The Mahoney Life Sciences Prize is an annual competition for CNS scientists engaged in high-impact life sciences research.

Made possible through the generosity of the Mahoney family, the prize recognizes UMass Amherst scientists whose work has the potential for advancing connections between research and industry.

The Prize includes an award of $10,000 and is awarded annually to one faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in life sciences research, and whose work significantly advances connections between academic research and industry. Read more and view past recipients.

Mahoney Prize 2020 Recipient

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Dr. Derek R. Lovley

Distinguished Professor, Department of Microbiology

Ueki, T., Walker, D. J. F., Tremblay, P.-L., Nevin, K. P., Ward, J. E., Woodard, T. L., Nonnenmann, S. S., & Lovley, D. R. (2019). Decorating the Outer Surface of Microbially Produced Protein Nanowires with Peptides. ACS Synthetic Biology, 8(8), 1809–1817. https://doi.org/10.1021/acssynbio.9b00131

Derek Lovley

The potential applications of electrically conductive protein nanowires (e-PNs) harvested from Geobacter sulf urreducens might be greatly expanded if the outer surface of the wires could be modified to confer novel sensing capabilities or to enhance binding to other materials. We developed a simple strategy for functionalizing e-PNs with surface-exposed peptides. The G. sulf urreducens gene for the monomer that assembles into e-PNs was modified to add peptide tags at the carboxyl terminus of the monomer. Strains of G. sulf urreducens were constructed that fabricated synthetic e-PNs with a six-histidine “His-tag” or both the His-tag and a nine-peptide “HA-tag” exposed on the outer surface. Addition of the peptide tags did not diminish e-PN conductivity. The abundance of HA-tag in e-PNs was controlled by placing expression of the gene for the synthetic monomer with the HA-tag under transcriptional regulation. These studies suggest broad possibilities for tailoring e-PN properties for diverse applications.

Read more about Dr. Derek R. Lovley.

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CNS has great breadth and depth in the spectrum of types of life sciences research. Here are some of the leaders and innovators.

Dr. Todd Emrick

Professor, Department of Polymer Science & Engineering

A series of polymer−drug conjugates based on 2-methacryloyloxyethyl phosphorylcholine (MPC) was prepared with the glioblastoma drug temozolomide (TMZ) as pendent groups. Random and block copolymers were synthesized by reversible addition−fragmentation chain-transfer (RAFT) polymerization using a TMZ-containing methacrylate monomer. The solution properties of the polyMPC− TMZ copolymers were investigated by dynamic light scattering and transmission electron microscopy, revealing well-defined nanostructures from the block copolymers. Conjugation of TMZ to polyMPC enhanced drug stability, with decomposition half-life values ranging from 2- to 19-times longer than that of free TMZ. The cytotoxicity of polyMPC−TMZ was evaluated in both chemosensitive (U87MG) and chemoresistant (T98G) glioblastoma cell lines. Furthermore, the polyMPC−TMZ platform was expanded considerably by the preparation of redox-sensitive polyMPC−TMZ copolymers utilizing disulfides as the polymer-to-drug linker.

Read more about Dr. Todd Emrick.

Dr. Alejandro Heuck

Associate Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Many Gram-negative bacterial pathogens use a type III secretion system to infect eukaryotic cells. The injection of bacterial toxins or protein effectors via this system is accomplished through a plasma membrane channel formed by two bacterial proteins, termed translocators, whose assembly and membraneinsertion mechanisms are currently unclear. Here, using purified proteins we demonstrate that the translocators PopB and PopD in Pseudomonas aeruginosa assemble heterodimers in membranes, leading to stably inserted hetero-complexes. Using site-directed fluorescence labeling with an environment-sensitive probe, we found that hydrophobic segments inPopDanchor the translocator to the membrane, but without adopting a typical transmembrane orientation. A fluorescence dual-quenching assay revealed that the presence of PopB changes the conformation adopted by PopD segments in membranes. Furthermore, analysis of PopD’s interaction with human cell membranes revealed that PopD adopts a distinctive conformation when PopB is present. An N-terminal region of PopD is only exposed to the host cytosol when PopB is present. We conclude that PopB assists with the proper insertion of PopD in cell membranes, required for the formation of a functional translocon and host infection.

