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DSU Inherits Exciting Biotechnology Company

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Dr. Eric Kmiec (l), shown here with a research associate Bryan Strouse, believes that DSU and its students could stand to benefit greatly from OrphagenX being based at the University.

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   Jan. 7, 2012 With the arrival this semester of Dr. Eric Kmiec as the Chairman of the Department of Chemistry, the University has also inherited an exciting biotechnology company that is focusing on the development of an innovative molecular medicine approval that can treat patients with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD)   The company – OrphageniX, Inc. – was begun by Dr. Kmiec and other scientists and a group of investors in 2000 when he taught and did research at the University of Delaware. In the beginning, OrphageniX worked to develop gene alteration treatments for several orphan diseases – maladies that affect a relatively low number of people. But now, the company has narrowed its focus to Sickle Cell Disease.   The technology is known as gene editing and centers on the concept that inborn genetic errors (mutation) which result in the manifestation of diseases like SCD can be reversed. Such correction can partially diminish the symptoms of the disease. The gene editing technique can be thought of as a spell-checker in which the misplaced letters of the mutant gene are corrected and the normal gene function is restored.    Kmiec and his lab pioneered this approach toward genetic diseases in the early 2000s and now the gene editing field is flourishing. “It is good to see this growth, as it is indicative of a healthy scientific approach,” said Kmiec, who added “Validation by others, even using other competitive technologies, is good any type of scientific investigation.”   During the course of the last five to seven years, Kmiec’s group and others have been defining the mechanism of action and regulation of gene editing, a crucial step in developing credibility for any new molecular medicine. “There have been a lot of starts and stops in other gene therapy investigations,” said Kmiec. “We wanted to understand as many parameters of this reaction as we could before thinking seriously about clinical application.”    During this period, Kmiec’s work was supported by the National Institute of Health with  ROI awards, its most prestigious research grant; Kmiec’s lab has been funded for 16 years with several of the ROI awards during this period. In addition, OrphageniX used a “virtual company” strategy to file a series of strong patents and establish a strong intellectual property position for their technology in the business world. They spent most of their money on strengthening their patents and relied on Kmiec to advance the science using peer-reviewed grant support and publications.    Because it was developed at the University of Delaware, that institution holds the original patents on the technique. However, Dr. Kmiec said, “Now that the company is part of DSU, any new developments in the technique will likely be owned by DSU.   The choice of SCD as the primary target for OrphageniX was made about a year ago and the company is hard at work getting ready to begin its focused studies. SCD is a serious disorder in which the body makes sickle-shaped (crescent) red blood cells that contain abnormal sickle hemoglobin. Such sickle cells tend to block blood flow in the blood vessels of the limbs and organs, and can cause pain, serious infection and organ damage. Sickle Cell Anemia – low blood cell count– is the most common form of SCD. “Sickle Cell has the golden child of gene therapy,” Dr. Kmiec said. “Everyone wants to develop a therapy it. It seems so simple, but it’s not.”   Dr. Kmiec said he wants to make DSU a major part of the success and growth of the company and the research. “I see the company engaging some DSU students from the College of Business to learn, observe, and even help craft business strategies for the company,” he said. “This could be a great case study for the students of that college because the company functions as a real business, not just a hypothetical work experience. What we all do here at DSU will count”   In addition to its potential for engaging DSU’s business and natural science students, Dr. Kmiec said he sees some great possibilities for partnership with other institutions. He said discussions are currently ongoing among DSU the University of Pennsylvania and CHOP on collaborations. In this area of genetic engineering, a clinical partner is a critical component of the success of any biotech company, corporate or academic, to translate the bench top science to their bedside patient practice.    The Department of Chemistry chair said that he is not looking for DSU to provide financial support for the company. Dr. Kmiec noted that DSU is not a venture fund and outside financial investments have solely supported the company in the past and new support is now needed to move the technology forward.    Michael Bowman, OrphageniX’s business manager, called the company’s scientific product “an enormous therapy” for which the potential to attract other significant partners is great and that could result in a great success story for the University and the State of Delaware. “It is our hope that the bandwidth of DSU can help us with this,” said Mr. Bowman.   The Kmiec group’s expertise, the company OrphageniX, and Delaware State University each bring something valuable to the table. “It is such an interesting and exciting opportunity to do something like this at DSU and in Dover, and perhaps initiate some more activity in the more southern part of the state,” said Kmiec. “The DSU administration is setting a high bar and challenging us to develop an entrepreneurial environment even in these economic times,” add Kmiec. “By utilizing the talent and enthusiasm based at DSU and challenging the investment community to support this effort here, we can create an exciting new environment in which to meet student needs  and exceed expectations.”   According to Centers for Disease Control Prevention: ·         SCD affects 90,000 to 100,000 Americans. ·         SCD occurs among about 1 out of every 500 Black or African American births. ·         SCD occurs among about 1 out of every 36, Hispanic-American births. ·         Sickle Cell Trait (SCT) occurs in people who inherit one sickle cell gene and one normal gene. Such people usually do not have SCD, but they can pass on the trait to their children. ·         SCT occurs in about 1 in 12 Blacks or African-Americans.  

