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RESEARCH AND ADVISORY BOARD

Welcome to the YWHAG Foundation Research/Advisory Board, where dedicated minds unite in the pursuit of combating and understanding the complexities of the YWHAG genetic mutation. Our Research and Advisory Board stands as a pillar of expertise and collaboration, pooling together diverse talents and perspectives to delve into the intricate workings of the YWHAG gene and its protein product - 14-3-3γ

 

With a shared commitment to advancing research, fostering understanding, and pursuing therapeutic breakthroughs, our board members will embark on a journey of exploration and discovery. We aim to forge and illuminate all possible pathways and partnerships towards effective treatments and ultimately, cures for those affected by the YWHAG genetic mutation. 

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Dr. Brittany Spitznagel

Dr. Brittany Spitznagel is an accomplished pharmacist and scientist, currently serving as a Senior Cell Biologist for Biohaven Pharmaceuticals. Since 2016, she has dedicated herself to early-stage drug discovery for ion channel targets, striving to develop better treatments for genetic-related epilepsies. Brittany's previous role as a Research Instructor of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University focused solely on novel treatments for rare genetic pediatric epilepsies. Her work is progressive and aims to significantly contribute to the field of epilepsy treatment.

 

Brittany is recognized for her dedication, her pursuit of knowledge, and her contributions to the medical field. With a focus on neurodegenerative diseases and epilepsy, she continues to leverage her expertise to make a meaningful impact in these critical areas of study. As a clinician-scientist she strives to combine both her clinical knowledge of medicine and scientific understanding of molecular systems and to apply it towards research for the benefit of humanity.

YWHAG Research Foundation's Chief Scientific Officer

Dr. Helen Chen, Ph.D

Dr. Chen is a senior scientist in Dr. Heather Mefford’s research group at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She received her B.S. in Biochemistry, and her Ph.D. in Experimental Medicine from the University of British Columbia. She completed her postdoctoral training in Dr. Ryan Potts' research group at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital investigating a rare, neurodevelopmental disorder called the Prader-Willi Syndrome. Dr. Chen’s research is focused on investigating rare, pediatric neurodevelopmental disorders and testing novel precision therapies.

Dr. Chen is a cell biologist with 15 years of research experience, specializing in stem cells, neuronal organoids, neurobiology, and translational precision therapy.

She has extensive experience in disease modelling, assay development and high-throughput screens. 

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Josh Andersen, Ph.D

Dr. Anderson received his Ph.D in molecular virology with Dr. Vicente Planelles at the University of Utah, executing his postdoctoral training in cell signaling and biochemistry with Dr. Sally Kornbluth at Duke University. Fascinated by 14-3-3 proteins since his time at Duke, Dr. Anderson has dedicated his scientific career to developing proteomics tools for 14-3-3 and studying the mechanisms and functions behind its binding partners. He is also passionate about translating the understanding of 14-3-3 to better combat related diseases. Currently, Dr. Anderson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Oncological Sciences at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, and leads a lab focused on cell signaling and 14-3-3-regulated pathways. Outside the lab, Dr. Anderson enjoys spending time in the Utah mountains with his wife Audrey and three children Eli, Kate, and Sam.  

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Paul H. Goldspink, Ph.D

Based at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Dr. Goldspink's research focuses on the molecular and cellular determinants of cardiovascular disease, as well as the changes that occur with aging, as well as gender. In recent studies, he has been instrumental in uncovering the existence of 14-3-3 binding domains on the contractile proteins in the heart and the interactions of 14-3-3γ with proteins involved in regulating cardiac contractile function. He is currently investigating how changes in the intrinsic properties of the contractile apparatus are transmitted to other intracellular components such as the nucleus, mitochondria, cytoskeleton, through the 14-3-3γ interactome in genetic forms of heart failure. To do so, he is developing new proteomic workflows to quantify changes in the 14-3-3γ specific interactome in normal and disease tissues. By exploring these mechanisms, Dr. Goldspink seeks to develop novel strategies for early intervention to promote functional improvements in heart failure and other pathologies occurring through changes in the 14-3-3γ interactome.

