2012 NTD Fellows

HadyKarim Mohamed Abdel Hady, B.S.
American University (Egypt)

Karim Abdel Hady is a graduate student in the Biotechnology program at the American University in Cairo, Egypt and a Research Assistant to Professor Hassan Azzazy, Professor of Chemistry. In 2010, Karim graduated with high honors from the German University in Cairo with a Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy and Biotechnology. As an undergraduate, Karim participated in several internships in Egypt and abroad including an internship at the University of Stuttgart-Germany focusing on systems biology. He also participated as a co-author in one research article and one research poster. After joining the American University in Cairo, Karim worked as a teaching assistant in the quantitative biology (statistics) undergraduate course for one semester before joining Professor Azzazy’s research group. Along with Professor Azzazy, Karim co-authored a book chapter about Hepatitis C virus diagnosis – the chapter is currently in press.

RarasTri Yudani Mardining Raras, Ph.D.
Faculty of Medicine
Brawijaya University (Indonesia)

Tri Yudani Mardining Raras is the Head of the Laboratory of Biomedicine, Medical Faculty, of Brawijaya University in Indonesia. She is engaged in several studies concerning tuberculosis both in basic science as well as clinical application. Dani’s research focuses on the development of recombinant serodiagnostic agents for tuberculosis. She is also interested in the use of the soluble urokinase Plasminogen Activator Receptor (suPAR) as a prognostic agent in translational research. Dani earned her undergraduate degree from Gadjah Mada University in Indonesia 1988. She next earned her MAppSc from The New South Wales University in Australia in 1992 and then her Ph.D. from Ludwig-Maximillians University in Germany in 2000.

KesslerJan Kessler, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
Academic Medical Center (Netherlands)

Jan Kessler was born in the Netherlands. Since becoming involved in scientific research in 1994, Jan worked during his Ph.D. trajectory and in post-doctoral positions within the tumor immunology group of the Department of Immune Haematology at the Medical Center of Leiden University (the Netherlands). While there, he was an immunologist in the field of antigen processing and presentation to T cells. Jan’s main focus of study is the basic mechanisms of antigen processing and the application of these mechanisms in the identification of T cell epitopes (by reverse immunology) for the development of vaccines against cancer and infectious diseases. Currently, he is transferring work in this field to the Medical Center of the University of Amsterdam. Recently, he collaborated with Dr. Ron Hokke of Leiden university on the design of a vaccine for schistosomiasis. Since 2004, Jan has also co-supervised an unrelated project at the University of Amsterdam on the mechanisms of action and preclinical development of a promising chemotherapeutic compound from plant origin (betulinic acid) against cancer.

PilotteNils Pilotte, M.S.
Filarial Research and Diagnostic Technician
Smith College (Northhampton, Massachusetts)

Nils Pilotte, M.S., is a filarial research and diagnostic technician in the parasitology laboratory of Dr. Steven A Williams, Smith College. He is the senior diagnostic consultant to the Task Force for the Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis, providing logistical support and consultation on diagnostic protocols and supplies for MDA surveillance studies and managing all CDC samples imported to the reference laboratory. He also performs diagnostic assays on these samples, which include extracting DNA from bloodspots or mosquito pools and performing established singleplex qPCR assays that detect the presence of Wuchereria bancrofti or Brugia malayi. His primary area of research, funded by NIAID/NIH, involves the development of qPCR assays for biomarkers that detect filarial parasites such as Brugia malayi and Wuchereria bancrofti. Currently, he is drafting a manuscript on a multiplex assay that simultaneously detects the presence of Brugia malayi and/or Wuchereria bancrofti under multiplexed qPCR conditions, which will save time and money when conducting future surveillance studies. He is also exploring the possibility of developing a novel point of care assays for dengue fever. Furthermore, he works with Melissa Torres B.A on the development of a peptide library consisting of putative immunogenic T cell epitope clusters through the in silico screening of 11,460 proteins of Brugia malayi, in collaboration with URI and EpiVax. In addition to these responsibilities, Nils is a member of the Biology faculty at Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts, where he serves as the instructor of Human Anatomy and Physiology.

NurainyNeni Nurainy, Ph.D.
Senior Researcher
PT Bio Farma (Indonesia)

Neni Nurainy, Ph.D., joined Bio Farma in 1998 as part of its Research and Development staff. She is currently a Senior Researcher in the Research and Development Division of Bio Farma. Neni graduated from Bandung Institute of Technology at Pharmacy Department in 1996. She completed her post graduate studies as well as her Ph.D in Biomedical Science at Faculty of Medicine University of Indonesia in 2005. Her research experience is molecular diversity of Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) and its relationship with population background in Indonesia. Neni’s experience in vaccinology was developing upstream and downstream processing of a Haemophilus influenza type b conjugated vaccine. Her interest in vaccine development led her to a position as a postdoctoral Research Fellow within the Department of Medicine at the University of Melbourne in 2009. Her current research is developing a Hepatitis C DNA-based vaccine as well as new TB and acellular Pertussis vaccines.

