Media Coverage

Several news outlets republished an article by Mark O’Brian, PhD, professor and chair of biochemistry, which originally appeared in The Conversation. O’Brian writes “despite short-term setbacks, the scrutiny and subsequent correction of [research] papers actually show that science is working. Reporting of the pandemic is allowing people to see, many for the first time, the messy business of scientific progress.”
A group of researchers has published a paper in Neuron that clarifies certain cellular mechanisms that could lead to improved outcomes in patients with globoid cell leukodystrophy, commonly known as Krabbe disease. The disease is a progressive and fatal neurologic disorder that usually affects newborns and causes death before a child reaches the age of 2 or 3. The research was led by Lawrence Wrabetz, MD, and M. Laura Feltri, MD, both professors of biochemistry and neurology.
John E. Tomaszewski, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Peter A. Nickerson Professor and Chair of pathology and anatomical sciences, and Norma J. Nowak, PhD, professor of biochemistry, are helping Kaleida Health increase and speed up COVID-19 testing in Erie County. They identified two pieces of equipment in the UB Biorepository that they felt could be deployed to Kaleida Health Laboratories on Flint Road in Amherst to assist with the processing of COVID-19 test kits. “This is the university responding to a health care crisis as a true partner,” Tomaszewski said.
A study on a new triple negative breast cancer target was published by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. Satrajit Sinha, PhD, professor of biochemistry, was a co-author.
Reports on the launch event for the new biorepository in UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center quote Norma J. Nowak, PhD, professor of biochemistry and executive director of UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, and Venu Govindaraju, vice president for research and economic development.
Mark R. O’Brian, PhD, professor and chair of biochemistry, is interviewed about the growing popularity of the plant-based Impossible Burger and why products like these are moving more into the mainstream. “It probably reflects the fact that people are looking for alternatives to beef, not necessarily to become vegetarians or vegans, but certainly to reduce reliance on meat,” he said.
An article about the results of a sweeping analysis of how astronaut Scott Kelly’s body changed and what returned to normal after a year in space interviews Richard M. Gronostajski, PhD, professor of biochemistry and director of the Genetics, Genomics and Bioinformatics graduate program, who was not involved in the study. “In this paper they showed there was no statistically significant difference in genetic modifications they could find between the twin in the space station with the one on the ground,” he said. “That’s good news.”
An article by Mark R. O’Brian, PhD, professor and chair of biochemistry, looks at leghemoglobin, the ingredient that makes the plant-based Impossible Burger look and taste like real beef. “The commercialization of leghemoglobin represents an unanticipated consequence of inquiry into an interesting biological phenomenon. The benefits of scientific research are often unforeseen at the time of their discovery. Whether or not the Impossible Burger venture succeeds on a large scale remains to be seen, but surely food technology will continue to evolve to accommodate human needs as it has since the advent of agriculture 10,000 years ago,” he writes.
A $2 million National Institutes of Health grant to UB’s Hunter James Kelly Research Institute will fund a novel approach into understanding and ultimately curing Krabbe’s Disease, the disease that killed Hunter James Kelly, the son of Jim and Jill Kelly for whom the institute was named. “Krabbe is a devastating neurological disease of newborn babies, bringing them, unfortunately, to die within a few years of life," said M. Laura Feltri, MD, professor of biochemistry and neurology, and co-director of the institute.
Hundreds of Buffalo 8th-graders visited the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences to do hands-on science for UB’s annual Genome Day event, extracting their own genetic material from saliva and taking it home in a necklace. “What’s wonderful is they come into this building and they see state-of-the-art facilities, they meet students who are just a few years older than they are, and it's a really great opportunity for them to see where an education can take you ... particularly an education in science,” said Norma J. Nowak, PhD, professor of biochemistry and executive director of UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences.
Richard M. Gronostajski, PhD, professor of biochemistry and director of the Genetics, Genomics and Bioinformatics graduate program, addresses ethical issues raised after a Chinese scientist claimed that he altered and edited the genes of twin baby girls to make them immune to the HIV virus using the new gene-altering tool CRISPR. “CRISPR has been revolutionary — it's been powerful,” he said. “It was anticipated that someone would eventually want to edit human beings. It’s a wake-up call.” 
An article on Medical Xpress reports on research by Richard M. Gronostajski, professor of biochemistry, that showed that the absence of one copy of a single gene in the brain causes a rare, as-yet-unnamed neurological disorder. "This paper shows that a single point mutation in NFIB is responsible for these clinical characteristics, including mild intellectual disability, lack of muscle tone, speech delay, attention deficit disorder and other behavioral abnormalities, as well as macrocephaly," said Gronostajski, director of the Genetics, Genomics and Bioinformatics graduate program and a researcher at UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences.
Jennifer Surtees, PhD, co-director of UB’s Genome, Environment and Microbiome and associate professor of biochemistry, is interviewed about UB’s Coalesce: Center for Biological Arts artists-in-residency program. “These collaborations between UB’s scientists and the global art community continue to produce unique community workshops, important new dialogues and the continued explorations of microbial communities and their impact on the world around us,” Surtees said.
Brittany L. Steimle, a doctoral candidate in biochemistry, received an award for outstanding poster for her presentation on how proteins transport manganese in the brain at the international “Trace Elements in Biology and Medicine” conference, sponsored by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in Tahoe City, California. “Understanding how manganese accumulates into the brain through the blood-brain barrier may serve as a key to designing drug targets for individuals who may have been overexposed to manganese in the environment or in whom manganese metabolism has somehow become dysregulated,” said Steimle, who conducts research in the laboratory of Daniel J. Kosman, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of biochemistry.
Empire Genomics, the biotechnology company co-founded in 2006 by Norma J. Nowak, PhD, professor of biochemistry and executive director of UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, will move from downtown Buffalo to new offices in Amherst.