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Dr. Kazuhito Toyooka, Ph.D

Dr. Toyooka is an associate professor in the Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy at Drexel University College of Medicine in the United States. He completed his postdoctoral fellowships at the University of California San Diego and the University of California San Francisco. Specifically, he is interested in understanding the mechanisms associated with human brain morphological disorders and neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism, as well as the process of cerebral cortical development in relation to neuronal morphogenesis and connectivity. For more than 20 years, he has researched the function of 14-3-3 proteins in brain development and their implications for neurodevelopmental disorders using genetically modified mice.

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Laura Civiero, Ph.D

Dr. Civiero graduated in Molecular Biology from the University of Padua and earned her Ph.D in Biotechnology from the University of Verona, Italy. She conducted her post-doctoral studies in molecular neuroscience at the University of Padua. Currently, Laura serves as a professor of Physiology at the Department of Biology, University of Padua, and acts as coordinator at the Laboratory of Molecular Physiology at IRCCS San Camillo Hospital in Venice, Italy. Her laboratory focuses on investigating the molecular mechanisms regulating the activity of neuronal and glial cells in brain disorders. Dr. Civiero's research has received funding from both national and international institutions. She has authored 40 articles, which have garnered over 2,000 citations— resulting in an h-index of 24 according to Google Scholar.

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Michael Wedemeyer

Michael Wedemeyer is a postdoctoral researcher working at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San

Antonio (UTHSCSA). His research is focused on understanding how cells communicate and sense their environment through G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) on their surface. These

receptors are responsible for many of our senses and are critical throughout development— critically influencing how cells respond to signals such as hormones or neurotransmitters. With so many important and diverse functions, these receptors are significant drug targets and make up over a third of FDA approved drugs. A better understanding of GPCRs will better position us to develop safe and effective therapeutics. Recently, 14-3-3 proteins have been discovered to play a role in regulating GPCR signaling, and his most recent work has identified that 14-3-3γ can substantially impact the function of the kappa opioid receptor. This receptor is known to play a role in pain, consciousness, motor control, and mood, and this exciting discovery has sparked new research directions investigating the role of 14-3-3γ in both homeostasis and disease.

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Professor Ryan Shenvi

Ryan Shenvi is a Full Professor at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California. His laboratory works at the interface of catalysis, complex molecule synthesis and structural biology. Ryan was born in Wilmington, Delaware and earned his B.S. degree with honors and distinction in chemistry as a Schreyer’s Scholar at Penn State University, where he conducted research with John Desjarlais and Raymond Funk. Ryan earned his Ph.D. in 2008 from The Scripps Research Institute as an NDSEG Fellow under the supervision of Phil S. Baran, and undertook postdoctoral studies as a Ruth L. Kirschstein NIH Postdoctoral Fellow with E. J. Corey at Harvard University. He serves as Advisory Editor on the Angewandte Chemie Scientific Advisory Committee, Executive Editor at the Encyclopedia of Reagents for Organic Synthesis and is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board for Tetrahedron Chem, ACS Central Science and Accounts of Chemical Research.

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Dr. David Bearden

Dr. David Bearden is a pediatric neurologist and neurogeneticist at the University of Rochester.  He completed his residency and fellowship training at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and is currently an Associate Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics at the University of Rochester.  His research focuses on the epidemiology and optimal treatments of genetic disorders, with a particular interest in genetic epilepsies. In addition, he studies the epidemiology of neurologic disorders in resource-limited settings.