DSU Announces Change in Athletics Leadership

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    Jan. 4, 2012     Delaware State University announced today that Derek Carter has left the Athletics Director post that he has held since 2009 to become the Special Assistant to the Executive Vice President of Finance.   In his new responsibilities, Mr. Carter will focus on athletics budgetary issues and also assist the executive vice president with the athletics portion of the University’s new Facilities Master Plan that is currently being developed, among other related duties.   DSU President Harry L. Williams has named Eric D. Hart, associate athletics director of Academic Services for Student Athletes, as the interim Athletics Director until such time as a new permanent AD is announced.   The University will initiate a national search process.    

DSU's Dr. Carol Sando Named Nursing Ambassador

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   Jan. 3, 2012 Dr. Carol R. Sando, assistant professor of nursing, has been recently appointed by the National League for Nursing (NLN) to serve as an NLN ambassador. Dr. Carol R. Sando   As a participant in this elite corps, Dr. Sando will help keep faculty and administration informed about the NLN’s initiatives, grant opportunities, conferences, publications, workshops, and other benefits available to NLN member institutions.    “We created this selective program to make it as easy as possible for nurse faculty and nursing programs at all levels of academia to understand what the NLN has to offer to enhance professional development and status,” said NLN CEO Dr. Beverly Malone. “At the same time, we expect the ambassadors to communicate to NLN professional staff and the board what issues and challenges are of greatest concern to nurse educators in the field so that we can maximize the effectiveness of our programming and services. The ambassadors are, in effect, the NLN’s ‘eyes and ears on campus.”   Dr. Sando is a DSU assistant professor of nursing who has been with the University since the fall of 2008. A teacher of undergraduate and graduate students, her program of research includes instrument development, teaching effectiveness, simulation standards, and trends in nursing curricula. As the new NLN ambassador for DSU, she succeeds Dr. Jodi Dampeer-Moore, clinical practitioner, who served the previous four years in this capacity.   As a NLN ambassador, Dr. Sando will encourage her DSU nursing colleagues to participate in NLN professional development programs, apply for research grants, submit abstracts for the annual Education Summit and manuscripts to the NLN's peer-reviewed journal,Nursing Education Perspectives, volunteer for task groups and special committees, run for elected office, nominate colleagues for awards, and complete research surveys.   The NLN Ambassador Program was established in the fall of 2006 with an initial cadre of 126 members who teach in all types of nursing programs – practical nurse, associate degree, diploma, baccalaureate, master's and doctoral. Today there are more than 700 ambassadors representing schools of nursing in 49 states plus Canada, Guam, and the Virgin Islands.   Dedicated to excellence in nursing, the National League for Nursing is the premier organization for nurse faculty and leaders in nursing education. The NLN offers professional development, networking opportunities, testing services, nursing research grants, and public policy initiatives to its 35,000 individual and 1,200 institutional members. NLN members represent nursing education programs across the spectrum of higher education and health care organizations and agencies.   The National League of Nursing Accreditation is one of two accreditations held by the DSU Department of Nursing. The department also holds an accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.  