Read more about Dr. Alejandro Heuck.

Dr. Craig Martin

Professor, Chemistry

Synthetic RNA is widely used in basic science, nanotechnology and therapeutics research. The vast majority of this RNA is synthesized in vitro by T7 RNA polymerase or one of its close family members. However, the desired RNA is generally contaminated with products longer and shorter than the DNA-encoded product. To better understand these undesired byproducts and the processes that generate them, we analyze in vitro transcription reactions using RNA-Seq as a tool. The results unambiguously confirm that product RNA rebinds to the polymerase and self-primes (in cis) generation of a hairpin duplex, a process that favorably competes with promoter driven synthesis under high yield reaction conditions. While certain priming modes can be favored, the process is heterogeneous, both in initial priming and in the extent of priming, and already extended products can rebind for further extension, in a distributive process. Furthermore, addition of one or a few nucleotides, previously termed ‘nontemplated addition,’ also occurs via templated primer extension. At last, this work demonstrates the utility of RNA-Seq as a tool for in vitro mechanistic studies, providing information far beyond that provided by traditional gel electrophoresis.

Read more about Dr. Craig Martin.

Dr. David Julian McClements

Distinguished Professor, Food Science

In this study, nanoemulsion-based delivery systems fabricated using three different methods were compared with three commercially available curcumin supplements. Powdered curcumin was dispersed into the oil-in-water nanoemulsions using three methods: the conventional oil-loading method, the heat-driven method, and the pH-driven method. The conventional method involved dissolving powdered curcumin in the oil phase (60 °C, 2 h) and then forming a nanoemulsion. The heat-driven method involved forming a nanoemulsion and then adding powdered curcumin and incubating at an elevated temperature (100 °C, 15 min). The pH-driven method involved dissolving curcumin in an alkaline solution (pH 12.5) and then adding this solution to an acidified nanoemulsion (pH 6.0). The three commercial curcumin products were capsules or tablets purchased from an online supplier: Nature Made, Full Spectrum, and CurcuWin. Initially, the encapsulation efficiency of the curcumin in the three nanoemulsions was determined and decreased in the following order: pH-driven (93%) > heat-driven (76%) > conventional (56%) method. The different curcumin formulations were then subjected to a simulated gastrointestinal tract (GIT) model consisting of mouth, stomach, and small intestine phases. All three nanoemulsions had fairly similar curcumin bioaccessibility values (74−79%) but the absolute amount of curcumin in the mixed micelle phase was highest for the pH-driven method. A comparison of these nanoemulsions and commercial products indicated that the curcumin concentration in the mixed micelles decreased in the following order: CurcuWin ≈ pH-driven method > heat-driven method > conventional method ≫ Full spectrum > Nature Made. This study provides valuable information about the impact of the delivery system type on curcumin bioavailability. It suggests that encapsulating curcumin within small lipid particles may be advantageous for improving its absorption form the GIT.

Read more about Dr. David Julian McClements.

Dr. Margaret Riley

Professor, Biology

The feasibility of using colicins to create an antimicrobial lubricant to prevent extraluminal catheter contamination during urinary catheter insertion was assessed. Levels of resistance of uropathogenic Escherichia coli to antibiotics and colicins were compared. The results showed that antibiotics and colicins possess similar frequencies of resistance to a single drug, whereas colicins exhibit significantly lower levels of multidrug resistance (22%) than antibiotics (42%). Colicins and antibiotics showed complementary inhibitory activity, with each targeting different subsets of pathogenic isolates. The collateral impact of these two antimicrobials on genera that are members of the fecal/vaginal/urinary microbiome was assessed, with colicins showing significantly less collateral damage than antibiotics. Using a novel colicin, SR4, minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) for a panel of 30 uropathogenic isolates were determined and showed that SR4 achieved the same antimicrobial efficacy as gentamicin using 20-30% less drug. An SR4-impregnated catheter lubricant was created and its ability to prevent extraluminal urinary catheter contamination in vitro was demonstrated. These data indicate that a colicin-impregnated lubricant may provide a viable prophylactic option for preventing catheter-associated urinary tract infections.

