BLACKSBURG, Va., December 16, 2013 – Virginia Bioinformatics Institute has embarked upon a new Fellows program that will expand collaborations with the College of Science through immersion in the institute’s cutting edge computational and experimental laboratories.

VBI Fellows Program welcomes Daniel Capelluto, Carla Finkelstein, Silke Hauf, Daniela Cimini (clockwise from left).

This program represents an important step in creating a synergistic relationship between the College of Science wet lab scientists and VBI’s established computational resources. The Fellows program extends the institute’s founding mission of applying powerful computational and modeling approaches to solve fundamental problems in the biological and biomedical sciences using team science as a powerful methodology.

According to Brenda Winkel, Head of Biological Sciences, “Our department is very enthusiastic about the Fellows program, which will add an important new dimension to our already-strong ties with the VBI.  We look forward to locating four of our top research groups at the institute.  All four of these groups already combine bench science with bioinformatics and computational biology and so are ideally matched with the institute’s goals to build new partnerships in the area of systems biology.”

While the Fellows will remain attached to their home department of biological sciences, they will be physically immersed in the institute’s team-based infrastructure supporting large-scale biological and biomedical research, all with the ultimate aim of improving human health and habitat. This inaugural year is a pilot project, which will hopefully continue as the benefits of such community integration begin to provide their rewards.

The newly-appointed VBI Fellows are:

Daniel Capelluto – Associate Professor Capelluto studies signaling transduction systems involved in membrane trafficking and cell signaling. He is currently attempting to understand how platelet aggregation is regulated, which is a key challenge in blood circulation and coagulation. He uses a variety of techniques to achieve this, including high field nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, circular dichroism, computer modeling, liposome-binding assays, fluorescence spectroscopy and surface plasmon resonance spectroscopy.

Daniela Cimini – Aneuploidy, a chromosomal defect linked to retardation and other genetic syndromes like Down’s, is at the heart of Associate Professor Cimini’s research. Aneuploidy has also been implicated in cancer development and progression. Cimini uses a combination of microscopy, live-cell imaging, and protein inhibition to uncover the mechanisms of this genetic deviation. With this information, new treatments and therapies can be developed.

Carla Finkielstein –Award-winning associate professor Finkielstein focuses her research on elucidating the molecular basis that link disruption of circadian rhythms (i.e., by shift work) to cell division. Finkielstein’s research impact many areas of science spanning from basic to clinical applications. For example, the emerging field of chronotherapy, in which treatments for cancer and other diseases are administered at times of the day most likely to yield the greatest efficacy, will rely on deciphering the regulatory systems to which all circadian components connect, and most importantly, will depend on an understanding of the links between the circadian and cell cycle mechanisms. Today, the administration of cancer therapy based on circadian timing has shown encouraging results, but it still lacks a strong mechanistic foundation. Thus, Finkielstein’s research will provide novel mechanistic foundations for applying chronobiology to the treatment of breast cancer and will offer new targets for drug development and treatment.

Silke Hauf – Assistant Professor Hauf’s work focuses on understanding the dynamics and precision of mitotic control by molecular networks. She uses fission yeast as a model system, and specific areas of research focus for her have been sister chromatid cohesion, the mitotic checkpoint, and the role of Aurora kinase in cell division.

Dr. Dennis Dean, Director of Life Sciences at VBI, states that "This new initiative is part of an evolving effort to develop an integrated and lively life science community.  The VBI faculty and staff are delighted to welcome our new colleagues and we are excited about getting started.  All of the Institutes at Virginia Tech are designed to rapidly take advantage of emerging opportunities and VBI is committed to providing a resource for advancing research efforts campus-wide."

Capelluto, Cimini, and Finkielstein will be moved into the institute by early December, and Hauf will begin her Fellowship in January. 

About VBI

Established in 2000, Virginia Bioinformatics Institute is one of seven acclaimed research institutes designed to support Virginia Tech’s research mission. Our emphasis on informatics of complex interacting systems scales from the microbiome to the entire globe, helping to solve challenges posed to human health, security, and sustainability. Headquartered on the Blacksburg, Virginia campus, the institute occupies 154,600 square feet in research facilities, including state-of-the-art core laboratory and high performance computing facilities, as well as research offices in the Virginia Tech Research Center in Arlington, Virginia.


Tiffany Trent

December 16, 2013