New DSU Mission Statement approved

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Dec. 22, 2011 Delaware State University now has a revised Mission Statement that is more current and reflective of the University’s purpose, according to Dr. Harry L. Williams, president. “While the current mission defined DSU’s identity and important role in the community, it was time to examine it in light of the University’s new vision, its core values and its expanding portfolio of academic and research programs,” said Dr. Williams. The revised mission, approved at the December 20, 2011, special Board of Trustees meeting, is as follows: Delaware State University is a public, comprehensive, 1890 land-grant institution that offers access and opportunity to diverse populations from Delaware, the nation, and the world. Building on its heritage as a historically black college, the University purposefully integrates the highest standards of excellence in teaching, research, and service in its baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral programs. Its commitment to advance science, technology, liberal arts, and the professions produces capable and productive leaders who contribute to the sustainability and economic development of the global community. Provost Alton Thompson chaired the revision process that incorporated methods for feedback. Several comment periods yielded suggestions from trustees, faculty, staff, students and alumni.  A revision writing team, appointed by the president to assist the provost, consisted of Carolyn Curry, Victor Gomia, Jessica Horton, Kamillah Lewis, Dyremple Marsh, Noureddine Melikechi, Marlene Saunders and Charlie Wilson. The team incorporated the suggestions that resulted in the final mission for approval.  

President's Holiday Open House, Photo Slideshow

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Cindy Seto-Friel of Academic Enrichment, her husband Dr. Brian Friel, assistant professor of psychology, and their child Collin pose with DSU President Harry L. Williams and his wife Dr. Robin Williams during the President's Holiday Open House, held Dec. 13-15.

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  The Dec. 13-15 President’s Holiday Open House was the place to be for the University’s faculty and staff, as they enjoyed the warm hospitality of DSU President Harry L. Williams and his wife Dr. Robin Williams at the President’s Residence. In addition to good food and cheerful fellowship, DSU employees and invited community guests were treated to the Christmas music harmony of DSU’s Delaware Beta Colony of Phi Mu Alpha, which serenaded the folks in a Winter Wonderland setting at the back of the residence where employees could also get a photo taken with ole’ jolly St. Nick.   Click on the below slideshow for photos of the event:  

2011 Presidential Scholarship Ball Photos

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DSU President Harry L. Williams and Del. U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper share a laugh during the Dec. 10 Presidential Scholarship Ball held in the MLK Jr. Student Center.

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  Dec. 12. 2011  The 2011 Presidential Scholarship Ball, held on Dec. 10 in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Center, proved to be an elegant event filled with warm fellowship, good food and wonderful music.   The premier sponsor of the event was Delmarva Power, and strong support was also received by platinum sponsors AstraZeneca, the DuPont Corp. and gold sponsors PNC Bank and Outside Unlimited Professional Landcare.   See the below slideshow for photos from the event:  

Dr. Melissa Harrington Named Neuroscientist of the Year in Delaware

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Dr. Melissa Harrington, professor of biological science, has been named Neuroscientist of the Year for her work in advancing neuroscience research and education across the state.

 

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   Dec. 15, 2011 Dr. Melissa A. Harrington, professor of biological sciences, has been named as the "Neuroscientist of the Year" by the Delaware Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience, DSU senior biology major Brittany Williams (left) took 2nd place in the Neuroscience Poster Symposium recently held at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute. She was guided by her research advisor Dr. Princey Mennella (right).   Presented at the chapter’s 4th annual Neuroscience Poster Symposium at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute on Friday on Dec. 2, Dr. Harrington was honored for her work in bringing together faculty and students at DSU and the University of Delaware, as well as doctors from Nemours A. I. duPont Children's Hospital to advance neuroscience research and education across the state.   At the same event, senior DSU Biology major Brittany Williams won second place in the undergraduate poster competition for her poster "Distribution and Regulation of Progesterone Receptor Expression in The Adult Prairie Vole Brain." She undertook the project under the guidance of her research advisor, Dr. Princy Q. Mennella, DSU assistant professor of biology, Department in collaboration with Dr. Tom Mennella, also a DSU assistant professor of biology, and other researchers at Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich.   Prior to that honor, Ms. Williams also won an 1st place award in the Engineering, Physics, and Mathematics division of the Annual Biomedical Research Conference For Minority Students (ABRCMS) on Nov. 12 in St. Louis, Mo., for her poster titled "Assay Development for Rapid Identification of Metabolites that Enable the Killing of Persisters." She conducted this research with Mark Brynildsen of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering of Princeton University during her internship there during the past summer.   At the 4th annual poster symposium graduate students, undergraduates and scientists from UD, DSU and Nemours gathered to discuss their neuroscience-related research. The posters were judged in separate graduate student, undergraduate and post-doctoral scholar categories.  

