USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience – 2018 in Review

Yearly Rundown 2018 –Marking USC Michelson’s Bioscience Building’s First Year

The USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience marks its first year of opening at the heart of the thriving medical industry in Los Angeles. Since its opening, the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience has aimed to tackle the toughest problems in health with the combination of its diverse group of researchers and resources. The article below ranks the top ten achievements and initiatives in the last year of the USC Michelson Center, and provides a sneak peak of what is to come in 2019.

#10: Race to Discover Next Diabetes Drugs

Researchers at the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience launched a global initiative to crowd source knowledge from both scientific and nonscientific communities. The effort will aim to construct a virtual 3D model of pancreatic beta cells at the atom and whole-cell scale in detail in hope of creating the next generation of diabetes treatments. Raymond C. Stevens, the lead author and director of the Bridge Institute at the USC Michelson Center, believes by having a completed whole-cell model will be critical for the next steps of diabetic drug design. By modeling the pancreatic beta cell, drug researchers can have targeted designs based on the whole-cell model rather than strictly on the protein pathway. This project is open-sourced, in which anyone can contribute research data about the pancreatic beta cell. This convergent scientific effort has also drawn perspectives from the artists at the USC School of Cinematic arts, making this a truly collaborative development. [10]

Raymond C. Stevens, Bridge Institute, Provost Professor of Biological Sciences and Chemistry. (Credit: Noé Montes)
Michelson Hall is set up with areas for careful lab work, while open spaces encourage researchers to meet and share ideas. (Credit: Gus Ruelas)
USC's massive scientific effort to construct a detailed, virtual 3-D model of the pancreatic beta cell and its components aims to curb the worldwide rise of diabetes. (Credit: Yekaterina Kadyshevskaya)
Alex McDowell, USC School of Cinematic Arts (USC SCA), began this major collaboration with USC Michelson's Bridge Institute to create a fully experiential virtual world of a single Pancreatic Beta Cell, using the metaphor of the complex systems of a city. (Credit: WbML (World-building Media Lab) / USC School of Cinematic Arts)
The conjunction of efforts of the WbML, USC SCA and USC Michelson's Bridge Institute is to use storytelling and world building to immerse both the lay-person and expert and engage them in levels of detail that are both scientifically accurate and approachable. (Credit: WbML (World-building Media Lab) / USC School of Cinematic Arts) (WbML)
By creating a virtual world inside a cell, based on the structure and function of a pancreatic beta cell, the art-science collaboration between USC SCA and USC Michelson's Bridge Institute will allow people to explore a rich biological world while engaging concepts, pathways, and implications through narrative, all backed by scientific rigor. (Credit: WbML (World-building Media Lab) / USC School of Cinematic Arts)

#9: Partnership with Agilent Technologies

One of the pressing goals of the USC Michelson Center is to bring the resources, talent, and technologies needed to solve the toughest problems in medical science today. The partnership with Agilent Technologies, a public research technology and manufacturing company has allowed us to take a big stride towards that goal. The synergistic qualities of USC’s research talent and expertise with Agilent’s innovative technology solutions helped establish the Agilent Center of Excellence in Biomolecular Characterization. It’s main focus will be to accelerate scientific discoveries in the healthcare and pharmaceutical space. This transformative approach of combining engineers and scientists to conduct research will position the USC Michelson Center to tackle problems with truly interdisciplinary perspectives, and take a big step toward actualizing rare disease bioscience research into real world applications. [9]

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#8: Andrea Armani Speaking on the Future of Healthcare Technology

Andrea Armani leads a team of researchers in her lab in the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience. Armani sat down in an interview and spoke with Jonathan Lasch of The Alfred E. Mann Institute to highlight the upcoming potential of the USC Michelson Center. The interview highlighted the need of the “pull” model in launching healthcare technologies, and the two core facilities in the USC Michelson Center. Armani expressed firm belief in the center’s model towards scientific and medical innovation, and invites more researchers, engineers and scientists to explore the possibilities in commercialization. [8]

Transforming Healthcare with Technology [2018-02-13. Andrea Armani, Jonathan Lasch. USC Live]

