Second Annual CaneSearch Draws Hundreds Interested in Neuroscience

The Miami Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s (CTSI) second annual CaneSearch Research Symposium explored many aspects of neuroscience research taking place at the University while highlighting a translational approach to topics such as HIV/AIDS, drug abuse, addiction and obesity.

Hundreds of faculty, students and staff from UM and other universities in Florida gathered February 20 on the Miller School campus to display their research projects, learn about important resources and participate in discussions with top scientific experts.

“CaneSearch provides a unique opportunity for the university community to come together to learn about the cutting edge clinical and translational research conducted at the University of Miami,” said Miami CTSI Director José Szapocznik, Ph.D., professor and Chair of Public Health Sciences. “Too often, we attend conferences in our fields and are more likely to know what colleagues 3,000 miles away are doing, than know about the amazing research of the scientist a floor above us.”

The goal of the symposium, and one that is shared by the Miami CTSI, is to promote collaboration and excellence in interdisciplinary research. Helping to foster those collaborations and ultimately advance scientific breakthroughs, a poster session and shared resources fair were held on the Schoninger Research Quadrangle, featuring 120 scientific works and University shared resources.

“I try to attend a few poster sessions a year,” said Ryan McCormack, an M.D./Ph.D. student in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, who presented work on rethinking immune privilege. “They provide a good venue to speak about science and interact with people from other departments.”

Marisela Agudelo, Ph.D., research assistant professor in the Department of Immunology at Florida International University, participated in CaneSearch for the first time this year. At the poster session, Agudelo presented her work on the differential effects of the legal marijuana alternative, K2/spice compounds, on the blood brain barrier, and was also able to connect with the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Flow Cytometry Core Facility. “We are interested in using this core since our medical school at FIU is fairly new and we don’t have an established facility,” said Agudelo.

Recognizing an outstanding poster for its scientific merit and excellence in collaboration, the Miami CTSI along with the Office of Research, Research Education, and Innovative Medicine, the Vice Provost for Research, and the Wallace H. Coulter Center for Translational Research awarded Darla Karpinsky-Semper, a graduate student in molecular and cellular pharmacology, for her work on the regulation of GPCR signal transduction.

“We are investigating the molecular details of how different cells respond to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine,” said Karpinsky-Semper. “In many cells that produce hormones, acetylcholine via cholinergic receptors (muscarinic and nicotinic) stimulates hormone release.” Karpinsky-Semper’s co-authors include Claude-Henry Volmar, Ph.D., associate scientist of molecular and cellular pharmacology, Kelly Wang, graduate student in molecular and cellular pharmacology, Shaun P. Brothers, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and Vladlen Z. Slepak, Ph.D., professor and graduate program director of molecular and cellular pharmacology.

Following the poster session and shared resources fair was the Collaborative Research Exchange Forum (CREF), featuring keynote speaker Nora Volkow, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, who spoke via video conference on the neurobiology of addiction.

“Speakers for the CREF focused on a translational theme to neuroscience as it relates to HIV/AIDS, drug abuse and obesity, areas that have been identified by our Miami-Dade collaborators as important health issues affecting our community,” said Norma Sue Kenyon, Ph.D., Director of the Miami CTSI Novel Clinical and Translational Methods, Technologies, and Resources Program, which is responsible for organizing CaneSearch, and Chief Innovation Officer.

Szapocznik, who is also director for Center for Family Studies and professor of Architecture, Psychology, and Educational Research & Counseling Psychology, presented “Translating Behavioral Technologies to Community Based Practices and Back,” regarding his research on family-based interventions for the treatment of Hispanic teens with behavioral issues.

The CREF ended with presentations from Habibeh Koshbouei, Ph.D., associate professor of neuroscience and psychiatry at the University of Florida, who focused on the intracellular mechanism of methamphetamine regulation of the dopamine transporter, and Madhavan Nair, Ph.D., professor and founding chair of the Department of Immunology at Florida International University, who discussed his research on therapeutic approaches to control neuro-AIDS via specific drug targeting to the brain with nanotechnology.

Jason Campagna, M.D., Ph.D., Vice President and Global Medical Lead for Surgery and Perioperative Medicine at the pharmaceutical firm The Medicines Company and Miller School alumnus (’96, ’97), led a morning panel discussion on a bedside-to-bench approach to translational medicine and the role of industry-academic collaboration.

The symposium concluded with a cocktail reception on the second-floor patio of the Lois Pope LIFE Center, where attendees and speakers were able to mingle, network and discuss future collaborations.

If you attended CaneSearch, the Miami CTSI would like to hear from you. Please visit to take our brief survey. By doing so, you will be entered into a drawing to win one of five restaurant gift certificates, including $50 to Thea Pizzeria and Café and $25 to Subway.

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