Idea Awardees

Current Awardees

joseph delaney 

Joe Delaney, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Project: Mechanisms of Autophagy Drug Action and Cancer Resistance

Our lab has discovered an unlikely pair of drugs which work together to kill ovarian cancer cells. One drug now in the public spotlight, (hydroxy-)chloroquine, was originally designed to prevent malaria. Chloroquine happens to kill ovarian cancer cells by disrupting a recycling system of those cells. The other drug in the pair is an anti-HIV medication, nelfinavir mesylate, which surprisingly kills ovarian cancer by disrupting the recycling system but also by increasing the amount of cellular debris which needs to be recycled.

Our lab previously found that ovarian cancer is uniquely vulnerable to these drugs which disrupt the recycling process because ~12 genes which enable recycling are suppressed in the average tumor. While we know both drugs impact this recycling process, called autophagy, the mechanism for how these drugs impact autophagy on a molecular level remains unclear. This work is designed to approach this question in an unbiased fashion. We will use whole-genome approaches to monitoring cells which evolve in response to each drug.


tracy smith 

Tracy Smith, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Project: Comparison of Leading E-Cigarette Product Types on Relative Reinforcement Value and Tobacco Use Patterns Among Current Smokers

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) have surged in popularity in recent years, and while e-cigarettes are not harmless, they are likely less harmful than traditional cigarettes. The purpose of this project is to understand how two types of e-cigarettes, customizable tanks and pods, change the appeal and use of cigarettes among current smokers who try e-cigarettes for the first time.

In this project, 75 current smokers will receive either a placebo e-cigarette (control group), a customizable tank e-cigarette, or a pod e-cigarette. Participants will try their assigned e-cigarette and complete a variety of questionnaires about it. Participants will then take their assigned e-cigarette home to use as much or as little as they wish for a three-week period. At the end of the study, the researchers will compare how the two types of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes were used by participants and their impact on smoking behavior.

Previous Awardees

wenjian gan 

Wenjian Gan, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Project: Functional Analysis of SPOP in DNA Damage Response for Prostate Cancer Therapy

The major focus of Dr. Gan’s laboratory is to investigate how aberrant cell signaling pathways contribute to genomic instability and cancer progression. He is particularly interested in studying the regulatory mechanisms and physiological functions of E3 ubiquitin ligases in tumorigenesis. Specifically, his group will identify the upstream pathway regulating the activity of E3 ubiquitin ligase SPOP, and investigate the role of SPOP in genomic stability by characterizing its downstream targets in prostate cancer. These studies will significantly expand our knowledge on the tumor suppressor function of SPOP, and also provide rationale for combating prostate cancer based on SPOP genetic status.


erin mcclure 

Erin McClure, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Project: Mobile, Remote, and Individual-focused: Comparing Breath Carbon Monoxide Readings and Abstinence in Next Generation Monitors


viswanathan palanisamy 

Viswanathan Palanisamy, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Project: Post-transcriptional Regulation of Oral Prenoplasia Progression and Regression