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NHGRI spotlights intramural findings at NIH Research Festival

The NIH Clinical Center
The NIH Clinical Center

Hundreds of researchers descended on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center for the 27th annual NIH Research Festival, which showcased some of the important and life-changing research NIH scientists do every day. This year's festival, held Nov. 6-8, 2013, commemorated the 60th anniversaries of the NIH Clinical Center and James Watson and Francis Crick's discovery of the DNA double helix.

Participants attended symposia, toured the NIH Clinical Center, cheered at a ribbon cutting for the new academic center at the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences and networked with colleagues.

"It was really great to see such a diverse group having those person-to-person interactions and learning about 500 of the projects NIH's intramural program is doing," said Daniel Kastner, M.D., Ph.D., scientific director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). He co-chaired this year's festival with Luigi Ferrucci, M.D., Ph.D., scientific director at the National Institute on Aging.

During the festival's poster session, research trainees and postdoctoral fellows described their current research to other attendees.

NHGRI posters included:
Matthew LaFave, Ph.D.

Matthew LaFave, Ph.D., along with a team of five others, conducted research that could lead to safer gene therapy. Gene therapy is the process of replacing or modifying genes to treat a disease. The procedure requires clinicians to insert retroviruses into genes. In past procedures, the retroviruses sometimes inserted in the wrong parts of the gene, causing patients to develop additional disorders and diseases. Dr. LaFave's and his colleagues developed a technique that will help predict where a retrovirus will insert in a gene, thus reducing the risk of complications due to gene therapy. To read more, go to

Yong Jun Choi, Ph.D.

Yong Jun Choi, Ph.D. and his colleagues are researching chemotherapeutic agents that can target specific cancers in the future. The team also found molecules that can reduce the damaging effect chemotherapy and radiation have on cancer cells. To read more, go to

Kai Ying, Ph.D.
Kai Ying

Kai Ying, Ph.D., worked with three others to develop a new method of finding how many copy number variations are in a genomic region. Copy number variations are the number of times a particular genomic region shows up in a genome. They can play a role in the development of diseases such as autism, Alzheimer's disease and cancer. Examining copy number variations helps clinicians see what diseases and disorders a person may be at risk for developing. His team's new method is more sensitive to aberrations in a genome than previous methods and can produce more accurate results. To read more, go to

Robert Burnett
Robert Burnett

Recent Washington University in St. Louis graduate Robert Burnett worked on a six-person team to find a more humane approach to conducting mouse model research of Type 2 Gaucher Disease (GD). Currently, scientists extract brains from mouse fetuses to find a mouse with the genetic mutation that causes GD. Burnett and his colleagues replicated the mutated gene so researchers won't have to use multiple mice to find a mouse that may develop the disease. Burnett also found specific antibodies that can aid companies in GD research. To read more, go to

To learn more about this year's research festival, go to

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Updated: February 10, 2014