Start Your Engines: Pandemic Lockdown Contributed to Team’s Discovery of Bacterial Motor Function

The lockdowns during 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, temporarily paused most laboratory work, but they didn’t stop science from moving forward. Many scientists, including those comprising what’s now NCI’s Center for Structural Biology, seized the opportunity while out of the lab to revisit previously collected data. Those efforts are paying off.

Enhanced Antibody-Drug Conjugate Eradicates Large Breast Cancer Tumors in Experimental Models

In cancer therapeutics, targeted therapies are a rapidly developing field of interest. These include antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs), compounds that carry small-molecule anticancer drugs to specific antigens on tumors, directly killing tumor cells. Though the first ADC approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was brought to the clinic in 2000, it was later voluntarily removed due to high toxicity. Since then, more precise technologies have improved generations of ADCs, and there are currently 12 ADCs that are FDA-approved for clinical use. However, most available ADCs offer limited improvement and can still be toxic.

But a study conducted by researchers in the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research and published in Cell Reports in December 2023 highlights a new ADC—carefully engineered, screened, and purified—that can eradicate large tumors in animal models at a dose per body weight that humans can tolerate, showing that ADCs can be improved and made less toxic. Clinical trials with humans will be needed to prove efficacy.

Cancer Research’s Newest Key Player—Artificial Intelligence

Visualizing protein structures in three dimensions instead of two has given scientists new insights into biological processes, and now artificial intelligence is adding the capacity to predict molecular behaviors that could potentially be borne out in laboratory studies. For Kylie Walters, Ph.D., a structural biologist with the NCI Center for Cancer Research in Frederick, artificial intelligence, or AI, has revolutionized the way her laboratory works.

Looking Back: HIV DRP Conference Showed the Potential in Viruses

Viruses are often regarded as villains in the story of humanity, but what if they didn’t always have to be? What if these microscopic invaders could serve as our allies instead—for instance, helping us treat cancer, protect against infections, and kill drug-resistant bacteria? This isn’t wishful thinking. They already do, and scientists are exploiting them to help us further. Last year’s HIV Dynamics and Replication Program conference provided a peek behind that curtain.

NIH Research Festival Makes an Impression With Its Return to Bethesda Campus

For 2023, the National Institutes of Health held its first in-person NIH Research Festival in Bethesda, Maryland, since the start of the pandemic. The five-day event was well attended and included lectures, workshops, posters, and biotech vendor information booths spread across several areas of the campus.

While there was a plethora of events, several scientists agreed that the standout features of this year’s festival were the interactions.

Long-term Data Paint Clearer Pictures of Antibody Levels and Potency Against SARS-CoV-2

After three years of COVID-19, science has learned much about the disease and the virus that causes it, SARS-CoV-2. But in the bigger biological and clinical picture, there are still many unanswered questions, says Ligia Pinto, Ph.D. That’s what keeps her group, the Vaccine, Immunity, and Cancer Directorate at Frederick National Laboratory, working hard to hunt down answers. Now, they and collaborators have filled in another gap in that bigger picture.

End of NCI-MATCH Trial Positions Precision Medicine and Genetic Sequencing for Next Big Push

NCI-MATCH aimed to determine whether certain cancer therapies could be used more broadly. If a medicine is effective against one type of cancer with a specific mutation, the trial asked, could it treat other cancers with the same mutation? After the eight-year trial, scientists say an answer is coming into view

‘Algae’ Allies: Protein from Cyanobacteria Blocks SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Lab Studies

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, before vaccines were available and while SARS-CoV-2 was wreaking havoc worldwide, Barry O’Keefe, Ph.D., and longtime collaborators in Brazil and Spain pooled their knowledge and resources to study cyanovirin-N (CV-N), a protein from cyanobacteria, photosynthetic bacteria commonly known as blue-green algae. O’Keefe had a hunch it could be developed to fight the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

WHK Student Interns Reflect on Key Takeaways of Their Internships

The Werner H. Kirsten (WHK) program, a long-standing institution in Frederick, recently graduated its 32nd class. This unique internship opportunity continues to catapult many high school seniors on the path to STEM careers. Before the 2023 WHK student interns concluded their internships, WHK Program Manager Carrie Wagerman wanted to ensure they were recognized for their achievement in completing the rigorous program. She asked them to share a little about themselves, their plans for the future, and some takeaways from their experience. Read their responses below.

Angeline Amefia