Tag: T-cell receptor mimic
One of the key elements of the BIMS program and its approach to giving students an experience-rich education was the intent to have all students complete a capstone experience. We felt many students would opt for on-campus projects with faculty but that some would take advantage of opportunities with summer research programs and biotech companies to apply their skills and knowledge in different settings. With the resources of the TTU School of Pharmacy’s graduate program in Abilene and biotech firms like Receptor Logic settling in here, it was only a matter of time before a student would complete their capstone work at one of those two venues. However, with a program only two years old, we felt it would be at least another year before this happened. Biology major Gina Ortiz surprised us all by choosing a BIMS capstone experience and working with TTU School of Pharmacy scientists this spring. She thereby becomes the first BIMS capstone student, and the first to complete the work in collaboration with an outside agency.
Ortiz, a Nevada resident, is headed for a career in medicine or biomedical research and used this experience to further hone in a direction to follow once she graduates this May – a year early. Her work was done at the School of Pharmacy in the lab of Dr. Jon Weidanz with direct supervision from his doctoral student Bhavna Verma. Her project was entitled “Biodistribution of RL4B TCRm antibody in mice models”. In her work, Gina became proficient in conducting enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) to screen whether therapeutic T-cell receptor mimics (TCR-m) used for fighting cancer tumors might target and bind healthy mouse tissues. Such information would be valuable in completing an overall picture of how TCR-mimics impact the biology of a patient when used in treatment.
Gina explained her research on Friday, April 30th before a group of students and faculty. Among them was McMurry’s president, Dr. John Russell, who was impressed by the quality of work and polish of her presentation. On behalf of all in BIMS, congratulations Gina on a job well done!
This past week several BIMS faculty met with other area scientists and representatives from local biotech firm Receptor Logic to discuss research collaboration and opportunities for our students.
Receptor Logic is a company led by Dr. Jon Weidanz, whose “day job” is as a professor at the TTU School of Pharmacy here in Abilene. Their work involves development and production of specific antibodies called T-cell receptor mimics (TCRm) of value immunologically. They have promise therapeutically and also open the possibility for diagnostic and environmental sensing applications. If all goes according to plan, Abilene will become a major player in the fight against contagious diseases, advances in cancer diagnosis and treatment, and development of biosensors to monitor environmental quality. McMurry plans on being the major supplier of quality employees.
The emerging biotech presence in Abilene is supported by the Abilene Life Science Foundation and the Development Corporation of Abilene. Under construction is the biotech research accelerator facility – a research center expected to house up to six biotech companies and support their research and development efforts. The community has rallied around the effort by providing tax incentives. McMurry responded with creation of the BIMS degree and is moving toward articulation with a biotech certificate program being developed by a local junior college.
The subject of this meeting was how our faculty might join in the work underway at Receptor Logic, a collaboration that would enable McMurry faculty to contribute to cutting edge research and that would add some capable minds and hands to the resources available to Receptor Logic. Most exciting to us were the opportunities discussed for our students – internships, advanced courses involving commercial biotech research, job opportunities upon graduation. The degree of cooperation between groups represented is unprecedented. We have heard in the past that a BIMS graduate would have the skills desired for biotech or forensic science jobs, jobs that oftentimes have starting salaries in excess of $50,000.
We believe it would be irresponsible of us to see a quality biotech education as beginning and ending with McMurry faculty when so many resources are available in town – a quality faculty at the TTU Pharmacy School, invitations from biotech companies engaged in research & development, a supportive community that invests in biotech resources to support schools and industry. It would also be irresponsible for us to have resources on our campus that are not contributed to the effort. Joining together to become more than the sum of our parts is what will make Abilene’s emerging biotech presence flourish. McMurry is committed to giving our very best effort for the sake of our students, our faculty, our community, and our local biotech industry. Stay tuned for the excitement to come!