Dennis Liotta Receives Honorary Doctorate from the University of Ottawa

Congratulations to Dr. Dennis Liotta for receiving an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Ottawa. Honorary doctorate degrees acknowledge the value of the abilities and experiences of the recipient and are awarded for significant contributions made by the recipient to the University of Ottawa, their profession, or society. Upon receiving the honorary degree, Dr. Dennis Liotta delivered a speech to the graduating class of the University.

“We can’t afford to sit and wait for others to change the world — we have to do it ourselves. The good news is that we all have the capacity to make the world a better place. All that is required is that we be proactive and persistent on an issue or cause that we’re passionate about. So, this is my challenge to all of you here today. Examine your own lives, identify a problem compatible with your skills and pursue it. If it’s something you’re passionate about and you’re willing to persevere, I guarantee you that you’ll find a way of doing it well. Remember, however, that this is marathon, not a sprint. So, don’t ever lose sight of your goals and your dreams.”

Click [here] to read the whole speech.

Congratulations, Dr. Liotta!

Congratulations, Dr. Andrew Steele!

On Friday, April 13th, Andrew Steele successfully defended his thesis, “Natural Products Enabling Biological Discovery: Promysalin and Baulamycins”. Andrew’s thesis committee included his thesis advisor, Dr. William Wuest, and members  Dr. Huw Davies and Dr. Dennis Liotta.

Since moving with the Wuest Group to Emory, Andrew has published two papers, bringing his publication count to five. Andrew will be starting a post-doctoral position at Scripps in Florida where he will be working in the lab of Dr. Ben Shen.

Congratulations, Dr. Steele!

Congratulations, Dr. Yao Jing!

On Wednesday, March 28th, Yao Jing successfully defended her thesis, “Structure-Activity Relationship and Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship of GluN2C/D Subunit Selective Antagonists of the N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor”. Yao’s thesis committee included her thesis advisor, Dr. Dennis Liotta, and members  Dr. Frank McDonald, Dr. Stephen Traynelis, and Dr. Emily Weinert.

Yao is currently searching for a job with an eye toward healthcare data science.

Congratulations, Dr. Jing!

Dr. Dennis Liotta Receives the Alfred Burger Award in Medicinal Chemistry

Dr. Dennis Liotta received the American Chemical Society Alfred Burger Award in Medicinal Chemistry for 2018 for inventing antiviral drugs taken by more than 90% of persons infected with HIV in the United States. The award, established in 1978 by GlaxoSmithKline, recognizes outstanding contributions to research in medicinal chemistry. Dr. Liotta will be presenting an award address at the spring meeting of the ACS Division of Medicinal Chemistry.

This award is the most recent in Dr. Liotta’s impressive collection of accolades. He is the recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award, the highest award given by Emory University,  the 2005 Herty Medal, sponsored by the GA Section of the ACS, the 2011 IP Legends Award, sponsored by Georgia State University College of Law and J. Mack Robinson College of Business, and the 2003 Biomedical Industry Growth Award, sponsored by the Georgia Biomedical Partnership. In addition, Dr. Liotta was elected to the National Academy of Inventors in 2014 and the Medicinal Chemistry Hall of Fame in 2010, and he received Honorary Doctor of Science degrees from both the University of Queensland and Queens college.

Congratulations, Dr. Liotta!

Congratulations, Dr. Kyle Giesler!

On Friday, October 20th, Kyle Giesler successfully defended his thesis, “The Design, Synthesis, and Evaluation of Novel LipidProdrugs for Nucleoside Analogues.” Kyle’s thesis committee included his thesis advisor, Dr. Dennis Liotta, and members Dr. Khalid Salaita and Dr. Frank McDonald.

During his time at Emory, Kyle designed a novel prodrug strategy for tenofovir and other antiviral nucleosides that “unlocks” their therapeutic potential and significantly rivals well-accepted conjugation strategies used in the clinic. His research contributed to 8 publications and a patent application. In addition, Kyle initiated a collaboration between Emory and Morehouse School of Medicine, developed analogs for the treatment of chronic viral infections and cancer, and was awarded the Graduate Diversity Fellowship awarded to outstanding graduate students showing academic excellence and “exceptional promise as future leaders in their fields”.

