Press Releases

Press Releases & Media Coverage

Boston Biomedical Research Institute Appoints Paul Airasian to Board

WATERTOWN, Mass. – June 5, 2006 – Boston Biomedical Research Institute (BBRI), a Watertown-based non-profit institution dedicated to the understanding, treatment and prevention of specific human diseases, today announced it has elected local businessman, Paul Airasian, to its Board of Trustees. Mr. Airasian brings more than 30 years of experience developing business strategies and corporate solutions for marketing development, sales support and strategic alliances.

Previously, Mr. Airasian was co-owner of Eastern Clothing Co., Inc. He has also worked as a consultant at the CIP Group, a provider of employee benefit plans and services for businesses. There, Mr. Airasian served as a certified Long Term Care Consultant, expanding the company’s client development and marketing presence in the Long Term Care industry. He has served on a number of Boston-area boards, including Oakley Country Club, Catholic Charities and The Genesis Fund. Additionally, he held the position of corporator for Mt. Auburn Hospital.

“We are thrilled to have Mr. Airasian as part of our leadership team as we continue to partner with the Watertown community in our efforts to solve the mysteries of the human body,” said Jake Layton, Board President, Boston Biomedical Research Institute. “Mr. Airasian’s breadth of business experience in the Boston area is truly noteworthy. He will make a welcome addition to our Board.”

About the Boston Biomedical Research Institute
BBRI is an independent, non-profit institution dedicated to basic biomedical research to promote the understanding, treatment and prevention of human diseases, including heart disease, cancer, muscular dystrophy and Alzheimer’s. Areas of research include biochemical and cellular mechanisms, muscle contractility and cell motility, the genetic control of cell growth and differentiation, and tissue damage and regeneration. For more information visit www.bbri.org.

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Using Bioinformatics, Scientists at Boston Biomedical Research Institute Elucidate the Kinome of a Key Model Organism

WATERTOWN, Mass. – March 31, 2006 – The journal PLoS Genetics has published the findings of a team of scientists at the nonprofit Boston Biomedical Research Institute that provides a whole genome analysis of the protein kinases from a scientifically valuable model organism known as Dictyostelium.

Led by Dr. Janet Smith, this study offers important insights into the evolution of kinases, which are enzymes involved in cell communication pathways. Approximately 2.5% of human genes code for protein kinases, and mutations in many of these genes are at the root of a range of human diseases. Dictyostelium is a widely used model organism for scientific study, as it is remarkably similar to mammalian cells, and it is amenable to a range of laboratory techniques.

To solve the kinome of Dictyostelium, Dr. Smith and her colleagues at Boston Biomedical utilized the power of bioinformatics, a cutting edge scientific technique which employs databases and computer algorithms to allow researchers to gain information and compile data about genes and kinases in a fast and efficient way, which can be very useful for drug discovery and development.

According to Dr. Smith, Dictyostelium provides a simple model in which to study conserved cellular processes, and illuminates a period in the evolutionary history of the metazoa after the divergence of the plants but before that of the fungi. “Our findings document the impressive evolutionary creativity of the Dictyostelium kinome- a large portion of the kinases are unique to Dictyostelium, and are probably involved in unique aspects of this organism’s biology,” said Dr. Smith.

But conservation is also a major theme. By comparing the Dictyostelium kinome with those of other organisms, the authors find 46 types of kinases that appear to be conserved in all organisms, and are likely to be involved in fundamental cellular processes. “We believe this study will be very useful to researchers who are studying cell communication pathways in other organisms, including vertebrates, by demonstrating what aspects of signaling are conserved, and revealing opportunities to use Dictyostelium to understand important human proteins.”

Boston Biomedical Research Institute is a not-for-profit institution dedicated to the understanding, treatment and prevention of specific human diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, muscular dystrophy, diabetes and conditions such as obesity and reproductive health problems. For more information visit www.bbri.org.

Publication Details:
Citation: Goldberg JM, Manning G, Liu A, Fey P, Pilcher KE, et al. (2006) The Dictyostelium Kinome—Analysis of the protein kinases from a simple model organism. PLoS Genet 2(3): e38. (PDF).

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Using Two local students praised for their interest in Science
Boston Biomedical Research Institute awards two scholarships

WATERTOWN, Mass. – On Thursday, May 18, Boston Biomedical Research Institute (BBRI) awarded $2500 scholarships to two Watertown High School seniors. Stephanie Colantonio and Helen Pham, both of Watertown have previously participated in the BBRI/Watertown High School Student Science Expo and look to continue their education and interests in Science at Yale University and Northeastern University respectively this fall. Director of Boston Biomedical Research Institute, Charles P. Emerson, Jr., Ph.D. states, “As a person who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of scientific knowledge, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the young people interested in the field. As Director of BBRI, I am honored to support the education of the individuals who will bring about the discoveries of the future.”.