Read more about Dr. Margaret Riley.

Dr. Sloan Siegrist

Assistant Professor, Microbiology

Rod-shaped mycobacteria expand from their poles, yet D-amino acid probes label cell wall peptidoglycan in this genus at both the poles and sidewall. We sought to clarify the metabolic fates of these probes. Monopeptide incorporation was decreased by antibiotics that block peptidoglycan synthesis or L,D-transpeptidation and in an L,D-transpeptidase mutant. Dipeptides complemented defects in D-alanine synthesis or ligation and were present in lipid-linked peptidoglycan precursors. Characterizing probe uptake pathways allowed us to localize peptidoglycan metabolism with precision: monopeptide-marked L,D-transpeptidase remodeling and dipeptide-marked synthesis were coincident with mycomembrane metabolism at the poles, septum and sidewall. Fluorescent pencillin-marked D,D-transpeptidation around the cell perimeter further suggested that the mycobacterial sidewall is a site of cell wall assembly. While polar peptidoglycan synthesis was associated with cell elongation, sidewall synthesis responded to cell wall damage. Peptidoglycan editing along the sidewall may support cell wall robustness in pole-growing mycobacteria.

Read more about Dr. Sloan Siegrist.

Dr. Kim Tremblay

Associate Professor, Veterinary and Animal Sciences

During development, the endoderm initiates organ-restricted gene expression patterns in a spatiotemporally controlled manner. This process, termed induction, requires signals from adjacent mesodermal derivatives. Fibroblast growth factor (FGF) and bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) emanating from the cardiac mesoderm and the septum transversum mesenchyme (STM), respectively, are believed to be simultaneously and uniformly required to directly induce hepatic gene expression from the murine endoderm. Using small molecule inhibitors of BMP signals during liver bud induction in the developing mouse embryo, we found that BMP signaling was not uniformly required to induce hepatic gene expression. Although BMP inhibition caused an overall reduction in the number of induced hepatoblasts, the STM-bounded posterior liver bud demonstrated the most severe loss of the essential hepatic transcription factor, hepatocyte nuclear factor 4-a (HNF4a), whereas the sinus venosus–lined anterior liver bud was less affected. We found that the posterior liver bud progenitors were anteriorly displaced and aberrantly activated pancreatobiliary markers, including sex-determining region Ybox 9 (SOX9). Additionally, we found that ectopically expressed SOX9 inhibited HNF4a and that BMP was indirectly required for hepatoblast induction. Finally, because previous studies have demonstrated that FGF signals are essential for anterior but not posterior liver bud induction, we examined synchronous BMP and FGF inhibition and found this led to a nearly complete loss of hepatoblasts. Conclusion: BMP signaling is required to maintain the hepato-pancreatobiliary boundary, at least in part, by indirectly repressing SOX9 in the hepatic endoderm. BMP and FGF signals are each required for the induction of spatially complementary subsets of hepatoblasts. These results underscore the importance of studying early inductive processes in the whole embryo.

Read more about Dr. Kim Tremblay.