Looking forward, Kyle plans to pursue a post-doctoral position at U.C Berkeley with Dr. Nirem Murthy where he intends to jump into bioengineering and develop delivery strategies for genome editing technology. After that, Kyle hopes to land an industrial position at the interface of chemistry and biology and be a part of a creative and team that operates at the forefront of human knowledge to design and discover novel therapeutics to change the course of human disease.

Congratulations, Dr. Giesler!

Emory Chemistry Research Highlighted in Times Higher Education

A recent Times Higher Education article highlights universities that are pushing the boundaries as “life science challengers.” Emory is ranked in this category and chemistry research co-discovered by Dr. Dennis Liotta is highlighted.

David Stephens, vice-president for research at Emory, said that the institution had “realised its greatest success in commercialising research discoveries in the field of infectious diseases. For example, nine out of 10 US HIV/Aids patients, and thousands more globally, are on life-saving drugs discovered at Emory”. 

[Full Article]

Dennis Liotta Keynote Speaker for 2017 MSP Research Symposium

Dennis LiottaDr. Dennis Liotta will give the keynote address at the 2017 Molecular and Systems Pharmacology Graduate Program Symposium on Tuesday, June 13th at the Emory University School of Medicine Building, Room 120. In addition to serving as Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Chemistry, Dr. Liotta is the Executive Director of the Emory Institute for Drug Development and the Associate Director of the Emory Center for AIDS Research.

Symposium Schedule:

2:20-2:20pm: Keynote Address

3:30-5:00pm: Student Poster Session

5:00-6:00pm: Reception and Awards Ceremony

 

Alumni Spotlight: Chris Curfman’s Transition from Science to Law

Chris Curfman. Photo by Yuan Chang.
Chris Curfman. Photo by Yuan Chang.

By: Yuan Chang (Salaita Group)

When Chris Curfman (00G) entered Emory, he could not have imagined where he would end up two decades later. After completing a PhD in chemistry, Chris shifted his focus away from academic research to pursue a career in intellectual property law. Since then, he has been named a Georgia Super Lawyers “Rising Star” by Atlanta Magazine and became a founding member of Meunier Carlin & Curfman, which has since evolved into one of the largest intellectual property firms in the Southeast. In a climate where more PhD students pursue careers outside the professoriate, Chris’ story is an inspiration. “While we are all united by our intellectual curiosity and our love of science, this common drive can diverge into various fulfilling careers,” says Chris. From his trials and triumph with his research at Emory to his self-discovery and transformation into the rising star that he is today, Chris has accumulated a vast wealth of memories and insight, which is highlighted in this edition of Alumni Spotlight.

During graduate school, Chris joined the lab of Dennis C. Liotta, who would have a profound impact on his trajectory. Chris undertook a particularly difficult thesis project working with sphingolipid analogs. The process of constantly overcoming challenges instilled in him the crucial lifelong value of perseverance that would later prove pivotal outside of the lab. This determination was also critical in prevailing over another personal challenge. While Chris had always fostered a passion for teaching, he grappled with a fear of public speaking. As one of the graduate qualification exams, he was required to present his research in front of the entire Department of Chemistry student body. He recalls that he would “enter the conference room when it was empty and practice over and over again.” He went on to deliver a successful talk. Invigorated by this positive experience and his innate passion for teaching, Chris began to actively seek out opportunities for public speaking, which paved his way to standing on the podium of Emory law school as an adjunct professor.

Nonetheless, Chris’s time at Emory was not “all work and no play.” Chris has fond memories of his time as the president of the Pi Alpha Chemical Society. He recalls organizing graduate events, such as movie nights and picnics, to promote social interaction and collaboration amongst graduate students. To him, “It was a fun and great environment. It was a place where you could set aside the work and just talk and socialize.”

