Esen Sefik, PhD

Dr. Sefik is examining the connection between obesity, cancer and the microbiome. An estimated 600 million people worldwide suffer from obesity, with 15-20% of deaths from cancer in the US alone linked to obesity. Recent studies in mice highlight the importance of intestinal bacteria and immune cells in obesity and colorectal cancer; however, these roles are not yet well characterized in humans. She will   analyze how high fat diet and obesity-associated intestinal bacteria change intestinal immunity in mice that harbor the human immune system and the human microbiota.

Jason M. Crawford, PhD

Humans and the microbes in and on our bodies (“microbiota”) continuously interact in ways that influence health and disease—ways that we do not yet fully understand. Dr. Crawford, a chemical biologist, focuses on defining the bacterial contributions to colorectal cancer. DNA-damaging toxins (genotoxins) produced by bacteria in the human gut serve as cancer risk factors. He has developed an innovative genomics platform called M-PAIR, which he will use to identify novel cancer risk factors produced by the bacteria in the human gut.

Seyed Fakhreddin Torabi, PhD

Dr. Torabi is studying a highly abundant cellular long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) called MALAT1 (metastasis associated lung adenocarcinoma transcript 1), which serves as a prognostic factor in several human cancers.  MALAT1 is stabilized via formation of a complex triplex structure called expression and nuclear retention element (ENE). He aims to identify additional MALAT1-like ENEs in the genome through an in vitro evolutionary process in combination with bioinformatics studies.

Sidi Chen, PhD

Dr. Chen aims to understand the relationship between small RNAs and cancer.  Small RNAs are important regulators of genetic networks inside the cell; perturbation of these networks can lead to malignant cell growth.  His goal is to develop anti-cancer drugs and therapies by targeting the process of small RNA production.