Fostering the next generation of AS researchers, the Joseph E. Wagstaff Fellowship is awarded annually to budding AS researchers to further advance the community in creating treatments and ultimately a cure. Congratulations to Shalaka Mulherkar, Ph.D., with Baylor College of Medicine for being the 2015 Joseph E. Wagstaff Fellow!
Dr. Mulherkar has a strong publication record and has worked in AS research previously, and is already considered to be a highly accomplished neurobiologist by her mentors. Dr. Mulherkar received both her Bachelor’s in 2002 and her Master’s in 2004 from the University of Mumbai where she studied the molecular changes associated with learning and memory in the giant African snail Achatina fulica. She began studying AS during her graduate work at the National Brain Research Centre in Haryana, India from 2004 to 2010. Her doctoral thesis was titled “Characterization of motor deficits in a mouse model of Angelman Syndrome: Role of Ube3a/E6-AP in dopaminergic neurons.” Since 2011 she has been involved in postdoctoral studies at Baylor College of Medicine. The Baylor environment, where she has the opportunity to interact with other AS investigators, is uniquely well suited to support her continued interest in AS research and scientific development.
For her Wagstaff Fellowship research project, Dr. Mulherkar will examine Rho GTPase signaling pathways and how loss of maternal Ube3a leads to defects in these pathways. The goal is to understand how these pathways are affected by the loss of maternal Ube3a and how that results in AS symptoms, with the long-term goal to be able to correct the defects in the signaling pathways.
Dr. Joseph E. Wagstaff was a pediatrician, medical geneticist and researcher. As much as anyone in the world, Dr. Wagstaff advanced the state of knowledge about Angelman syndrome. He diagnosed and treated scores of patients with Angelman syndrome and provided much needed counsel to their families. Dr. Wagstaff was an invaluable contributor to the ASF and his work on the Scientific Advisory Committee has been instrumental in soliciting and evaluating the high-caliber scientific proposals that the ASF is proud to fund. The above photo of Dr. Wagstaff was taken while he took time away from a holiday luncheon to talk with two people at the same time about an AS patient to try figure out what was going on with the patient and how he could help. (Photo taken by Carolyn Ohle, genetic counselor.)
As a talented and gifted diagnostician, Dr. Wagstaff was known as a man of utmost integrity—a consummate clinician who upheld the highest ethical standards and treated all people with decency, compassion, and respect. Dr. Wagstaff dedicated his life to the benefit and compassionate care of his patients and in support of their families. Through the Joseph E. Wagstaff Postdoctoral Fellowship, the ASF seeks to honor Dr. Wagstaff’s legacy by supporting innovative research initiatives, and by further supporting and encouraging existing Angelman syndrome-related research projects.
The Joseph E. Wagstaff Postdoctoral Fellowship is based upon competitive proposal submissions that are peer-reviewed by the ASF Scientific Advisory Committee. Eligible applicants must have a Ph.D., M.D., M.D./Ph.D., DDS, or an equivalent degree, and anticipate employment in a full-time postdoctoral position at an academic or research institution in the U.S. or Canada. Applicants from programs having a history of research on Angelman syndrome, imprinting or UBE3A are encouraged to apply.
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Research Title: Epigenetic Regulation of Ube3a by Topoisomerases
Sponsoring Mentor: Benjamin Philpot, Ph.D.
Angela Mabb, Ph.D., is using the Joseph E. Wagstaff Postdoctoral Fellowship to further understand the role topoisomerase inhibitors play in genetics and how improper functioning of the UBE3A gene occurs. Her goal with this research is to contribute its findings to other research projects in this area with the ultimate goal of finding a treatment for Angelman syndrome.
Dr. Mabb has participated in a number of research projects during her education and post-doctoral work at several leading research institutions, including Duke University, the University of Wisconsin and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her interest in Angelman syndrome stems from her past research endeavors in drug discovery, genomic imprinting and other related areas. Dr. Mabb earned her two B.S. degrees in Chemistry and Bio-Molecular Science from Clarkson University, and her Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Research Title: Epigenetic Regulation of Ube3a by a Candidate Angelman Syndrome Drug (UNCilencer1)
Sponsoring Mentor: Mark Zylka, Ph.D.
Ian King, Ph.D., received the Joseph E. Wagstaff Postdoctoral Fellowship to fund a research project that seeks to understand how topoisomerase inhibitors, a class of FDA-approved drugs, unsilence the UBE3A gene that causes Angelman syndrome, and how this unsilencing affects other genes or targets in brain cells.
Dr. King’s passion for Angelman syndrome research was fostered by his participation in research projects that sought to develop therapies for Angelman syndrome through collaborations between the Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology and the Department of Pharmacology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Dr. King earned his A.B. in Biology from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Harvard Medical School, and has been involved in postdoctoral fields of study in molecular neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco and UNC, Chapel Hill.