BBRI’s education outreach program benefits students and encourages more young people to consider careers in research science. It includes scholarships, internships for students and teachers, an annual student math and science expo, and visits from our scientists to local classrooms.

About the Boston Biomedical Research Institute
BBRI is an independent, non-profit institution dedicated to basic biomedical research to promote the understanding, treatment and prevention of human diseases, including heart disease, cancer, muscular dystrophy and Alzheimer’s. Areas of research include biochemical and cellular mechanisms, muscle contractility and cell motility, the genetic control of cell growth and differentiation, and tissue damage and regeneration.

National Academy of Sciences Publishes Cancer Findings of Boston Biomedical Research Institute

WATERTOWN, Mass. – March 8, 2006 – Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), one of the world’s most frequently cited multidisciplinary scientific periodicals, has published the findings of Dr. Charles P. Emerson, Jr., Ph.D., Senior Scientist and Director, Xingbin Ai, Ph.D. and Ke Lu, M.S. of the not-for-profit Boston Biomedical Research Institute (BBRI) and Dr. Natalia Riobo, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. In this innovative study, Dr. Emerson and his colleagues highlight new potential targets for the therapeutic intervention of a diverse range of human cancers by describing a novel synergistic association between two important cellular signaling pathways.

This research focuses on characterizing a form of cellular communication known as Hedgehog signaling. The Hedgehog signaling pathway is activated when Sonic Hedgehog, a well known signaling molecule, binds to its receptor Patched, ultimately leading to the activation of a family of transcription factors known as Glis (Gli1, Gli2, and Gli3). Normally this pathway regulates fundamental developmental processes such as embryonic tissue patterning and stem cell maintenance. However, inappropriate Hedgehog signaling is causal in a number of important human cancers, including pancreatic, lung, skin, muscle, and digestive tract cancer – all of which remain largely untreatable.

In their study, Dr. Emerson and collaborators describe a synergistic association between the Hedgehog signaling pathway and the insulin-like growth factor (IGF)/phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3-kinase)/Akt pathway. By demonstrating that the PI3-kinase pathway potentiates Hedgehog signaling by inhibiting the inactivation of Gli, They have shed light on an important association between PI3-kinase pathway signaling and Hedgehog dependent developmental processes. In addition, this result implies that PI3-kinase activity, coupled with inappropriate Hedgehog signaling, may lead to enhanced Hedgehog dependent tumor formation.

“Understanding the key components of the Hedgehog signaling pathway and how it is associated with other cellular signaling pathways is crucial for the development of novel therapeutic approaches to treat this devastating group of cancers. These preliminary findings offer great promise for the development of preventative and curative treatments by identifying new therapeutic targets,” said Dr. Emerson. This work was supported by a National Cancer Institute grant.

Boston Biomedical Research Institute is a not-for-profit institution dedicated to the understanding, treatment and prevention of specific human diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and conditions such as obesity and reproductive health problems. For more information visit www.bbri.org.  Discovery by Research Group at Boston Biomedical Research Institute Opens Doors to New Treatments for the most Lethal Cancers

WATERTOWN, Mass. – February 27, 2006 – Cancer Research, a top tier journal that publishes biologically significant findings with relevance to cancer, recently published the findings of Dr. Charles P. Emerson, Jr., a Senior Scientist and Director of the not-for-profit Boston Biomedical Research Institute and Dr. Natalia Riobo, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. The discovery holds promise for identification of new drug targets to treat a group of the most lethal cancers known as Hedgehog cancers.

Drs. Emerson and Riobo’s research focuses on understanding a type of cell communication know as Hedgehog signaling. Hedgehog signaling has an essential role in the control of stem cell growth and in the promotion of tumor growth. Excessive activation of the Hedgehog signaling pathway has been observed to be responsible for tumor growth in the most lethal of human cancers, including pancreatic, lung, skin, muscle and digestive tract cancer – all of which remain largely untreatable. These researchers now show that two kinases, known as PKC-deltaand MEK-1, cooperate with Hedgehog signaling to activate GLI transcription factors to regulate key genes that control stem cell and tumor growth.

“Understanding the key components of the Hedgehog signaling pathway, and how mutations in this pathway can lead to the growth of cancer cells, highlights the power of basic science and disease model research to reveal new therapeutic approaches for human disease, which is a hallmark of BBRI research,” says BBRI’s Director Dr. Charles Emerson. “Our preliminary findings offer tremendous promise for development of preventative and curative treatments for these devastating cancers.” The work is being supported by a grant from the National Cancer Institute.

