Before he presented the researchers with their certificates, Bill Pierce, interim executive vice president for research, explained the distinctions between patents, licenses and options:

A patent is a grant made by a government that confers upon the creator of an invention the sole right to make, use and sell that invention for a set period of time. It protects the concept or idea behind the invention. An option is an agreement whereby UofL allows another party (usually a business alliance) limited access to a technology for a limited time in exchange for compensation. The business uses this time to determine if it would like to enter into a full-license for the intellectual property. A license is the agreement that then allows the outside party to move forward to develop, distribute and sell the innovation in the commercial market.

The following information comes from the Office of the President.

Paula Bates, School of Medicine

Paula Bates is an associate professor in the Department of Medicine and has joint appointments in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and as an associate scientist of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center. Among her research interests are a class of anticancer agents known as G-rich oligonucleotides or GROs, which inhibit the growth of many different types of cancer cells, but have little effect on normal cells; the mechanistic aspects of GRO-induced anticancer effects and the role of their target, nucleolin, in cancer cell biology; and anticancer compounds derived from Amazonian plants.

Jian Cai, School of Medicine

Jian Cai is an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and a member of the Biomolecular Mass Spectrometry Laboratory. His research interests are using mass spectrometry to characterize and quantify adducts formed from reactive chemicals with protein, DNA and other biomolecules.

Keith Davis, School of Medicine

Keith Davis is professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and is affiliated with the James Graham Brown Cancer Center. He created and leads the Owensboro Cancer Research Program, a unique partnership between JGBCC and the Owensboro Medical Health System. Current research projects include the development of a soybean-derived peptide as an anticancer agent; investigating the role of the heavy metal cadmium in the initiation and progression of lung cancer; and the use of plant-based expression to produce alpha-1 antitrypsin, a drug used to treat people with COPD.

Cicek Gercel-Taylor, School of Medicine

Cicek Gercel-Taylor is an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health. Gercel-Taylor’s research focuses mainly on gynecological cancers, directed at defining genetic and epigenetic alterations associated with the development of cancer and the role of endogenous and exogenous hormones in these processes. She also studies their therapeutic potential alone and in combination with conventional therapies. A significant part of these investigations includes the identification and characterization of clinically relevant biomarkers. In addition, Gercel-Taylor is studying how hormone therapies used for menopause affect cardiovascular disease and breast cancer.

Guruprasad Giridharan, J.B. Speed School of Engineering

Guruprasad Giridharan is assistant professor in the Department of Bioengineering with a joint appointment in the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute. His research interests are developing and testing biomedical devices, circulatory system modeling and developing physiologic control strategies for blood pumps.

James Graham, School of Medicine

James Graham is an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. Studies in his laboratory focus on bacterial pathogens of medical and veterinary interest, particularly Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This work explores how total microbial capacities allow colonization of different ecological niches within host cells and tissues in disease. These studies are facilitated by techniques developed to analyze RNA expression in small numbers of microbes typically found at specific sites in natural disease states. Other studies extend to both normal beneficial inhabitants of human hosts and environmental microbes that carry out essential roles in global chemical cycles. Here inventory of microbial community genetic capacity and differences among populations is characterized by examination of total DNA. Recently work in collaboration with the U.S. EPA in Cincinnati resulted in the award of a patent for a theoretical approach (designated G.F.E. for genome fragment enrichment) and its application to developing PCR tests to identify specific sources of microbial water contamination.

Sham Kakar, School of Medicine

Sham Kakar is a professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Division of Medical Oncology, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, James Graham Brown Cancer Center, Institute for Molecular Diversity and Drug Design (IMD3), and Center for Genetics and Molecular Medicine (cGEMM). His major research interest is to understand the molecular mechanism of causation and prevention of hormone-related cancers; drug investigation and the membrane signaling transduction mechanisms in the regulation of cellular functions.

Steven Koenig, J.B. Speed School of Engineering and School of Medicine

Steven Koenig is a professor and University Scholar in the Department of Bioengineering (Cardiovascular Innovation Institute) and the Department of Surgery (Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery). Koenig’s research focuses on developing mechanical circulatory support devices to treat heart failure patients and promote myocardial recovery.

Chengliang Lu, School of Medicine

Chengliang Lu is a research manager in the Department of Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology. His work focuses primarily on neuronal development, cell-based therapy for repairing spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease and Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). Lu’s team developed a method for culturing and isolating human adult stem cells from the olfactory epithelium, which was a breakthrough for human adult stem cell research. The human adult neuronal progenitors (stem cells) are patient specific, allowing for autologous transplantation (in which the patient donates the cells to themselves).