#7: Nanoparticles for Chronic Kidney Disease Treatment

Chronic kidney diseases effects one in every three Americans throughout their lifetime. The filtration nature of human kidneys has made it tough for treatment beyond dialysis or a complete transplant. Doctors have historically prescribed heavy doses in medication in hopes of it reaching the kidney, making heavy side effects prevalent in other organs. Eun Ji Chung, a professor in the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience has set forth in developing targeted drug delivery system through nanoparticles. The researcher uses a micelle, a particle 10-20 times smaller than traditional nanoparticles to act as a delivery vehicle of medicine to the accurate location in the kidney without being filtered and removed by urine. The results of the Vivo testing found the largest concentration of nanoparticles in the kidney, and can be cleared out of the body without damage to other organs. This nanoparticle has the opportunity to change the lives of millions suffering from chronic kidney diseases and mark the foundation for new forms of kidney treatments. [7]

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20181212-usc-michelson-2018-in-review photo

#6: Improving CAR T Therapy in Cancer Patients

Cancer has been one of the leading cause of death in the United States while the scientific community has yet concluded with a sustainable treatment method. Researchers at USC Viterbi has shown considerable progress in several forms of treatments such as Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) therapy. The CAR T Cell therapy allows the patient’s T cells to be removed and genetically engineered with proteins most effective in combating cancer cells. This therapy method allows T cells to distinguish cancer cells with regular cells and destroy them through secreting perforin and granzyme chemicals. The researchers aim to continuously explore ways to engineer therapeutic methods with less side effects and more suitable for widespread use. [6]

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20181212-usc-michelson-2018-in-review photo

#5: Reducing Dialysis with Stem Cells

Andrew McMahon’s research towards sustainable kidney disease treatment aims to bridge the gap between Vivo models and human application. McMahon’s quarter decade long research explores the possibility of turning stem cells into functional kidney structures as a form of treatment for the 30 million U.S adults with kidney disease. McMahon has therefore teamed up with Carl Kesselman, the dean’s professor of industrial and systems engineering at USC Viterbi and a principal investigator to the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience to combine scientific research with useful software applications stem cell researchers can benefit from. Kesselman’s team developed DERIVA software (Discovery Environment for Relational Information and Versioned Assets) to help researches categorize collected research data into virtual photo albums to benefit other researchers in the industry. With Kesselman’s help, researchers will save hours sorting and entering data, and can then spend time in the analysis and interpretation of the data. McMahon and Kesselman’s research will continue to improve the problems posed with in kidney disease research. [5]

Carl Kesselman: We recently were co-authors on a paper with Professor Andy McMahon of the USC Center for Regenerative Medicine on parallels in kidney development in human and mouse. In this paper, we applied a number of the new ideas that we have developed to make the data in that paper completely citable and traceable all the way back to the microscope slide from which the data was obtained. This was as example of how we were able to change the methods of research to create an important research result.

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Kidney development begins with a population of 'progenitor cells' (green), which are similar to stem cells. Some progenitor cells (red) stream out and aggregate into a ball, the renal vesicle (gold). As each renal vesicle grows, it radically morphs into a series of shapes -- can you spot the two S-shaped bodies (green-orange-pink structures) -- and finally forms a nephron. Each human kidney contains one million mature nephrons, which form an expansive tubular network (white) that filters the blood, ensuring a constant environment for all of our body's functions. (Credit: McMahon Lab)
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20181212-usc-michelson-2018-in-review photo

#4: Development of a Portable Malaria Screening Instrument

Malaria affects the lives of hundreds of millions of people every year. While diagnosis and treatment are made available, getting early stage diagnosis becomes critical as treatments are most effective then. Researchers at USC Viterbi have since prototyped a diagnosis portable device that is designed to be independent of the drawbacks of current diagnosis methods. The instrument PODS (Portable Optical Diagnostics System) can analyze unprocessed blood samples in 10-15 minutes and reach sensitivity levels for early stage diagnosis. The team are already working on future generations of the device to lower the dependency on other technologies and the amount of blood samples needed for a single diagnosis. Such solution will have staggering impact to the global community with proper widespread diagnosis. [4]

