Dr. Robin E. C. Lee Gives Senior Vice Chancellor’s Research Seminar

Robin E. C. Lee, PhD, assistant professor of computational and systems biology, School of Medicine, delivered the lecture in the 2017 Senior Vice Chancellor’s Research Seminar series on Friday, October 6, from noon–1 p.m. in Lecture Room 6, Scaife Hall* [Add to Calendar]. The title of Lee’s presentation was “Uncovering the Role for ‘Dynamics’ in Mediating Cell-Fate Decisions.” This seminar series was open to all interested University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University faculty, students, and staff. Arthur S. Levine, MD, senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of Medicine, introduced Lee and lead the discussion following his lecture.

*Unable to make it to Scaife Hall? *Unable to make it to Scaife Hall?
Dr. Lee’s lecture was available via live stream to people with Pitt login credentials by clicking this link (sign in using your Pitt username and password): https://pitt.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=f101065c-830d-47e7-a2e5-45a2e9c1ee65.

If you have problems with the video, contact the CSSD help line at 412-624-4357 (4-HELP).

Topic Overview:

In the long-term, Lee’s goal is to understand how single cells process cues from their environment to make irreversible decisions such as whether to proliferate, differentiate, or die. Cell-fate decisions are often influenced by inflammatory factors in the cellular milieu that initiate dynamic reorganization of proteins within the cell. For example, clusters of ligand-bound receptors can transiently recruit cytoplasmic proteins to large complexes near the plasma membrane, whereas other proteins translocate between cellular compartments such as the cytoplasm and the nucleus. It is an emerging principle that dynamic properties of signaling molecules provide temporal codes (i.e., rates of change, or signal amplitude, duration, or frequency, among others) that regulate each cell’s response to a stimulus. Given that there is substantial cell-to-cell heterogeneity, even in a clonal cell line, dynamic mechanisms of signal transduction are generally obscured in fixed-point measurements or averages from a cell population.

In this talk, Lee will discuss his progress in establishing single-cell techniques to study dynamic properties of signal transduction that govern the NF-κB transcriptional system. He will present his and colleagues’ advances using CRISPR-mediated genome editing to generate fluorescent-protein fusions expressed from their endogenous locus in human cells. Lee will also discuss the combination of live-cell imaging, microfluidics, and computational techniques to understand how dynamic properties of molecules within the NF-κB system encode and decode information in single cells. By uncovering the role for “dynamics” in mediating cell-fate decisions, their approaches may eventually lead to the rational design of therapies that target “dynamics” to affect disease.

Taylor Appointed to Distinguished Professor

Congratulations to Dr. D. Lansing Taylor for his appointment to Distinguished Professor.

Dr. Taylor has been with the department since his return to academia in 2010. Prior to that, he held academic appointments at Harvard University and Carnegie Mellon University.

During his time as CMU, he and Dr. Alan Waggoner co-found Biological Detection Systems (BDS) to commercialize the multi-color cyanine dyes and research imaging platform. The company was later acquired by Amersham (now GE Life Sciences). He left CMU in 1997 to found Cellomics, Inc., which developed High Content Screening and later became a part of ThermoFisher Scientific. He then moved on to found Cellumen, which developed a predictive safety assessment platform using primary hepatocytes, multiplexed panels of reagents, reference safety databases and computational biology. He was CEO of Cellumen from 2004 until 2010 when it became part of Cyprotex, a British CRO. He also co-found Cernostics, Inc., a fluorescence-based, tissue systems pathology company that has created a test for selecting at risk Barrett’s esophagus patients.

Dr. Taylor holds >25 U.S. patents, including six focused on cell-based imaging.

His current research links large-scale cell, tissue and human, biomimetic, tissue-engineered model profiling with computational and systems biology to optimize drug discovery and diagnostics based on quantitative systems pharmacology. He is also developing computational tools to identify and quantify heterogeneity.

To further promote Quantitative Systems Pharmacology in the region, he recently created the Pittsburgh Revolution Fund with the goal of bringing the recent advances at Pitt (in collaboration with UPMC, CMU, and UPCI) to the attention of the broader community.

Dr. Taylor has contributed greatly to our department, the Drug Discovery Institute, the University, and to science as a whole. He is well deserved of the distinguished title, and we congratulate him!

MMBioS Center Renewed Five More Years

The Biomedical Technology and Research Resource (BTRR) on High Performance Computing for Multiscale Modeling of Biological Systems (MMBioS) was renewed for 5 years by NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS).

MMBioS is a joint effort between the University of Pittsburgh (lead institution, PI: Dr. Ivet Bahar), Carnegie Mellon U (CMU), the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC), and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies (Salk). The mission of the Center is to develop methods and software tools to advance research and training at the interface between computing technology and life sciences.

The Center has 4 ongoing Technology & Research Projects, on Molecular Modeling, Cell Simulations, Network Modeling and Bioimage Modeling, led by the Bahar (Pitt), Sejnowski (Salk), Faeder (Pitt), and Murphy (CMU) labs, respectively.

For more information on the Center, visit: www.mmbios.org

Koes CTSI Biomedical Modeling Pilot Award

Congratulations to David Koes and his collaborator Partha Roy! Their proposal to study small molecule inhibition of profilin was funded by CTSI.


Our specific aim is to combine computationally-driven rational design with functional assays to discover potent and drug-like small molecules that interfere with the binding of profilin to actin and have anti-migratory and anti-angiogenic effects on endothelial cells. Successful completion of the proposed study will potentially translate to novel therapies for angiogenesis-associated diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, cancer, atherosclerosis, and arthritis.

CSB Members Celebrate the Eclipse

The department celebrated the solar eclipse on Monday, August 21st with eclipse-themed snacks: moon pies, starbursts, eclipse gum, milky ways, and sun chips. We watched the eclipse move to 80% totality with our snappy Bill Nye glasses!