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Julio Barredo, MD

Julio Barredo, M.D.

Associate Chair of Pediatrics for Basic Research
Director, Children’s Cancer Programs at UM SCCC
Director, Pediatric Hematology-Oncology
Toppel Family Professor of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology


Kerry Burnstein, PhD

Kerry Burnstein, Ph.D.

Associate Director for Education and Training
Professor, Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology


The Burnstein lab studies steroid hormone / nuclear receptor signaling in prostate cancer and how receptor cross-talk pathways can be targeted therapeutically. In particular, the roles of androgen receptors (wild type, mutant and constitutively active variants) in driving prostate tumor growth and vitamin D receptors in cancer inhibition are longstanding interests. In recent work, we are examining the therapeutic use and mechanisms of a metastasis-suppressing microRNA cluster in prostate cancer.

Zhibin Chen, PhD

Zhibin Chen, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology


My laboratory studies immunological mechanisms and interventions of cancer and diabetes. We build animal models to mimic the genetic and genomic risks of human diseases. We use the in vivo models to examine the cause and effect of disease biology at cellular and molecular levels, identify potential biomarkers for disease progression, and test potential interventions for disease prevention and treatment.

Shanta Dhar, PhD

Shanta Dhar, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


Our research is at the interface of chemistry and biology with particular emphasis on nanocarrier mediated intracellular delivery of payloads for potential applications in various diseases. Our research is directed to develop organelle targeted nanoparticles and to study nanoparticle assisted targeted delivery for possible applications in cancer, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases and to provide the scientific community with valuable knowledge that can guide into the discovery of potential drug candidates and vaccines.

Maria Figueroa, M.D.

Maria Figueroa, M.D.

Associate Professor, Human Genetics


The Figueroa lab studies the role of epigenetic modifications in transcriptional regulation during normal and malignant hemopoiesis. Our focus is mainly on how changes in normal epigenetic patterns occur during malignant transformation and how these changes may contribute to the leukemogenic process. We use a combination of computational approaches based on genome-wide next generation sequencing data as well as in vitro and in vivo modeling to determine the consequences of the epigenetic lesions that we have identified.

Sophia George, PhD

Sophia George, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology
Division of Gynecologic Oncology


We study hereditary and ovarian cancer syndrome. We study fallopian tube epithelia from women deemed to be at a high-risk for developing breast and/or ovarian cancer. Our work has found that the menstrual cycle (hormones), inflammation and parity all influence the development of ovarian cancer. Most recently, we have identified that FTE in the fimbria have a unique metabolic and antioxidant phenotype compared to the ampulla. This phenotype allows the FTE in the high-risk zone to tolerate environmental stressors from ovulation and the nutrient rich pro-inflammatory peritoneal cavity.

J. William Harbour, MD

J. William Harbour, M.D.

Director, Ocular Oncology
Mark J. Daily Chair, Ophthalmology
Vice Chairman, Translational Research


Clinical Trials for High Risk Uveal Melanoma and Retinoblastoma, Intraocular Lymphoma, Hereditary Eye Tumors, Ocular Biopsy, Using Genetic and Genomic Methods to Develop New Diagnostic, Prognostic and Therapeutic Technologies for Eye Cancers.

Jennifer Hu, PhD

Jennifer Hu, Ph.D.

Associate Director, Division of Cancer Prevention and Control
Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Public Health


As a trans-disciplinary cancer researcher, Dr. Hu has training in basic sciences and cancer epidemiology. Her research mainly focuses on the molecular and genetic mechanisms of breast cancer etiology and survival disparities as well as implication of DNA repair in precision medicine.

Roland Jurecic, PhD

Roland Jurecic, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Microbiology and Immunology
Associate Professor, Cell Biology and Anatomy


The research in the lab focuses on: (1) Molecular pathways that regulate self-renewal and differentiation of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and cancer stem cells, (2) Novel multi-target immunosuppressive approaches to treat immune-mediated Aplastic Anemia and bone marrow failure, (3) Characterization and mitigation of long-term effects of cancer chemotherapy on HSC function, hematopoiesis and immune system function,  (4) Characterization and mitigation of acute and delayed effects of ionizing radiation on the hematopoietic system and HSC function, and (5) Characterization of molecular and cellular pathways regulating emergency hematopoiesis in response to bacterial and viral infections.