Director of News Services Carlos Holmes Honored as Black Achiever

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Joining honoree Carlos Holmes, top center, at the annual Black Achievers in Business and Industry awards at the Chase Center in Wilmington were: bottom row, from left, Vince “Chelli” Ciammaichelli, Board of Trustees member Leroy Tice, Phyllis Collins and Ava Perrine; top row, from left, Germaine Cheatham, Carolyn Curry, Holmes, Dennis Jones and DSU President Harry L. Williams.

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  Featured speaker and CNN correspondent Soledad O'Brien presents Director of News Services Carlos Holmes, right, with the 2011 Black Achiever Award. Carlos Holmes, DSU’s director of News Services, got on the wrong side of the camera Thursday evening. Instead of writing and shooting the news, he was making it -- as a 2011 Black Achiever. The annual Black Achievers in Business and Industry awards is sponsored by the YMCA of Delaware to honor men and women who succeed in both business and community involvement. The Dec. 8 ceremony, at the Chase Center in Wilmington, paid tribute to 20 such achievers, including Mr. Holmes. National CNN correspondent Soledad O’Brien was the featured speaker. “Carlos is always passionate about his work, about making a difference in people’s lives and about giving back to his University and community," said DSU President Dr. Harry L. Williams, who attended the event. “His honor was most deserved.” Mr. Holmes was selected earlier this year for a DSU Vice President Choice Award that underscored his contributions to the institution and the state. He has served DSU for 11 years, most of it directing its news media needs. He is a fixture at DSU, volunteering his musical talents for campus events, overseeing the Hornet student newspaper for 10 years, chairing various Homecoming committees, teaching students and employees alike about DSU’s history, and teaching communications classes. He is familiar in the community as well, as a newspaper contributor, and as a church choir and music director, among other service projects. “His pride for DSU fills a room, and his commitment to students is equally as large,” said Carolyn Curry, vice president for Institutional Advancement, the unit that oversees news relations. As a Black Achiever, Mr. Holmes will serve as a youth and teen mentor for the YMCA and assist with related workshops and events that promote positive life skills in young people.   

DSU Physics Scientist Co-Publishes Book on Novel Optics Technique

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    Dr. Mukti Rana with his new optics book     Dr. Mukti Rana, assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Pre-Engineering and an Optical Science Center for Applied Research scientist, has published an online book titled, Applications of RF Sputtered GexSi1-x and GexSi1-xOy Thin Films for Uncooled Infrared Detectors.    This book, co-authored by Donald P. Butler of University of Texas at Arlington and published by Nova Science Publishers, will help the researchers working in the infrared detection area. Infrared detection technique is used in night vision cameras, law enforcement, search and rescue in toxic or smoke-filled environments, surveillance, medical imaging, and in other ways.   This book discusses the deposition process, characterization techniques, properties and advantages of Radio Frequency (RF) sputtered GexSi1-x and GexSi1-xOy thin films for using them in uncooled infrared detectors (microbolometers), as compared to the more widely used VOx.   Dr. Rana, a native of Bangladesh, has been a faculty member of DSU since the fall of 2010.        

DSU Combine Choir's Joy, A Holiday Concert PHOTOS

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Joy -- A Holiday Concert, performed on Dec. 2 in the MLK Student Center, featured numerous student and faculty soloists as well as student and guest musicians, which included the DSU Brass Ensemble and a string section.

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  DSU’s Combined Concert and Gospels Choir presented the University and the community a musical Christmas gift with its Dec. 2 performance of “Joy – A Holiday Concert” in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Center.   Performing in front of an audience that almost filled all three parlors of the MLK Student Center, the combined choir was led by Dr. Lloyd Mallory, Jr., who is completing his first semester as the director of Choral Activities at DSU.   See the below slideshow of photo for the images of the performance:    

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