News and events

The latest news, awards announcements and upcoming events for the Chemistry and Biology of Heparan Sulfate PEG are posted here. If you would like to submit a news item related to the program, please contact pegadmin@vcu.edu.

The latest news

June 2013

  • Umesh Desai, Ph.D., will organize the cardiovascular track at the Drug Discovery and Therapy World Congress 2013 in Boston.
  • Umesh Desai, Ph.D., will present a lecture on “Small, synthetic glycosaminoglycan mimetics as allosteric modulators of coagulation cascade” at the Drug Discovery and Therapy World Congress 2013 in Boston.
  • Rami Al-Horani, Ph.D., will present a talk on “Sulfated gallic acid-based factor XIa inhibitors as effective, selective, and potentially safe anticoagulants” at the Drug Discovery and Therapy World Congress 2013 in Boston.
  • Kuberan Balagurunathan, Ph.D., will present a lecture on “Click xylosides: Novel technology for orally bioavailable novel anticoagulants” at the Drug Discovery and Therapy World Congress 2013 in Boston.
  • Krishna Rajarathnam, Ph.D., will present a lecture on “Chemokines as drug targets for cardiovascular diseases” at the Drug Discovery and Therapy World Congress 2013 in Boston.
  • Agnes Azimzadeh, Ph.D., will present a lecture on “Synthetic heparin sulfates and their mimetics to prevent coagulation dysregulation in xenotransplantation” at the Drug Discovery and Therapy World Congress 2013 in Boston.
  • PEG trainees Akul Y. Mehta and Rio S. Boothello will each present a poster at the Drug Discovery and Therapy World Congress 2013 in Boston.

April 2013

  • Trainees will take part in the second annual Programs of Excellence in Glycosciences retreat at the Cleveland Research Clinic. April C. Joice/Karthik Raman, Rami Al-Horani and Prem Joseph will each make an oral presentation. Several posters will also be presented from our PEG.

February 2013

  • PEG trainee Nehru Viji Sankaranarayanan, Ph.D., married Dr. Balaji N. on Feb. 15, 2013. Congratulations to both!
  • May H. Abdel Aziz defended her work on “Kinetic, thermodynamic and mechanistic studies on allosteric thrombin inhibitors” for the award of Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences. Congratulations, May!

January 2013

  • The second annual training camp of the Chemistry and Biology of Heparan Sulfate PEG was held between Jan. 7 and 11 at the Institute for Structural Biology and Drug Discovery, VCU. Didactic sessions were organized in the morning and hands-on training sessions were arranged for the afternoon and evening. The camp was attended by 21 trainees from the University of Utah, University of Texas Medical Branch — Galveston, University of Pittsburgh, University of Maryland and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. In addition, one trainee each from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and South Charleston University also took part in the camp. Further, several clinicians and basic science researchers attended the didactic sessions of the camp. The schedule and videos of didactic sessions are available in the “Skills Development” section of this site.
  • A new course will begin in January 2013 at VCU titled “Special Topics – Glycochemistry and Glycobiology.” Students enrolled in MEDC 691 will receive 1.0 credit. A downloadable PDF of the course Get Adobe Reader syllabus is available.

December 2012

  • PEG trainee Aurijit Sarkar, Ph.D., was married on Dec. 9, 2012. Congratulations to both Aurijit and Shormila!

November 2012

  • Yingzi Jin, Umesh Desai, Ph.D., and Vamsi Yadavalli, Ph.D., presented a talk at the 12th annual meeting of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Pittsburgh, on “Receptor-ligand interactions of thrombin with glycosaminoglycans on self-assembled monolayer platforms.”

October 2012

  • May H. Abdel Aziz won the VCU Graduate School Dissertation Fellowship.
  • Umesh Desai, Ph.D., presented a talk at the International Conference on Computer Aided Drug Design & QSAR (CADD-2012), Chicago, on “Specificity of Heparin/Heparan Sulfate Binding to Proteins.”

