The Student Connection
The Student Connection

The Student Connection

Faculty Spotlight - Dr. Joanne Chan

HU Professor Leads $900,000 Grant Research

Dr. Chan in Zebrafish lab.

Dr. Joanne Chan

The Hampton University Department of Biological Sciences has been awarded a $900,000 grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop vascular protection against select pathogens.

Under the leadership of HU Associate Professor Dr. Joanne Chan, the goal of this grant is to develop new, safe and effective treatments for several infectious diseases. This initiative seeks to stimulate innovation in the discovery of pathogens, including those that can be used as bioterror weapons.

"I hypothesized that a number of pathogens target the cells lining our blood vessels, as an important site of attack," said Chan. "Therefore, I proposed that by improving blood vessel integrity and vascular resilience, an infected host may be able to survive a pathogen attack when a vascular integrity drug is used in combination with antibiotics or immunotherapies."

In the grant's initial phase, Chan was able to a support her theory using the zebrafish vascular a model of pathogen entry developed in her lab. Using this model, Chan and colleagues have published major reports to demonstrate that distinct pathogens generate unique effects on the vascular lining that can be blocked using specific inhibitors.

"For these reasons, the NIH decided to fund the R33 phase of this project at the level of $900K over the next 3 years," said Chan. "This will allow my lab to launch a number of chemical library screens and identify potential therapeutic compounds. As a side benefit, the chemicals identified in my screen may also have specific functions in regulation of vascular function. These chemical drugs may also have additional usefulness in the treatment of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, all affecting the normal function of the blood vessels."

Chan received her Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Toronto in 1995 and completed her postdoctoral training at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. She was recruited to the Boston Children's Hospital and become an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School in 2004. She has recently joined HU to contribute to developing medically relevant translational research. Chan has also served as the Principal Investigator for 12 separate research projects, and received millions of dollars in research funding from the NIH, DOD, pharmaceutical companies and foundations.

Matthew White '10