2020 Industry Judges

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Stefan K. Baier, PhD

Head for Food Science, Motif FoodWorks

Dr. Stefan K. Baier is the Head for Food Science at Motif FoodWorks based in Boston, MA and an Adjunct Associate Professor with the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. Dr. Baier received a degree in Food Engineering (Dipl.-Ing.) from the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms Universität in Bonn, Germany, and a Ph.D. in Food Colloids and Biopolymers from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA under Professor Julian McClements. Prior to joining Motif FoodWorks, Dr. Baier served as an Associate Fellow with PepsiCo and a was a Senior Scientist at Global Food Research with Cargill, Inc.. Dr. Baier’s research interests are in the area of food oral processing with an emphasis on rheology and tribology. He and his research team leverage soft matter and colloidal physics coupled with engineering principles to develop rational design criteria for the next generation low fat, sodium and sugar foods and beverages based on insights from food oral processing.  Dr. Baier sits on the editorial board for the Journal of Texture Studies and BioTribology. He is a Fellow at the Royal Society of Chemistry. He initiated PepsiCo’s participation in the EIT-Food, a major EU initiative for innovation in the food industry and has several industrial grants across the globe, including an ARC Linkage and AiF grant to develop food oral processing as a scientific discipline. Dr. Baier is the recipient of the 2015 Uniquest Partners in Research Excellence Awards. He has several key impact publications and given several Invited keynote presentation on the role of rheology and tribology in oral processing, e.g. more recently at Neutrons & Foods, International Conference on BioTribology (ICoBT) and FDA/PQRI conference.

Richard J. Gregory, PhD

Fellow , American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering

Dr. Gregory received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1986, followed by post-doctoral research in cancer genetics at the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology in Shrewsbury MA. In 1989 he joined Genzyme Corporation, where he was responsible for discovery projects in the molecular biology department. In 1990, his group at Genzyme was the first to express the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) protein and to determine the molecular defect caused by the most common mutation of CFTR. From 1993 to 1995 he was Director of Molecular Biology at Canji, Inc. in San Diego, where he led research and development of therapeutics based upon tumor suppressor genes. Richard returned to Genzyme in 1995 as Vice President for Gene Therapy. Efforts under Dr. Gregory’s direction during this period included programs in cancer immunotherapy, gene therapies for genetic diseases and cardiovascular gene therapy. In 2001 Richard became Senior Vice President and Head of Research for Genzyme Corporation where he was responsible for early R&D, from discovery to development, in all therapeutic areas at Genzyme. In 2011 Richard was appointed Head of the Sanofi Genzyme R&D Center, overseeing R&D in rare diseases, multiple sclerosis, immune disorders and tissue protection/regenerative medicine. In January of 2015 Dr. Gregory joined ImmunoGen, where he was responsible for research leading to new antibody based therapeutics to address the unmet needs of patients with cancer. Since September of 2019 Richard has been an independent consultant. He is the co-author of over 60 peer-reviewed publications and 23 issued U.S. patents in the area of biotechnology. Richard is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.

Dennis Guberski

Founder, Mucosal Vaccine Technologies LLC

Mr. Dennis Guberski, a geneticist trained at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, spent more than 20 years (1977-1997) at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center both as a researcher and as an administrator in the Department of Pathology. During this time, he extensively studied the etiology of Type 1 diabetes and developed several spontaneous animal models that are still in widespread use today. He was the first to report on the perturbation of autoimmune disease by a parvovirus, which caused disease impacting both the pancreas and thyroid. In 1996, he founded, Biomere, a preclinical contract research organization that employs 85 FTE’s. At Biomere, Mr. Guberski served as PI on numerous NIH grants and contracts including most recently, the $4.9MM Type 1 diabetes Preclinical Testing Program in support of the governments Trial Net. His longstanding contribution to science includes key papers elucidating the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes, mapping susceptibility genes for type 1 diabetes/rheumatoid arthritis and developing novel models for environmental initiation of autoimmunity.