September 2012

  • Akul Y. Mehta, a doctoral candidate in the laboratory of Umesh Desai, Ph.D., won second place at the annual School of Pharmacy Research Day presentations. His poster was on “Studies on sulfated b-O-4 lignin (SbO4L) as a selective, allosteric modulator of thrombin.”
  • Krishna Rajarathnam, Ph.D., received a National Institutes of Health R21 grant for studying a novel chemokine called CXCL17. Structurally, it is an unusual chemokine, and it is anticipated that its GAG binding properties will also be novel.
  • Amit Dutta, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow, has joined Krishna Rajarathnam, Ph.D., as a PEG trainee. Dutta is an engineer with a Ph.D. from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and was a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland. He has extensive experience in using various analytical techniques for characterizing macromolecule interactions. In Rajarathnam’s lab, he will characterize the binding of chemokine monomers and dimers to GAGs using ITC, SPR, ultracentrifugation and fluorescence methods. Welcome, Amit!
  • Aaron Brown, a graduate student, has joined Krishna Rajarathnam, Ph.D., as a PEG trainee. Brown did his undergraduate studies in physics at Oregon State University. In Rajarathnam’s lab, he will study the structural basis of GAG binding to chemokine heterodimers using NMR methods. Welcome, Aaron!

August 2012

  • Umesh Desai, Ph.D., has been invited to chair the cardiovascular track of the Drug Discovery and Therapy Congress 2013. The congress will convene in Boston and will host numerous tracks in addition to cardiovascular.
  • Aurijit Sarkar, a molecular modeling specialist from a group led by Ruth Brenk, Ph.D., at the University of Dundee, U.K., has joined the laboratory of Umesh Desai, Ph.D., as a PEG trainee. He will work on developing glycosaminoglycans as therapeutic agents. Welcome, Aurijit!
  • Neha Gandhi, Ph.D., a trainee in the Desai laboratory, joins Curtin University, Australia, as a faculty member. She will pursue molecular modeling of glycosaminoglycans. She plans to collaborate with the Desai group. Congratulations, Neha, and we wish you the very best!

July 2012

  • Kuberan Balagurunathan, Ph.D., was invited to edit a volume of glycosaminoglcyans for the Methods in Molecular Biology series. The volume is slated to be published in late 2013/early 2014. Congratulations, Dr. Balagurunathan!
  • Rami Al-Horani, a trainee in the Desai laboratory, received a two-year American Heart Association postdoctoral fellowship to develop “Non-heparin, sulfated, readily synthesized, allosteric direct factor XIa inhibitors as potentially safe anticoagulants.” Congratulations, Rami!
  • Philip Mosier, Ph.D., the co-director of the Computational Core, presented a poster titled “Understanding the IL-8/heparan sulfate interaction through virtual screening” at the 2012 Gordon Research Conference on Proteoglycans, Andover, N.H.
  • Caitlin Mencio, a PEG trainee in the laboratory of Kuberan Balagurunathan, Ph.D., and Franz Goller received the most outstanding poster presentation award for their poster titled “Manipulation of chondroitin sulfate alters the song learning critical period in juvenile Zebra Finch” at the 2012 Gordon Research Seminar, Andover, N.H.
  • Karthik Raman, a PEG trainee in the laboratory of Kuberan Balagurunathan, Ph.D., presented a poster and talk titled “Utilizing proteoglycan biology to re-engineer the tumor microenvironment for therapeutic purposes” at the 2012 Gordon Research Conference on Proteoglycans, Andover, N.H.
  • Yingzi Jin, a PEG trainee in the laboratory of Umesh Desai, Ph.D., presented a poster titled “Protein-ligand interactions of thrombin with glycosaminoglycans by atomic force microscopy” at the 2012 Gordon Research Seminar, Andover, N.H.

June 2012

  • Nehru Viji Sankaranarayanan, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Umesh Desai, Ph.D., won an Outstanding Poster Presentation Award at the Gordon Research Seminar (Proteoglycans), Andover, N.H. Her poster title was “Study of glycosaminoglycans binding to proteins using genetic algorithm-based combinatorial virtual library screening strategy.”