Wasif Khan, PhD

Wasif Khan, Ph.D.

Professor, Microbiology & Immunology


Our experimental approaches include in vivo experiments using gene-targeted mice, ex vivo analysis of immune cells by flow cytometry, cell adhesion and migration, global gene expression (NGS) and in vitro biochemical analysis of posttranslational modification of signaling proteins. Identification and functional relevance of critical molecules in immunity, autoimmunity and lymphoid malignancies will facilitate the development of next generation of biological and more precise therapeutics.

Stephen Lee, PhD

Stephen Lee, Ph.D.

Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


The laboratory studies mechanisms involved in the cellular adaptation to the adverse environmental conditions commonly found within the tumor microenvironment (hypoxia and extracellular acidosis). These extracellular stimuli alter fundamental cellular pathways by 1) activating an alternate translation apparatus that synthesizes proteins only in the absence of oxygen and 2) inducing a new class of long noncoding RNAs that regulate protein function. Ongoing projects blend basic and translational scientific research from the identification of novel stress-induced long noncoding RNA to discovery of drug as small molecular inhibitors for these essential tumor biology pathways.

Sandra Lemmon, PhD

Sandra Lemmon, Ph.D.

Professor, Molecular & Cellular Pharmacology
Director, MD/PhD Program


Membrane Transport: Sorting and regulation of protein traffic in the endocytic and secretory pathways and during Autophagy

Robert Levy, PhD

Robert Levy, Ph.D.

Professor, Microbiology and Immunology


My laboratory’s research objective is to understand the biology of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplants (HSCT) which are utilized to treat patients with hematologic disorders (ex. leukemia / lymphoma) and enzyme deficiencies.  We employ experimental HSCT models involving defined genetic differences reflecting clinical donors and recipients to study mechanisms underlying the major immunological complication, i.e. graft vs. host disease as well as immune reconstitution and anti-tumor immunity in an effort to develop therapeutic approaches (i.e. Treg cells / IL-2 / epigenetic regulation) to translate into the clinic here at UM/ Sylvester.

Enrique Mesri, PhD

Enrique Mesri, Ph.D.

Professor, Microbiology and Immunology


Dr. Mesri’s laboratory is currently working on: 1) Identifying the cell progenitor of KS. 2) Novel anti-viral interventions in KS 3) Novel use of a mouse infectious model for a KSHV like virus (MHV-68) to understand in vivo biology 4) Identifying normal genetic polymorphisms that predispose to KS 5) Using next generation sequencing to study KS pathogenesis and response to therapy 6) Study KSHV and HIV oncogenic interactions.

Lluis Morey, PhD

Lluis Morey, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor, John T. Macdonald Foundation Department of Human Genetics


Dr. Morey has made a number of important contributions in identifying and characterizing essential regulators involved in stem cell identity, differentiation and cancer progression. His laboratory is interested in dissecting the molecular and biological functions of epigenetics machineries, with a special focus on Polycomb group proteins, in cancer and stem cells. Dr. Morey’s laboratory main projects include: 1. Identification and characterization of cancer driving mutations in epigenetic regulators. 2. Identification and characterization of novel non-histone methyltransferases substrates. 3. Role of epigenetic factors associated with tumor initiation, cancer progression and metastasis. 4. Cell fate modulation imposed by specific epigenetic factors.

Stephen Nimer, MD

Stephen Nimer, M.D.

Director, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center
Professor, Medicine
Professor, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology


Dr. Nimer has spent several decades conducting basic science and clinical research into the genetic basis and treatment of hematological malignancies. His laboratory has been trying to decipher the normal and abnormal regulatory mechanisms that control the expression of genes implicated in hematopoiesis and the biological mechanisms that control the formation of blood cells. The ultimate goal of his research is to identify new critical, cellular mechanism implicated in leukemogenesis and develop molecularly targeted therapies.

Michael Schmale, PhD

Michael Schmale, Ph.D.

Professor, Marine Biology


My research interests are in marine animal models of disease processes, with an emphasis on cancer. Ongoing research includes: 1) a unique virus-like agent which causes peripheral nervous systems and pigment cell tumors in bicolor damselfish on Florida reefs, 2) vector design and optimization of transgenesis in zebrafish, 3) the effect of toxins from agal blooms using zebrafish and 4) health and husbandry of California sea hares, Aplysia californica, used in neurobiological research.