Hassan Qazzaz, School of Medicine

Hassan Qazzaz is a senior research associate in the Department of Medicine.

His recent interests have focused on the in vitro effects of green tea on human peripheral blood monocyte (PBMC), responses to LPS stimulation in vitro, and to examine and determine the safety, efficacy, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of orally ingested, well characterized encapsulated green tea extracts in volunteers (patients) with mildly to moderately active ulcerative colitis.

Fred Roisen, School of Medicine

Fred Roisen is a professor and chairman of the Department of Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology. His papers were the first to demonstrate that nerve growth factor works through a cAMP (cyclic adenosine monophosphate) second messenger system, neurons contain myosin (a large superfamily of motor proteins) and that serum from patients with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) contained toxic factors that target motor neurons. One of his papers in Science demonstrated the neuritogenic potential of gangliosides, work which led to important clinical trials.

His recent research focuses on developing human adult olfactory progenitors as a source for autologous stem cell replacement therapy. In collaboration with others, he has applied for a number of U.S. patents with companion applications in Europe, Japan, Australia and Canada on the use of olfactory-derived stem cells for neurodegenerative conditions. He serves as the CSO of RhinoCyte™, a company he formed with members of his laboratory that has received two orphan drug designations from the FDA: one for spinal cord injury and the other for ALS. RhinoCyte™’s goal is to become a leader in the advancement of cell-based therapies by providing innovative autologous adult human cell solutions to treat a variety of neurodegenerative disorders.

Haval Shirwan, School of Medicine

Haval Shirwan is the Dr. Michael and Joan Hamilton Endowed Chair in Autoimmune Disease, professor of microbiology and immunology, and the director of the Molecular Immunomodulation Program at the Institute for Cellular Therapeutics. 

Shirwan’s research focuses on the modulation of the immune system for the treatment of immune-based diseases with particular focus on type 1 diabetes, transplantation and development of vaccines against infections and cancer.

Douglas Taylor, School of Medicine

Douglas Taylor is a professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health, where he is the vice chair for research. He has a joint appointment in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. In 1979, he published the first report of circulating membranous vesicles released from tumor cells of patients with cancer, which were subsequently termed exosomes.

Roland Valdes, School of Medicine

Roland Valdes is professor and senior vice chairman in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. He also is professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, serves as chief of clinical chemistry and toxicology, and is the founder and director of a postdoctoral fellowship program in clinical chemistry. His scientific interests involve discovery and characterization of the mammalian cardenolides and their pathophysiologic role in cardiovascular disease and, more recently, in cancer therapeutics. Valdes is the principle founder and president of the Pharmacogenetics Diagnostic Laboratory at UofL, where he works on transitioning the science of pharmacogenetics and proteomics into clinical laboratory practice.

Michael Voor, School of Medicine and J.B. Speed School of Engineering

Michael Voor is associate professor and director of research in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. He is also on the associate faculty of the Departments of Mechanical Engineering, Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology, Neurological Surgery (Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center) and Bioengineering. His research interests include the design, testing and biomechanical behavior of orthopedic implants for fracture fixation, total joint arthroplasty and spine fusion; microcomputed tomography; bone grafting and bone graft substitute materials; and basic bone mechanics studies centered on cancellous bone remodeling response to disease and treatment for osteoporosis.

Meng Wang, School of Medicine

Meng Wang is a doctoral candidate working with Fred Roisen. Her doctoral research is on the use of human adult olfactory epithelial-derived progenitors in therapeutic strategies for Parkinson’s disease.

Esma Yolcu, School of Medicine

Esma Yolcu is assistant professor of microbiology and immunology and the director of the Imaging Facility at the Institute for Cellular Therapeutics. She co-pioneered a novel technology, ProtEx™, with Haval Shirwan as a practical alternative to gene therapy to treat various genetically inherited hematologic disorders and acquired diseases, such as type 1 diabetes and graft rejection.

The Celebration of Faculty Excellence took place Oct. 13 at the Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium Brown & Williamson Club. Administration honored:

  • the President’s Distinguished Faculty Awards for outstanding service; teaching; and scholarship, research and creative activity
  • the President’s Exemplary Multicultural Teaching Award
  • newly endowed chairs and professors
  • the Paul Weber Departmental Excellence in Teaching Award
  • university scholars and distinguished university scholars
  • creative work resulting in new patents and licenses

(Editor’s Note: This is the last piece in the Faculty Excellence Series.)