David J. Mazzo, PhD

President and Chief Executive Officer, Caladrius Biosciences

Dr. Mazzo is the President and CEO of Caladrius Biosciences, Inc., a late-stage therapeutics development biopharmaceutical company pioneering advancements of cell therapies for select cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases. The Company’s primary technology platform is based on the use of CD34+/CXCR4+ cells for ischemic repair in a variety of indications including critical limb ischemia, coronary microvascular disfunction and no-option refractory disabling angina (NORDA). Dr. Mazzo is a pharmaceutical executive and strategic leader with broad experience in both large and small companies gained from working in a variety of multi-cultural and multi-lingual environments in the USA, Canada, Europe and Asia. He is recognized for his exceptional strategic, scientific and regulatory expertise, upon which he has amassed a track record of >35 years of successful global product development, registration and launch. 

Dr. Mazzo earned his Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry as well as an M.S. in Chemistry at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst). He also holds dual degrees [B.S. in Chemistry and B.A. in Honors (Interdisciplinary Humanities)] from Villanova University. He complemented his American education as a Research Fellow at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland.

James McColgan

Director, Plasmid Manufacturing, Pfizer, Inc.

Mr. James McColgan is currently Director of the Site Technical Services group at the Andover Pfizer Global Supply (PGS) biological manufacturing facility in Andover, MA. The Andover site is the primary large scale biological production facility within the Pfizer Biotech network. Cell culture scale ranges from 2,500-L through 12,500-L across 4 independent production lines. It is a fully cGMP approved multi-product site producing both commercial and clinical stage recombinant proteins and vaccine components.  

Mr. McColgan has over 25 years of experience in the development of cell lines and process development and scale up of both bacterial and mammalian recombinant processes, from bench scale to cGMP productions scale in positions of increasing responsibilities. The Site Technical Services group is responsible for providing technical support and troubleshooting across a number of different disciplines in support of the site goals of being the premier launch site for new biologics and a technical leader in the area biologic manufacture. He started his career at Genetics Institute in the Microbial Fermentation group where he was responsible for development of recombinant E. coli based processes. He then progressed to additional roles in development of recombinant cell lines and development of mammalian based processes as well as development of rapid microbiology assays. Prior to his current role in the Site Technical Services group, Mr. McColgan led the Andover non-GMP Pilot Lab. Mr. McColgan received both a BS and MS microbiology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Vic Myer, PhD

Entrepreneur in Residence, Atlas Venture

Dr. Vic Myer was most recently the Chief Technology Officer at Editas Medicine and was responsible for delivering enabling technologies to bring genomic medicines to the clinic. Prior to joining, Dr. Myer served as executive director and Cambridge site head for the developmental and molecular pathways department at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research Incorporated (NIBR), where he also served as a research investigator, led the high-throughput biology team and oversaw the target discovery technologies platform. He was also a founding scientist and group leader at Akceli, Inc., a venture-backed systems-biology company, served as senior scientist for Millennium Pharmaceuticals and held various roles at Corning, Inc. Dr. Myer received his BS in biology and biochemistry from Cornell University and his PhD in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale University.

Chuck Sherwood, PhD

Founder and Former CEO, Anika Therapeutics

Dr. Charles H. Sherwood was the Chief Executive Officer of Anika Therapeutics from 2002-2018. From 2002 through July 2017, he also held the title of President. Dr. Sherwood joined Anika in 1998 with extensive experience in research, engineering, manufacturing, quality assurance, regulatory affairs and business management. He first served at Anika in the position of Vice President of Research, Development and Engineering. Prior to joining Anika, he was a senior director with Chiron Vision, responsible for medical product development and commercialization. 

From 1982 to 1995, Dr. Sherwood was with IOLAB Corporation, a division of Johnson & Johnson, where he led the Research and Product Development organization. Earlier, he held various technical and management positions with Hughes Aircraft Company and Lord Corporation. He was also on the faculty of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Dr. Sherwood holds a BS in chemical engineering from Cornell University, an MA and a PhD in polymer science and engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and a certificate in management from Claremont Graduate School.