Postdoctoral Research Associate

Postdoctoral Research Associate in Microbiology, Pharmacology, and Gastroenterology

A postdoctoral position is immediately available in the BioTechnology Institute and Department of Medicine, Div. of Gastroenterology, at the University of Minnesota.

Mike Sadowsky and Alex Khoruts are looking for a highly motivated postdoc to work on a project related to the development of new and novel formulations of microbiota-based for a variety of human diseases. This project follows up on our encapsulation technology for intestinal microbiota transplantation in adult patients. However, an important goal is development microencapsulation to enable oral administration of live microbiota to patients who may have difficulty with capsules, e.g., young children. This postdoctoral project will help develop the technology and follow engraftment of intestinal microbiota in animal models and patients using DNA sequencing, qPCR, metagenomics and culturing methods.

All applicants must have a Ph.D. in microbiology, pharmacology,  or a relevant field. Expertise in microbiology, microbial ecology, pharmacology, and analytical chemistry, is highly desired.

The position is for 2 years, and is annually renewable depending on performance and availability of funding The successful candidate will receive training in professional and personal development, research collaboration, presentation and publication of results, outreach, and mentoring. The position includes a competitive salary and health insurance. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled. A near-term start date is desired.

Applications should include: (i) brief cover letter, (ii) curriculum vitae, (iii) a brief description of past research accomplishments and future research goals (under two pages), and (v) the names and contact information for three references. All materials should be submitted as a single combined PDF to Alex Khoruts (khour001@umn.edu) and Mike Sadowsky (sadowsky@umn.edu) with “Postdoc Application” in the subject line. Any questions should also be directed to these email addresses.

Biotechnology Training Program Contacts

Contact Us

Program Director

Prof. Claudia Schmidt-Dannert
Biochemistry Molecular Biology & Biophysics
274 Gortner Lab
1479 Gortner Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108-6106
612-625-5782
schmi232@umn.edu

Program Administrator

Jen Kalaidis-Meslow
140 Gortner Labs
1479 Gortner Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55108
kalai004@umn.edu

BioTechnology Institute

140 Gortner Labs
1479 Gortner Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108-6106

612-624-6774
612-625-5780 FAX
bti@umn.edu

Tori Lafky

Tori Lafky

Tori Lafky

Principal Office and Administrative Specialist

lafky004@umn.edu

Front desk support, package receiving and sending, e-mail list updates, U Market orders, audio/visual equipment and room scheduling.

Tori is a CBS alumni who has been with the admin cluster since 2019. She was inspired to join the college by her love of biology, and she still enjoys learning new scientific names and phylogenies and reading up on the latest discoveries. When the weather allows, Tori spends much of her free time outdoors, where she can usually be found playing tennis, hiking, or relaxing by a body of water. During the other nine months of the year, Tori enjoys trying new recipes, game nights, digital artwork, and pestering her friends with animal fun facts.

Lori Nicol

Lori Nicol

Lori Nicol

Executive Accounts Specialist

l-nico@umn.edu

Grant Proposal preparation, status of grants and grant management, close-out of grants at project end, effort Certification, REU/participant payments

Lori has worked at the U of M in CBS for 33 years starting as a secretary and then working through accounting to Grants Management. She started in what is now the department of Plant & Microbial Biology in part because of her love of plants, and she has enjoyed being a part of BTI and CBS Finance for the last seven years. Lori has three daughters who have grown up in and around CBS in various ways, and they still have a healthy interest in science, as does her husband. Outside of work, Lori enjoys running, biking, crocheting, knitting, reading, traveling and music. She also loves cats and currently has two: a Bombay short-hair and a medium-hair tabby. Ask about her menagerie of Amigurumi that she created over the course of 2020!

 

Michael Ouverson

Michael Ouverson

Michael Ouverson

Graduate Coordinator
Graduate Program in Microbial Engineering

ouver005@umn.edu

Departmental purchasing, employee reimbursements, and general accounting requests for BTI, EEB and PMB.

Ruth Weleczki

Ruth Weleczki

Ruth Weleczki

Project Specialist

rweleczk@umn.edu

Coordinates faculty annual review and P&T processes; coordinates and manages faculty searches; provides and oversees web and print communication for seminars.

Ruth lives in St. Paul with her husband and quirky pandemic puppy. She (often) likes running, cross-country skiing, and reading detective stories. During the pandemic, she has mastered her baking and fire-pit skills, and before it is over, she hopes to learn to play Cribbage.

Custom R&D

Custom R&D

Custom R&D

When they need a lot of protein from a reliable source, researchers within the University and from outside companies turn to the BRC. We provide the expertise and equipment to help clients develop processes that work at production scale. Along the way, our full-time employees also train undergraduate students in an industry-like setting and help them clarify their professional goals.

 

Bulking up protein production

Almost every cell in the body contains lipid droplets, the cellular compartments that store fat. For a long time, scientists ignored the tiny particles, thinking they were inert. Now, new research suggests those droplets may play a role in aging and the progression of diseases like obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cancer. Doug Mashek, a nutritional biochemist at the University of Minnesota, studies the breakdown of those lipids and the molecular pathways they trigger, which may slow the aging process and prevent disease.

In fact, Mashek and his collaborators at Mayo found that flies genetically engineered to produce more of an enzyme that breaks down fat live 50 % longer.

Mashek relies on a particular protein that helps regulate lipid storage and metabolism. He needs a lot of it, as Mashek explains, to “help tease apart our mechanism.” The BRC helps make this research possible by producing the protein in bulk, a cost-effective solution that allows research to move forward.

What motivates Mashek, he says, is both “the detective part of figuring out mechanisms and the possibility of improving the overall health of mankind.”