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Dr. Yi Zhou

Yi Zhou is currently Professor of Neuroscience and Biomedical Sciences at the Florida State University College of Medicine. He has been studying the role 14-3-3 proteins play in the nervous system for almost three decades. In addition to characterizing several regulatory protein complexes comprised of 14-3-3 and different classes of ion channels and receptors, his laboratory has created transgenic and virus-based mouse models that are considered to be functional knockout (FKO) of 14-3-3 proteins.  Using these animal models, they have conducted a variety of experiments to reveal the importance of 14-3-3 in higher brain functions. Dr. Zhou received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1995 and trained as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Brandeis University. He became an independent investigator in 2003 as an Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In 2007, Dr. Zhou accepted an Associate Professor position at the Florida State University, where he is currently stationed.

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Associate Professor Christian Ottman

Christian Ottman is Associate Professor at Eindhoven University of Technology and co-founder and CTO of Ambagon Therapeutics, the 14-3-3 Molecular Glue company. He completed his PhD at the University of Tuebingen, Germany, and was group leader at the Chemical Genomics Centre of the Max Planck Society in Dortmund, Germany. In 2012, he started his position at Eindhoven University and together with Michelle Arkin (UCSF) and Luc Brunsveld, co-founded Ambagon in 2020. He is working on small-molecule modulation of 14-3-3 protein-protein interactions now for 28 years and has dedicated his professional life to “drug 14-3-3 proteins” and their wide-spread interactome.

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Dr. Kellie Dean

Dr Kellie Dean is a College Lecturer and Principal Investigator in the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at University College Cork (UCC), Ireland. Originally from western Pennsylvania, Kellie graduated with a BSc in Chemistry, minor in Biology, from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. After completing her PhD in Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1999, she then worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the Center for Molecular Biology (ZMBH), University of Heidelberg, Germany, and later with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Moving to Ireland in 2005, she began lecturing part-time at UCC, teaching

biochemistry to Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy students. In 2008, she was appointed Training Coordinator of the Health Research Board, PhD Scholars Program in Cancer Biology. Since 2015, she has been leading a research group that is focused on understanding the roles of non-coding RNAs, RNA-binding proteins, RNA-protein complexes in cancer and other human diseases. Her other research interests include translational control, phase separation and disordered proteins. Notably, the Dean group has found that 14-3-3 proteins regulate biomolecular condensate dynamics of the RNA-binding protein, SMAUG1. Current work in her group is focused on understanding how clinical variants of 14-3-3 proteins impact this process. Internationally, Dr Dean is an education working group co-leader in the EU COST Action TRANSLACORE (Translational Control in Cancer European Network), a member of the Ribo-seq ORF Consortium and a curator of short-linear motifs for the MoMAP (Motif Map of the Proteome) resource. She is a member of the Irish and European Associations for Cancer Research, the Biochemical Society, and the RNA Society.

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Assistant Professor Dheeraj Roy

Dheeraj Roy is an Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Buffalo (UB). His laboratory studies mechanisms of learning, memory, and decision-making with a focus on the thalamic region of the mammalian brain. Extending this basic science work, his group aims to uncover how neuropsychiatric risk genes alter thalamic function and contribute to human disease symptoms. His previous research studied YWHAG and other risk genes in the context of intellectual disability, schizophrenia, and autism spectrum disorders, using animal models and CRISPR gene editing.

 

Dheeraj received his PhD from MIT followed by postdoctoral training at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. He was born and raised in the Middle East-- within an Indian household in Dubai. 

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Associate Professor Richard Doveston

Richard is an Associate Professor in Chemical Biology within the Leicester Institute of Structural and Chemical Biology and School of Chemistry at the University of Leicester, UK. His research is focussed on the application of chemical synthesis and chemical biology approaches for the development of novel pharmaceutical modalities. In particular, his group has a keen interest in 14-3-3 proteins, and the discovery, design and evaluation of molecular glues that target their interactions. Prior to joining the University of Leicester, Richard held a Marie Curie fellowship at the Eindhoven University of Technology (NL) and undertook a post-doctoral research project at the University of Leeds (UK).

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