During Chris’ last year of graduate school, his advisor began to take notice of his skill at technical writing and public speaking, as well as his proficient interpersonal skills. Realizing that Chris’ skill set complemented the profession of patent law, Liotta catalyzed Chris’ foray into the world of patent law by inviting him to events where he could network with established lawyers. It was at one of these events that Chris had a fateful meeting leading to an interview offer. That was an electrifying time in Chris’ life. Within the span of that final summer in graduate school, Chris managed to simultaneously complete 3 milestones: defending his PhD, gaining acceptance into law school, and receiving a job offer working in a law firm.

After Chris completed his J.D. at Georgia State University, he practiced several years at a small intellectual property firm. However, that firm was acquired by a much larger general practice and Chris found himself at a crossroads. Chris felt that the large firm business model did not align with his own passions and goals. Chris wanted to retain the close relationships with his clients and have the opportunity to devote more time and attention to their needs, yet he found this more difficult in a large general practice firm. It was at this pivotal moment that Chris received a life-changing phone call from a former colleague who shared a similar vision. That initial conversation ultimately blossomed into a group of eight like-minded patent lawyers who pooled together their resources and brought their vision to a new company. When asked about his emotions at this time, Chris said, “this was both a thrilling and terrifying period in my life. I had to invest everything I had into this venture, including putting my life savings on the line, but I could finally do what I had originally set out to do.” At long last, he had the autonomy to become the champion he had dreamed of becoming for clients who must navigate the treacherous waters of patent law.

It has been nearly two decades since Chris made that decision to transition from lab work to law, but all the lessons he learned during graduate school still serve him well today. Chris says that he finds his current profession to be fulfilling and fun, and he feels fortunate to be involved in a career that allows him to intersect science with people, especially being in a position to be able to help others achieve their goals. When asked what words of advice he would give to current graduate students, he implored encouraged them to “never give up, finish their Ph.D., practice public speaking and effective writing, and network whenever you can.” Chris’ journey serves as an inspiration for the next generation of students looking to apply their doctoral studies to broader society.

orange line

Yuan Chang

Yuan Chang is currently a graduate student in the lab of Dr. Khalid Salaita. She entered Emory in 2011 and has been studying live cell tension using molecular tension fluorescent microscopy (MTFM).

Khalid Salaita and Dennis Liotta Recognized with 2015 OTT Awards

Khalid Salaita with award
Photo via Emory Report. See the full article below for more photos from the OTT awards ceremony.

Khalid Salaita was awarded the Innovation of 2015 award by Emory’s Office of Technology Transfer for the project “Motion-based Detection by DNA Machines.” Dennis Liotta received the Deal of 2015 award along with collaborators from the Emory Institute for Drug Development.

Deal of 2015: Bristol-Myers Squibb – CXCR4 Antagonists

Dennis Liotta (chemistry) and Lawrence Wilson and Michael Natchus (Emory Institute for Drug Discovery)

CXCR4 protein expression is low or absent in many healthy tissues, but it was shown to be expressed in more than 20 types of cancer, including prostate, ovarian and breast cancer, and melanoma. Emory researchers have developed small molecules that act as antagonists to CXCR4 and may be orally administered.

CXCR4 antagonists are known to block adhesion, replication and outgrowth of HIV and can mobilize white blood cells. In 2015, Emory executed a high net worth license for the technology and research collaboration with Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Innovation of 2015: Motion-based Detection by DNA Machines

Khalid Salaita (chemistry)

Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) genotyping is the screening and analysis of genetic variations of SNPs, which are common in all species including humans. SNP genotyping and analysis technology can analyze thousands of SNPs and has the potential for whole-genome genotyping. DNA-based machines have potential in several applications and industries, but DNA machines called “walkers” are challenging to work with due to their low fidelity and slow rates.

Emory inventors have developed a DNA-based machine that converts chemical energy into controlled motion. Because these DNA-based machines “roll” rather than “walk,” they are able to surpass the maximum speed of existing DNA motors by three orders of magnitude. This technology can serve as a new and powerful tool in SNP genotyping, as well as other applications in diagnostics, drug delivery and biomaterials.

[Full Article]