 

Fermenting anticancer drugs: designed to bind

Daniel Vallera, of the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Cancer Center, is looking for a better way to treat cancer. Chemotherapy, while effective, does not work for everyone and can have devastating side effects. Vallera, a Professor of Therapeutic Radiology and Radiation Oncology, is developing new drugs that can either work in conjunction with chemotherapy or replace it.

Vallera’s anticancer drugs combine two active elements with one to target the cancer cell, and the other to attack it. One drug combines a protein that binds to the cancer cells with diphtheria toxin to kill them. Another drug attacking the most common form of adult leukemia (myelogenous leukemia), uses antibody fragments that connect an immune cell to a cancer cell, and adds a signaling molecule that stimulates the proliferation of immune cells. “It’s better to have a whole army than to have one soldier,” Vallera said.

At the BRC, development of the anticancer drugs starts with bacterial fermentation, where bacteria produce these specialized proteins. The drugs are purified at Molecular and Cellular Therapeutics (MCT), an FDA compliant facility right across the street from the BRC on the St. Paul campus. “We’ve come up with a grassroots program where we begin by inventing a drug approach. We genetically engineer bacteria to produce it, then we quality control it,” Vallera said. “We work with the FDA, get it approved, and have the clinical trial here at the university as well.”

For some, new treatment options could be life-changing. Cynthia Cattell, a physics professor at the University of Minnesota, was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma. She tried chemotherapy, radiation, bone marrow transplants, and immunotherapy to no avail. After taking a drug the Vallera lab developed, she went into remission for two years. That drug is now in phase II clinical trials.

 

Scaling up to clinical trials

GeneSegues, a Minnesota company that develops targeted cancer treatments, also relies on the BRC to supply their protein. These protein nanocapsules protect drug molecules from degrading before they get to their target site. RNA interference (RNAi) molecules within the capsules work like dimmer switches for genes important in cancer cells.

The company’s first drug, GS-10, treated head and neck cancer successfully in animal models. Now in the preclinical phase, GeneSegues plans to file an investigational drug application with the FDA. The BRC helped them scale up production of their targeting protein, tenascin, a crucial step on the path toward clinical trials.

As CEO Laura Brod described the problem, “there is a very well known, high unmet need in pharma for targeted delivery that works. We believe that our delivery technology could unlock the promise of billions of dollars of pharmaceutical development.”

Brod has a long-standing connection to the University of Minnesota. She and her eight older siblings have a combined 54 years at the U, and Brod serves on the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents. She has high hopes for the role of the BRC in the future of biotech in Minnesota. “Having a local resource like the BRC is critical for biotech here in Minnesota. Biotech in Minnesota is on the front end of booming.”

 

From bench to pilot to production

Farmers in Asia have been raising silkworms for over 6,000 years to produce beautiful fabrics, but a Minnesota startup, Silk Technologies, hopes to use the proteins derived from silkworm cocoons in new medical applications.

Silk Technologies has developed a refining process that dissolves silk protein completely in water. They are developing an eye drop containing the protein as a treatment for dry eye disease. Their silk derived protein works as an anti-inflammatory agent that also helps the cornea retain moisture. They plan to begin a clinical trial in 2019.

It is a big leap for a company to go from bench scale to production scale. The BRC was uniquely positioned to offer knowledge and equipment for the crucial step in between—pilot scale. The BRC also consulted as the company built its facility and helped Silk Technologies scale up the washing, filtering, and purification of their silkworm cocoons. “Where most people fail,” says CEO Brian Lawrence, “is getting your process to a point where it is scalable. I would collaborate with the BRC again in a heartbeat.”

The BRC’s Unsung Heroes

The BRC’s Unsung Heroes

The BRC's Unsung Heroes

The BRC’s Unsung Heroes

Every operation has its unsung heroes. At the BRC, it’s student workers who assist the BRC’s full-time employees keep production running smoothly by washing dishes, cleaning reactors, and harvesting bacteria. In exchange, they receive valuable industrial experience and develop professional connections that last a lifetime.

Sophie Justinak worked at the BRC as a student for two years until her graduation in 2016 with a degree in Biosystems and Bioproducts Engineering. Justinak applied the experience to her current job in the environmental division of Domtar Corporation, a paper mill in Nekoosa, WI. At Domtar, bacteria are hard at work helping remove the organic matter from polluted mill water before it goes back to the Wisconsin River. Interested in environmental issues, she is considering a return to graduate school to study polymer chemistry and hopes to work on improving sustainable packaging.

Jake Timler transferred to the University of Minnesota from Metropolitan State University to pursue a degree in Biosystems and Bioproducts Engineering. After he graduated in 2014, he continued at the BRC until he got his current job as an air quality permit engineer at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Sokamarint Chak worked for the BRC for two years until he graduated in 2017 with a double major in microbiology and medical laboratory science.  While working at the BRC, Chak was accepted to and participated in a summer undergraduate laboratory program at Argonne National Labs in Chicago. Chak’s parents came to the United States as refugees from Cambodia fleeing the Khmer Rouge. He chose the University of Minnesota to follow in the footsteps of an older brother who now attends the pharmacy program at the University of Minnesota Duluth Campus. Chak is pursuing a medical technology career in the Twin Cities.

Ann Yetter

Ann Yetter

Ann Yetter

Facilities and Events Coordinator

ayetter@umn.edu

Facilities questions for PMB, BTI, and EEB, UCard and key requests, building emergencies, autoclave issues, space use updates, coordinating special events

Ann lives in St Paul with her husband and Boston Terrier. She enjoys connecting grad students and PIs to the solutions they need to function in their research, and she relishes the arcane details of the work going on in CBS. In her off-hours, Ann bikes the twin cities, bakes, and gardens.