#3: Smarter device for Pediatric Hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus influences one in every five hundred children born. This condition causes fluid build up in the brain which can lead to headaches if such pressure is not addressed with a mechanical shunt system. Professor Ellis Meng, a faculty member of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience and a newly elected fellow of the National Academy of Inventors developed a multi-sensor shunt system to help patients and clinicians predict shunt failures. Senseer, a start-up founded by Meng and her team aims to tackle the widespread and frequent shunt system issues such as clogging and failure. Numerous failed attempts at updating the outdated shunt technology also presents an opportunity for Meng’s team to collect patient’s data for designing shunts that may not fail in the future. Senseer’s researchers were selected by the National Academy of Inventors to participate in the Student Innovation Showcase of 2018, an honor only six teams in the nation will receive. [3]

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#2: Discovery in Safer Drugs for Mothers During Child Birth

As the leading cause of death for women during childbirth, doctors in developing countries have been using Misoprotosol to save women from postpartum bleeding. While affordable, dangerous side effects such as fetal death and fetal abnormalities has been the predominant issue in widespread usage. The director of Bridge Institute at the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience, Raymond C. Stevens, aims to develop a safer alternative to combat postpartum bleeding in conjunction with U.S Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University. The research aims to provide alternatives that are more selective with tissues to be treated, which can ultimately lead to a complete drug alternative to combating postpartum bleeding. [2]

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#1: Cancer Researcher Quest to Creating Mapping Tool for Cancer

Peter Kuhn, the Dean’s professor at the Michelson Center, aims to understand how cancer cells travel from initial location to other organs in the body. The research uses imaging from metal-tagged antibodies of cancer patients to trace the circulation of cancer cells at the molecular level. Researchers would have the ability to track 35 distinct views of the cancer cell’s biology and understand how the cells change as a result of the combination of a laser ablation system with a mass spectrometer. With Liquid Biopsy, Dr. Kuhn aims to combine machine learning to track movements, and provide a more effective approach toward categorizing treatments. This is the focal point of his research at the USC Michelson Center, and has been made available to thousands of patients for cancer care through Medicare. Patients can then receive tailored treatment options as a result of the detailed movement to other organs, which has long been one of the main barriers to effective treatments. [1]

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20181212-usc-michelson-2018-in-review photo

Onto 2019…

As the first year of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience is coming to an end, the agendas and minds of the researchers merely shows the beginning. The diversity in research projects is what fuels the progress toward eliminating rare diseases and positions the USC Michelson Center as the bridge between research and true adoption. The potential of the center’s impact is a collective effort and will continue to act as the guiding force behind the researchers throughout 2019.

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References

  1. Race to Discover Next Diabetes Drugs

  1. Partnership with Agilent Technologies

  1. Andrea Armani Speaking on the Future of Healthcare Technology

  1. Nanoparticles for Chronic Kidney Disease Treatment

  1. Improving CAR T Therapy in Cancer Patients

  1. Reducing Dialysis with Stem Cells

  1. Development of a Portable Malaria Screening Instrument

  1. Smarter device for Pediatric Hydrocephalus

  1. Discovery in Safer Drugs for Mothers During Child Birth

  1. Cancer Researcher Quest to Creating Mapping Tool for Cancer

Kuan Lu is a bioscience writer with a degree from the University of Southern California. He was involved with biological science before pursuing bioscience writing and completing his business degree. Kuan has previously worked with a variety of medical clinics and physicians on ACL, nutritional impact, and irregular pregnancy disorders. He has a particular interest in epigenetics and leukemia research and is a frequent guest blogger.

Kuan Lu is a bioscience writer with a degree from the University of Southern California. He was involved with biological science before pursuing bioscience writing and completing his business degree. Kuan has previously worked with a variety of medical clinics and physicians on ACL, nutritional impact, and irregular pregnancy disorders. He has a particular interest in epigenetics and leukemia research and is a frequent guest blogger.

Kuan Lu is a bioscience writer with a degree from the University of Southern California. He was involved with biological science before pursuing bioscience writing and completing his business degree. Kuan has previously worked with a variety of medical clinics and physicians on ACL, nutritional impact, and irregular pregnancy disorders. He has a particular interest in epigenetics and leukemia research and is a frequent guest blogger.

Kuan Lu is a bioscience writer with a degree from the University of Southern California. He was involved with biological science before pursuing bioscience writing and completing his business degree. Kuan has previously worked with a variety of medical clinics and physicians on ACL, nutritional impact, and irregular pregnancy disorders. He has a particular interest in epigenetics and leukemia research and is a frequent guest blogger.