BecerraSebastian Loli Becerra, B.S.
Research Assistant
Cayetano Heredia University (Peru)

Sebastian Loli Becerra is currently a Research Assistant in the Bioinformatics and Molecular Biology Unit at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia and a member of the Mycobacterium Tuberculosis (MTB) Working Group in Peru. His research focuses on molecular diagnostics of norovirus infections and the prediction of diagnostic candidates for neurocysticercosis. He has two peer reviewed articles submitted regarding MTB resistance to Pyrazinamide. He received his bachelor’s degree in Genetics and Biotechnology from the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (UNMSM). Sebastian has been ranked in the upper third of his class. He is currently a member of the Leishmaniasis Working Group in Peru whose goal is to sequence the Leishmania peruviana genome for developing Leishmania vaccine candidates. Sebastian’s research goals are to develop an immunodiagnostic test for Norovirus infections and to develop an effective vaccine against Leishmaniasis infections. His research interests include bioinformatics, immunoinformatics, comparative genomics, microbiology and epidemiology. In a near future, he plans to earn his Ph.D. in immunology and molecular microbiology.

ZhanBin Zhan, M.D.
Associate Professor
Baylor College of Medicine

Bin Zhan, M.D., is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Section of Pediatric Tropical Medicine, National School of Tropic Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. He leads the molecular biology unit for the Sabin Vaccine Institute & at Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development. Dr. Zhan received his M.D. from Fujian Medical College, Fuzhou, in 1983, and his M.S. from the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, Beijing, in 1989. He worked as an associate professor at the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, Institute of Parasitic Diseases, Shanghai, between 1997 and 2000. Concurrently, he served as a research associate at New York Medical College, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas Medical Branch, and visiting scholar at Yale University Medical School between 1994 and 2000. He was a research professor at George Washington University, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Tropical Medicine before moving to BCM. Dr. Zhan is a parasitologist with more than 25 years of experience in the research against parasites and parasitic diseases with multidisciplinary studies of epidemiology, immunology and molecular biology of malaria, leishmania and hookworm. Particularly, he focuses his research on developing human hookworm vaccines with discovery of more than 30 novel hookworm antigens, many of them characterized and tested for their vaccine potential. Dr. Zhan has authored or co-authored more than 70 publications in peer-reviewed journals.

MuffaregeEduardo Mufarrege, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
Universidad Nacional del Litoral (Argentina)

Eduardo is a graduate in biotechnology and received a Ph.D. in Biological Science from the Universidad Nacional del Litoral, Santa Fe, Argentina. His thesis focused on the study of subunits from mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase, particularly those encoding into nuclear genome. Part of this study was to analyze in depth the structure and function of a group of proteins that are part of a complex known as the EJC (Exon Junction Complex). This complex is closely linked to transport and translatability of certain mRNAs. His current postdoctoral work involves developing expression vectors that can produce high levels of proteins of interest in animal cells. A secondary aspect of the research involves the analysis of the immunogenicity of proteins developed in his
laboratory for therapeutic purposes. This analysis not only includes the identification
of those immunogenic regions but also the changes needed to allow its reduction.
In a first instance, the analysis will be performed over a glycosylated version of alpha-interferon.

TorresMelissa Torres, B.A.
Filarial Research and Diagnostic Technician
Smith College (Northhampton, Massachusetts)

Melissa Torres B.A., currently works as a filarial research and diagnostic technician in the parasitology lab of Dr. Steven A. Williams at Smith College. Her primary investigation, funded by NIAID/NIH, involves developing a peptide library of putative immunogenic T cell epitope clusters through the in silico screening of 11,460 proteins of Brugia malayi, in collaboration with URI and EpiVax, Inc. She is working on expanding the scope of the library, as a foundation for her graduate thesis work this upcoming fall, by performing conservation analyses on Wuchereria bancrofti—the most prevalent causative agent of lymphatic filariasis in humans—as well as Loa loa, responsible for loiasis. Melissa is also working with her colleague, Nils Pilotte M.S., on developing diagnostic multiplex qPCR assays for biomarkers that detect filarial parasites such as Brugia malayi and Wuchereria bancrofti. As a diagnostic technician, she provides support to the Task Force for the Elimination of Lymphatic filariasis, by extracting DNA from bloodspots or mosquito pools and performing established singleplex qPCR assays that detect the presence of Wuchereria bancrofti or Brugia malayi. This diagnostic work allows for monitoring presence of either parasite in their respective endemic countries, during and after MDA rounds against lymphatic filariasis.

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