Emory Female Inventors Revisited

Share with your network

The Emory community is proud to have some of the most cutting-edge research teams led by women. Female scientists at Emory are responsible for a variety of innovative discoveries in biomedical sciences and technology. Some of their inventions have had profound positive impact on the scientific community and society as a whole. In this article, we are honoring five of Emory’s female inventors and their work.

Cassandra Quave is an Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the School of Medicine and the Center for the Study of Human Health. She is a medical ethnobotanist, studying the medicinal properties of novel plant compounds. One of the biggest issues in modern medicine is the existence of bacterial strains that do not respond to most known antibiotics or drugs. To tackle this issue, Quave is looking for new plant-derived molecules that can help with the treatment of antibiotic-resistant infections. Her team discovered compounds in the sweet chestnut and Brazilian pepper trees that can combat methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), one of the most common and dangerous healthcare related infections. These extracts are a safe and effective way to mitigate MRSA symptoms and halt disease progression. Her important work has been prominently featured in the New York Times and NPR.

Monika Raj is an Associate Professor at the Department of Chemistry and a member of the Discovery and Developmental Therapeutics Research Program at Winship Cancer Institute. The Raj Group’s research takes place at the interface of organic synthesis, bioorganic chemistry, and catalysis. She is interested in utilizing organic chemistry tools to solve problems in the field of biology. Raj and her team are focused on developing new chemical reactions, catalysis, and ligation methodologies for the synthesis of biological molecules. Her research program leads to the discovery of novel protein biomarkers, enzyme inhibitors, and affordable diagnostics tools for early cancer detection. You can learn more about Dr. Raj and her group here.

Christina Rostad is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and an Attending Physician in Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Emory University School of Medicine and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Her work is focused on vaccine design and development, from pre-clinical design and testing to clinical trials. She has a translational laboratory that studies serologic immunity to pediatric pathogens. She is a co-investigator in the Emory Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit (VTEU) and has served has an investigator on multiple clinical trials. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Rostad has worked to enroll children hospitalized with acute COVID-19 and multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) for collaborative research efforts to further the understanding of these disease processes in children. The fundamental goal of Dr. Rostad’s work is to develop vaccines that will prevent infectious diseases and protect the health and wellbeing of children. Read more about Christina’s research here.

Malathy Shanmugam is an Associate Professor at the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology. She is working on the development of new treatments for multiple myeloma, an aggressive form of plasma cancer that is highly drug resistant. Shanmugam’s work has led to the discovery of several small molecules that help potentiate the effect of existing therapies. These molecules target the glucose metabolism pathways of cancer cells, essentially “starving” them. Furthermore, Shanmugam’s team is studying how cancer metabolism can affect the probability of cancer metastasis, which may lead to more potential treatments. You can learn more about Shanmugam’s work here.

Chunhui Xu is a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine. At Emory, she directs the Cardiomyocyte Stem Cell Laboratory at the Pediatric Research Alliance, a center sponsored by Children’s Health Care of Atlanta, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Emory University. Her research focuses human cardiomyocytes derived from human pluripotent stem cells. These cells hold promise for cardiac cell therapy, disease modeling, drug discovery, and the study of developmental biology. She has extensive research experience on stem cells and cardiogenisis. One of Dr. Xu’s technologies proposes a new method for developing therapeutic stem cells that could repair damaged heart cells. Her team is working to understand the growth and differentiation of cardiomyocytes from human induced pluripotent stem cells in a microgravity environment. Dr. Xu and her team generated 3D cardiac progenitors that were cryopreserved and then flown to the International Space Station through the SpaceX-20 mission. Read about one of Chunhui’s innovations in this technology brief.