Ramin Shiekhattar, PhD

Ramin Shiekhattar, Ph.D.

Academic Director, Oncogenomic Core Facility
Chief, Division of Cancer Genomics and Epigenetics
Director, Cancer Epigenetics Research Program
Professor, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology


My laboratory has made a number of important contributions over the past several years in identifying and characterizing critical mediators of epigenome. These include a number of chromatin remodeling (human NURF, CERF, WCRF/ACF) and chromatin modifying UTX/MLL3/4, JARID1d, LSD1-CoREST complexes. Importantly, the emerging roles for non-coding RNAs in epigenetic regulation and their crosstalk with chromatin regulatory complexes persuaded us to characterize the key players in the biogenesis and effector function of non-coding RNAs.

Noula Shembade, Ph.D.

Noula Shembade, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Microbiology and Immunology


Uncontrolled activation of innate immune receptors by the pathogens can cause chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases. My laboratory focuses on understanding the mechanisms of negative regulation of the transcription factor NF-κB activated by the innate immune receptors. Activation of NF-κB is critical to eliminate pathogens and to maintain tissue homeostasis. NF-κB activation needs to be tightly regulated after the danger is eliminated. The ubiquitin-editing enzyme A20 complex tightly regulates NF-κB activation. The mechanisms of the ubiquitin-editing enzyme A20 complex activation are not known. Thus, we wish to understand the mechanisms that activate the A20 complex and lead to termination of NF-κB activation and maintenance of tissue homeostasis.

Emmanuel Thomas, MD, PhD

Emmanuel Thomas, M.D., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Cell Biology


The mission of Dr. Thomas’s program is to develop integrated, multidisciplinary approaches to the study of liver cancer/liver diseases and to bridge clinical medicine and basic science with translation of fundamental knowledge to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of liver diseases.  The laboratory mainly focuses on viral hepatitis (Hepatitis B and C) and has developed models to study interactions between these viruses and cells in the liver including hepatocytes and macrophages.  Cellular pathways studied include innate antiviral responses and the contribution ofthese pathways in oncogenesis.

Claes Wahlestedt, MD, PhD

Claes Wahlestedt, M.D., Ph.D.

Associate Dean, Therapeutic Innovation
Director, Center for Therapeutic Innovation
Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences


We study the role of the noncoding RNAs in schizophrenia, the role of microRNA in the mechanisms of drug dependency, regulatory RNA’s as mediators and biomarkers in Alzheimer’s Disease, the discovery and development of nociception receptor ligands in alcohol dependence, noncoding RNAsepigenomic modulators in Alzheimer’s Disease, the discovery of a potent and selective neuropeptide YY2 receptor antagonist probes, and comprehensive analysis of FRM1 locus transcriptional landscape.

Alexander Zaika, MD

Alexander Zaika, M.D.

Professor, Surgery


p53 protein plays the pivotal role in regulation of multiple cellular mechanisms including apoptosis, cell cycle control and tumorigenesis. Due to its critical function in tumor suppression, p53 was named “the guardian of the genome.” We are interested in understanding the molecular and cellular machinery that regulates p53 and other members of the p53 protein family in human tumors.

Fangliang Zhang, PhD

Fangliang Zhang, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology


Our lab is one of the less than ten labs in the world with demonstrated expertise working on post-translational protein arginylation. Our research focuses on the effects of arginylation on cellular behaviors including cell migration and adhesions, stress response, and programmed cell death. We have a strong interest in the relevancy of arginylation in cardiac development and cancer progression. Test models include bacteria, yeast, mammalian cell lines, mouse, and actual human samples.

Yanbin Zhang, PhD

Yanbin Zhang, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology


Interstrand crosslinks (ICLs) are among the most toxic DNA lesions since they covalently tether both duplex DNA strands and prevent essential DNA metabolisms such as replication and transcription. Deficient ICL repair underlies the cancer-prone hereditary syndrome Fanconi anemia. We are interested in deciphering the molecular mechanism of ICL repair, delineating the role of Fanconi anemia proteins in DNA repair, and studying the relationship between Fanconi anemia proteins and human cancers. Our research relies on a biochemically defined reconstitution system and cell-based analyses.