Symposium II

Leng Han, Ph.D.,
Assistant Professor
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
“Dissecting novel genetic elements in cancer from The Cancer Genome Atlas”

Dr. Han received his PhD degree from the Chinese Academy of Sciences for research in comparative and evolutionary genomics. He then joined Stanford University as a postdoctoral fellow to study stem cell biology and cardiovascular disease, and then continued his postdoctoral fellowship at MD Anderson Cancer Center in cancer genomics.

Dr. Han joined McGovern Medical School in 2015.  He was awarded a $2 million Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas Recruitment Award as a first-time-tenure-track faculty member. Dr. Han’s lab currently studies computational analysis from genomic sequences to other post-genomic data, including both DNA and RNA sequences, protein profiling, and epigenetic profiling to understand the molecular mechanisms of complex diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and psychiatric diseases. Dr. Han’s lab also developed databases, software and computational methods to dissect novel genetic elements from high-throughput data . Dr. Han’s lab is dedicated to translating genomics into therapeutics and diagnostics.

Jennifer Bailey, Ph.D.,
Assistant Professor
Department of Internal Medicine,
Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition
“Orchestrating oncogenesis: Ras and inflammation promote intratumoral cellular heterogeneity in pancreatic cancer”

Jennifer Bailey commenced her interest in translational science at the National Institutes of Health in the laboratory of Dr. Steven Jacobson. After working at the NIH, she performed her doctoral studies in Biochemistry and Cancer Research at the Eppley Institute, University of Nebraska Medical School, in the laboratory of Tony Hollingsworth. Her doctoral research investigated the role of developmental programs in promoting cancer initiation and metastasis in one of the deadliest cancers (Bailey et al., Clinical Cancer Research, 2008 and Bailey et al., Oncogene, 2009). Her dissertation work was funded through NIH fellowships in Biomedical Research and Cancer Biology. She performed her postdoctoral research in Human and Molecular Genetics in the laboratory of Steven Leach at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Her postdoctoral work employed lineage-tracing approaches to study genetic mechanisms of cellular transformation in the pancreas. For this research, she was awarded an NCI F32 postdoctoral fellowship as well as a K99 like mechanism, Pathway to Leadership Award, through the American Association for Cancer Research. She has described an incredible plasticity of acinar cells contributing to intratumoral cellular heterogeneity in pancreatic cancer and she and has collaborated on efforts to link inflammation and epithelial delamination. Her research has also described differentiation of acinar cells into morphologically distinct tuft cells in response to oncogenic Kras signaling and inflammation. Her collaborative efforts aided in discovering IL17 signaling is an important mediator of cancer progression in the pancreas. In 2014, Jennifer moved to The University of Texas Health Science Center to start her laboratory focused on inflammation and cancer formation in the pancreas. Her laboratory discovered p120 catenin regulates a process called epithelial cell extrusion, mediated by the sphingosine biosynthetic pathway, that contributes to cell invasion and inflammation in neoplastic pancreatic epithelium (Hendley et al., Cancer Research, 2016). Another key area of research in her lab is understanding cells of origin in cancer biology. Most recently, her laboratory described the first genetic requirement for pancreatic cancer arising in ductal cells. She models evolutionary steps of cancer progression not only in lineage-traced mouse models but also using patient samples to correlate all mechanistic discoveries.

Fabricio Do Monte, Ph.D.,
Assistant Professor
Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy
“Neural mechanisms balancing fear and reward-seeking responses”

Dr. Do Monte received his bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine from Universidade do Estado de Santa Catarina in Brazil (2002), and his master’s and PhD degrees (general pharmacology and neuropharmacology) from Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina in Brazil, under the mentorship of Dr. Antônio P. Carobrez. His master dissertation was directed to understand the mechanisms involved in the expression of both innate and learned fear memories (2006). His doctorate thesis was focused on elucidating the noradrenergic mechanisms mediating the extinction and reconsolidation of aversive memories (2010). As a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Gregory Quirk’s laboratory in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Puerto Rico, Dr. Do Monte investigated the neural circuits regulating the retrieval of fear memories and the crucial role of the passage of time in the reorganization of these memories. During his postdoctoral training, he was awarded the prestigious “NIH pathway to independence award (K99/R00)” from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Dr. Do Monte became an Assistant Professor at McGovern Medical School in 2016, where he has recently been awarded a Rising STAR Award from the UT System. Dr. Do Monte’s research focuses on understanding the neural circuits and mechanisms underlying emotional memories. His research group is particularly interested in elucidating how fear-and reward-associated memories interact to generate the most adaptive behavioral responses. Using a multidisciplinary approach in rats, they combine optogenetic, in vivo electrophysiological recording, pharmacological, immunohistochemical, and imaging techniques to investigate the mechanisms involved in balancing fear and reward stimuli, with emphasis on the innate defensive responses induced by predator cues. Dr. Do Monte’s research work has resulted in invitations to speak at distinguished scientific meetings in the field (e.g., Society for Neuroscience Meeting, Gordon Research Conference, HHMI Janelia Research Campus, etc). His innovative science and new discoveries have been published in several top journals including Nature, Neuron, PNAS, Molecular Psychiatry, The Journal of Neuroscience, and others.