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NHF Announces Judith Graham Pool Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Recipients

April 1, 2014

The National Hemophilia Foundation (NHF) is pleased to announce that Wei Cheng, PhD , of Washington University in St. Louis, and Colin Kretz, PhD, of the University of Michigan have been selected as individual award recipients of NHF’s Judith Graham Pool Postdoctoral Research Fellowship.

The awarding of these two grants is the culmination of a rigorous and thoughtful peer review process conducted by NHF’s Research Review Committee. This volunteer committee consists of representatives from NHF’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Council (MASAC) as well as other highly experienced and respected physicians and researchers in the field of hematology.

Dr. Wei Cheng has been awarded the NHF/Nicholas Cirelli Family JGP Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Award.  His JGP research project is titled, “Understanding the Interplay between Electron Transfer and VKOR supported Blood Coagulation.”  He will study the structure and function of the membrane-bound vitamin K epoxide reductase (VKOR) and its partner proteins.  VKOR is an enzyme in the vitamin K cycle that supports the production of functional clotting factors.  It is also the target of warfarin.  However, not much is known about these partner proteins and their interactions with VKOR.    

By further studying the mechanisms of how partner proteins of VKOR maintain their activity, Dr. Cheng hopes to gain insight into whether the partner interaction plays a role in warfarin inhibition. The results of these studies could improve the recombinant production of functional clotting factors that are currently used to treat hemophilia and sepsis. 

Dr. Cheng’s PhD training was at the National Institute of Biological Sciences and Beijing Normal University in China.  He has been a postdoctoral researcher at Washington University since 2011.  He has had several papers published in NatureScienceNature CommunicationsCell Host & Microbe and PLOS Pathogens.  Dr. Cheng’s postdoctoral research is under the mentorship of Weikai Li, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Washington University in St. Louis.  

NHF has awarded a JGP Postdoctoral Research Fellowship to Colin Kretz, PhD, of the University of Michigan.  Dr. Kretz’s JGP research project is, “A Comprehensive and Unbiased Screen of ADAMTS13 Substrate Specificity.” His research involves the development of a novel paradigm for screening protease specificity by coupling substrate phage display with high throughput sequencing.  ADAMTS13 is an enzyme that regulates von Willebrand factor’s (VWF) ability to localize platelets to the site of an injury.  However, there is little known about how ADAMTS13 is regulated and the structures within VWF that enable the tight regulation of VWF function

This project is a molecular examination using state-of-the-art genome sequencing technology to evaluate the interaction between ADAMTS13, VWF and other potential factors.  Dr. Kretz will generate a panel of approximately 10 million variants of VWF to determine which ones are recognized by ADAMTS13.  He will also generate a resource for identifying new interactions for ADAMTS13.  The results of this JGP project will make significant contributions to our understanding of ADAMTS13 biology, as well as provide insights into the diagnosis and pathogenesis of diseases, such as thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura and von Willebrand disease. 

Dr. Kretz received his PhD in Biochemistry from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.  He has been a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of David Ginsburg, MD, at the University of Michigan since 2009. Dr. Kretz has had several papers published in the Journal of Biological ChemistryJournal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis,Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, Vascular Biology  and Advances in Hematology. He also presented a research poster on his phage display approach at the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis (ISTH) meeting as well as other major medical conferences.   

Established in 1972, NHF’s JGP postdoctoral research fellowship awards promote projects in clinical or basic science research on biochemical and genetic aspects of bleeding disorders. Since its inception, 76 scientists have been funded for 1-2 year studies, which have produced tremendous insights into our understanding of hemophilia and other coagulation disorders. Over the past decades, the projects of JGP fellows have played a role in the development of better concentrates, improved methods of carrier testing and laid important building blocks to a more detailed understanding of the use of gene therapy for hemophilia. 

Funding for NHF’s Research Grant Programs is based on contributions made by individuals, foundations, corporations, hemophilia organizations and chapters.  NHF isextremely grateful to the Nicholas Cirelli Family Research Fund and Hemophilia of Georgia for their support of these JGP awards. 

Additional funding was also provided by the following major supporters: Colburn-Keenan Foundation; Dale Smith Memorial Fund; Florida Hemophilia Association; Goerlich Family Foundation, Inc.; Hemophilia Association of the Capital Area; Hemophilia Foundation of Greater Florida; Pillow Family Research Fund; The Bernice Heffernan Family Foundation; Virginia Hemophilia Foundation; and Western Pennsylvania Chapter of NHF.

To learn more about the JGP Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Award.

To make a donation in support of NHF's Research Programs, please click here.