Tech Profs Recognized by Cancer Coalition

Four Georgia Tech research scientists - Yuhong Fan, Ph.D., Melissa Kemp, Ph.D., Francesca Storici, Ph.D, and Ming Yuan, Ph.D. - are among the 29 across the state to be selected as Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholars for 2008. As assistant professors, each scientist is funded at $50,000 annually for five years; Coalition support for their research efforts totals $1 million. The Coalition selects scientists engaged in the most promising areas of cancer research.

"We are very proud of the four Georgia Tech researchers who were selected as Georgia Cancer Coalition scholars," says Wayne Clough, president of Georgia Tech. "We're grateful to the Georgia Cancer Coalition for their generous support of Georgia's efforts to attract the world's top scientists and researchers not only to Georgia Tech, but also to other Georgia universities and organizations."

Fan earned her Ph.D. in cell biology from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, where she earned the Outstanding Postdoctoral Scholar Award of the Belfer Institute. She was recruited to Georgia Tech's School of Biology in January 2007, where she joined the ovarian cancer epigenetics initiative. Her research is expected to provide crucial analysis and study in search of markers that can improve diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer, one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in women.

Kemp was recruited to the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Technology and Emory University in August 2006. She earned her Ph.D. in bioengineering at the University of Washington in Seattle, and conducted a postdoctoral fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her research takes a cross-disciplinary approach, combining systems biology, cancer biology, computer science and engineering to provide insights into appropriate drug targets for cancerous cells, uncover novel indicators of drug-resistant cancer cells and look at the appropriateness of pharmaceuticals alone or in optimal combinations. The ultimate goal is to develop individualized therapy strategies, especially for drug-resistant cancer patients. Kemp has played an active role in the development of Georgia Tech's Integrated Biosystems Institute.

Storici was named an assistant professor in Georgia Tech's School of Biology in August 2007. She attended the University of Trieste in Italy, where she qualified as a biologist and earned a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from the International School for Advanced Studies. She was recruited from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in North Carolina, where she was a research fellow. Her research involves new approaches that have implications for defining the impact of DNA repair in the origin of cancer, for developing novel gene targeting technologies as research tools to understand cancer mechanisms, and for the development of cancer-free strategies of gene therapy.

Yuan is an assistant professor in the Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering. He holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Information Science; an M.S. in Probability and Statistics and Computer Science, and earned his Ph.D. in Statistics at University of Wisconsin. In the study of breast cancer, Yuan is developing novel computation and mathematical approaches using a wide variety of data sources in order to stratify breast cancer into biologically distinct types and correlate them with outcome and therapy response. Yuan has developed revolutionary bioinformatics techniques to successfully address questions related to aging and diabetes; it is hoped that bioinformatics techniques can similarly address questions in various cancer studies.

The Coalition cooperates with Georgia's research universities, medical schools, hospitals and nursing programs to recruit research scientists, with the goal of strengthening the state's research talent, capacity and infrastructure.

Since its inception in 2001, the Georgia Cancer Coalition has named 113 Distinguished Scholars; 12 have been from Georgia Tech. Scholar funding is an investment not only in Georgia's future as a national leader in cancer control, but also is valuable in attracting increased funding to Georgia for cancer research. The sponsoring institutions must provide at least a dollar-for-dollar match. The review committee examines the scholars' history of grants, publications and patents and considers the researcher's potential for attracting future funding. In fiscal year 2007, Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholars were responsible for securing $47 million in privately and federally funded research grants to the state of Georgia. Scholar Selection is based on how the applicant's research relates to the goals of the Coalition, the research priorities of the National Cancer Institute and the strategic plan of the sponsoring institution. Each application is reviewed by both an external scientific review committee and an advisory review committee, appointed by the Coalition in cooperation with Georgia's research universities. Kate Canterbury, director of Research Programs, staffs the Coalition committees. Members rank scholars according to predetermined scientific and technical criteria.

"The National Cancer Institute has identified areas of discovery that hold promise for making significant progress against all cancers. The Distinguished Cancer Clinicians and Scientists program is the cornerstone of the Georgia Cancer Coalition's efforts to advance scientific discovery into the prevention, treatment, causes and cures of cancer. These scientists play an important role in positioning Georgia as a national leader in cancer research," says Bill Todd, president and chief operating officer of the Georgia Cancer Coalition.

The Georgia Cancer Coalition is an independent, not-for-profit organization that unites government agencies, academic institutions, civic groups, corporations and health care organizations in a concerted effort to strengthen cancer prevention, research and treatment in Georgia, with the ultimate goal of making Georgia one of the nation's premier states for cancer care. The mission is to reduce the number of cancer-related deaths in Georgia. The Coalition is the first of its kind in the nation and is fast becoming a national model.

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