Boston Biomedical Research Institute is a not-for-profit institution dedicated to the understanding, treatment and prevention of specific human diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, muscular dystrophy, diabetes and conditions such as obesity and reproductive health problems. For more information visit www.bbri.org.

 

Innovative Cancer Treatment Pilot Study at Boston Biomedical Research Institute Receives Highly Competitive Simeon J. Fortin Charitable Foundation Award

WATERTOWN, Mass. – January 19, 2006 – An innovative pilot study at Boston Biomedical Research Institute aimed at developing novel cancer immunotherapies has received the highly competitive Simeon J. Fortin Charitable Foundation award. This novel approach by Boston Biomedical’s Dr. Eric Sundberg aims to engineer superantigens, which are potent stimulators of the immune system, to bind specifically to tumor cell markers, and thus direct a specific, targeted immune response to the tumor.

Dr. Sundberg’s innovative research is focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms by which superantigens cause disease and on the development of drugs that can counteract superantigen-mediated illness. “Modification of superantigens by protein engineering techniques can produce novel molecules that are capable of stimulating a potent immune response targeted to specific cells” says Dr. Sundberg. In this pilot study, Dr. Sundberg’s group is focused on engineering superantigens that specifically target tumors for destruction by the immune system.

“Dr. Sundberg is one of the world’s foremost authorities on superantigens and their interactions with the immune system,” says Dr. Charles Emerson, Jr., BBRI’s Director, “We are very pleased to have his work recognized by the Simeon J. Fortin Charitable Foundation, and expect that this pilot study will yield very promising results for the development of an effective new treatment for cancer.” Combined with his expertise in molecular recognition and protein design, Dr. Sundberg is poised to develop protein therapeutics that target not only cancer but a wide range of human diseases.

Boston Biomedical Research Institute is a not-for-profit institution dedicated to the understanding, treatment and prevention of specific human diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, muscular dystrophy, diabetes and conditions such as obesity and reproductive health problems. When appropriate, the Institute collaborates in clinical studies of patients to apply the results of basic research to the cure of disease. For more information visit www.bbri.org.

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Study of Novel Approach to Treating Muscular Dystrophy at Boston Biomedical Research Institute Receives Noted Grant Award

WATERTOWN, Mass. – December 22, 2005 – An innovative research study at Boston Biomedical Research Institute targeting specialized stem cells in adult muscle known as “satellite cells,” has received a funding award from the Muscular Dystrophy Association. This novel approach by Dr. Xingbin Ai focuses on molecules known as heparan sulfatases, which are critical to maintaining the number of muscle stem cells in normal muscle and regulating stem cell activity in injured or diseased muscle.

Satellite cells are essential for muscle regeneration after injury induced by physiological stress or disease. Although normally a very small group of dormant cells in muscle, satellite cells have extensive capacities to expand themselves in response to muscle injury. During the course of muscle regeneration, a large majority of satellite cells transform to generate new muscle, while a subset of satellite cells remain in the dormant pool of satellite cells in the muscle. The number and regenerative capacities of satellite cells decrease with aging, and decrease much more significantly in patients with muscle dystrophic diseases. Consequently, muscle damage is poorly repaired by the elderly and by muscular dystrophy patients, leading to restricted movement and often, death.

“The therapeutic application of stem cells offers much hope to people suffering from muscular dystrophy and compromised mobility due to aging,” says Dr. Ai, “but this approach is challenged by the technical difficulties of obtaining large numbers of stem cells and systematically delivering them to injured muscles.”

To combat this challenge, Dr. Ai and her colleagues in the laboratory of Dr. Charles Emerson are studying the series of ‘signals’ that control the function of satellite cells during muscle regeneration. Specifically, they are examining the process in which the signals are regulated by heparan sulfatases. By understanding how the sulfatases maintain the number of muscle stem cells in healthy muscle, and how they regulate stem cell activity to repair injured muscle, Dr. Ai and her group hope to provide a basis for the use of heparan sulfate or heparan sulfate derivatives in muscle stem cell engineering for the treatment of Muscular Dystrophy as well as muscle weakness that accompanies normal aging.

This novel study at Boston Biomedical was recognized by a prestigious grant from the Muscular Dystrophy Association, a well-known national funder that combats neuromuscular diseases through worldwide research, medical and community services and public health education.

“We are delighted to have this very promising step forward in the fight against muscular dystrophy and aging-related muscle weakness recognized by such a notable funder of biomedical research,” said Boston Biomedical’s Director, Dr. Charles Emerson. “We are confident that these studies will help build a novel approach to treating this degenerative disease.”

Boston Biomedical Research Institute is a not-for-profit institution dedicated to the understanding, treatment and prevention of specific human diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, muscular dystrophy, diabetes and conditions such as obesity and reproductive health problems.