In the near future, this space will be dedicated to news and career advice from BMS graduates. We will also post links to funding opportunities for graduate students and post-docs.
Daniel Munson, PhD
I graduated in November of 2011 from the lab of Dr. April Burch in the Biomedical Sciences program, the Infectious Diseases track.
While in the lab, I worked on three different projects which focused on the pathogen host interface. Our pathogen of choice was HSV-1, a dsDNA virus which is fairly ubiquitous within the human population (~80% seroprevalence). My work focused on HSV-1's interaction with the cellular proteasome, specifically the proteasome protein Mss1 which is relocalized during infection, and the formation of the immunoproteasome which is more active in infected cells. My third project was an exploratory project looking for microRNAs produced by the virus during lytic infection. We discovered one in particular that when deleted causes a large drop in viral titres and makes smaller plaques in cell culture. The phenotype can be rescued by providing the microRNA coding region in trans, and preliminary screens to determine the target of the miRNA point to ICP4, a viral gene involved in the establishment of latency or lytic infections. All three of these projects have been submitted as manuscripts and we are hopeful they will be published soon.
Currently I am working as a postdoc in the lab of Dr. Jill Slansky at The National Jewish Health campus in Denver, CO. Our lab focuses on identifying altered peptide epitopes in the hope of improving the immune system's response to cancer. Specifically, I work on breast cancer and four of the most predominantly expressed antigens, Her2/neu, Telomerase, NY-ESO-1, and Muc-1. These altered peptides, or mimotopes, have been shown to elicit a more robust response to specific cancer peptides and enhance the ability of low affinity, self-tolerant, T cells present in the body to kill cancer cells presenting the native antigen. My goal is to take T cells isolated from breast cancer patients (in collaboration my The City of Hope Research Foundation) which have had the TCR sequenced in order to determine the most abundant CDR3 regions and use a peptide library produced in baculovirus to identify mimotopes for each epitope, then determine which mimotope(s) elicit a stronger immune response. The hope is that the mimotopes can be used as a vaccination for patients with cancer (breast in my case, but it is applicable to all cancers) to stimulate T cells within the body to divide, activate, and become more reactive toward cancer antigens and thus cancer cells.
Additionally, I am taking my knowledge of Herpesviruses and working in collaboration with Dr. John Gutman, also at UC Denver, to isolate cord blood stem cells from CMV infected infants, stimulate those cells to become T cells, and using a presenting cell that I'm developing, activate and expand the CMV reactive T cells. These cells will then be injected back into the bloodstream of the infant from which they came in order to fight the infection.