May 2012

  • Rami Al-Horani, a doctoral candidate in the laboratory of Umesh Desai, Ph.D., wins the School of Pharmacy Dean’s Award for Graduate Studies
  • The College of Pharmacy at the University of Utah has approved three new advanced courses on glycochemistry, glycobiology and glycomedicine. These courses will be offered to graduate students starting in spring 2013. The courses are: MDCH 7962 Advanced Topics in Glycochemistry, MDCH 7963 Advanced Topics in Glycoanalysis and MDCH 7964 Advanced Topics in Glycobiology and Glycomedicine. Kuberan Balagurunathan, Ph.D., will be the coordinator of these courses. Congratulations, Dr. Balagurunathan!
  • The first five-day training camp of the program project was held at University of Utah in Salt Lake City. The camp covered structure and function of neutral and acidic glycans and helped prepare trainees and interested students on studying glycans by offering hands-on training. For a list of day-to-day activities, lectures and experiments, click here. Additional details are available in the section on Skills Development.

April 2012

  • Dr. Sawant, a PEG trainee in the Rajarathnam lab, presented a poster titled “Chemokine CXCL1 monomer and dimer act cooperatively to recruit neutrophil — insights from animal models and relevance for human inflammatory diseases” at the Institute of Human Infections and Immunity/McLaughlin Colloquium in Galveston, Texas.
  • Prem Raj B. Joseph, Ph.D., a PEG trainee in the Rajarathnam lab, presented a poster titled “Structural characterization of interleukin‐8 monomer and dimer interactions with glycosaminoglycans: implications for in vivo neutrophil recruitment” at the 17th Annual Sealy Center for Structural Biology and Molecular Biophysics Symposium in Galveston, Texas.

March 2012

  • Pooja Ponnusamy won third place in a poster presentation at the Graduate Research Symposium at VCU. She presented her work on “Development of reverse-phase ion-pairing ultra performance liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (RPIP-UPLC/MS) methods for fingerprinting sulfated small molecules.”
  • Philip Mosier, Ph.D., the co-director of the Computational Core, and Chandravel Krishnasamy, Ph.D., Glen E. Kellogg, Ph.D., and Umesh Desai, Ph.D., presented a poster titled “Specificity of heparin interaction arises from subtle, but distinct, differences in binding site topography” at the 15th Annual San Diego Glycobiology Symposium, San Diego.
  • Umesh Desai, Ph.D., Kuberan Balagurunathan, Ph.D., Krishna Rajarathnam, Ph.D., and Agnes Azimzadeh, Ph.D., presented the progress in the first six months of the program project at the first annual PEG meeting, University of California at San Diego.

January 2012

  • Dr. Brian L. Henry won the best poster award at the Annual Research Fellows Day of the American Heart Association, Pittsburgh. His poster was titled “Sulfated low molecular weight lignins, a novel class of allosteric direct thrombin inhibitors, induce profound changes in the thrombin active site explaining their potent anticoagulant effect.”

December 2011

  • Prem Raj B. Joseph, Ph.D., a PEG trainee in the Rajarathnam lab, presented a talk titled “Structural characterization of interleukin‐8 monomer and dimer interactions with glycosaminoglycans: implications for in vivo neutrophil recruitment” at the John S. Dunn Sr. Gulf Coast Consortium of Magnetic Resonance Conference, Houston.

October 2011

  • Umesh Desai, Ph.D., presented the overall goals and objectives of the program project “Chemistry and Biology of Heparan Sulfate” at the first annual meeting of the PEG with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute advisory body (Bethesda, Md.).

September 2011

  • Umesh Desai, Ph.D., presented a talk at the International Conference and Exhibition on Pharmaceutical Regulatory Affairs, Baltimore, on “Fingerprinting Low Molecular Weight Heparins for Regulating Quality and Equivalence.”

Upcoming events

January 2013

The 2nd Annual HSPG-PEG Training Camp will be held Jan. 7-11, 2013, at VCU.