SMDP Biotech 2021 -

Page created by Michael Herrera
SMDP Biotech 2021 -
                       14-15 June
SMDP Biotech 2021 -
2021 SMDP Biotech Scholars
                      Jeffrey Aceves, Harvard Medical School
                      Jeffrey Aceves is a rising third year student in the Bioengineering PhD program at Harvard University. His
                      research focuses on the development of in-vitro 3D vascularized proximal tubule models for personalized drug
                      screening and disease modeling, as well as using kidney organoids to generate scalable, vascularized tissues.
                      He hopes that this work will be used in the future to improve the lives of patients with kidney failure.

Jeffrey graduated with honors from the University of California, Merced with his Bachelor of Science degree in Bioengineering.
During his undergraduate experience, Jeff was able to work in labs across the country and publish two scientific papers on his work.
Jeff recently earned his Master of Science degree in Engineering Sciences from Harvard University in 2021. When he’s not in lab, Jeff
enjoys listening to music, playing tennis, and competitive gaming.

                      David Aguilar, PhD, Harvard Medical School
                      David D. Aguilar, PhD is a postdoctoral researcher at the VA Boston Healthcare System and Harvard Medical
                      School. His academic and scientific background is in neuroscience, with a strong focus on mental disorders
                      including schizophrenia. During his academic career he has published many impactful manuscripts, presented
                      at national and international conferences, earned travel awards, and been awarded a predoctoral fellowship
by the National Institute of Mental Health. David’s preclinical skills include in vivo electrophysiology, rodent behavior & cognition,
fluorescence microscopy & immunohistochemistry, MATLAB programming, and polysomnography.

David is inspired daily by his wife, daughter, and corgi. In his free time, David likes to play guitar, paint, and watch or discuss bad

                      Nana Agyemang, CUNY Graduate Center
                      Nana B. Agyemang was born and raised in Ghana until he migrated to the United States along with his senior
                      brother to join his mother in New York. As a high school student, he enjoyed science and really excelled in his
                      chemistry class leading him to take advanced placement chemistry as part of his courses.

                     In college, Nana didn’t hesitate to major in chemistry and took on undergraduate research with Kathlyn Parker
at Stonybrook University. He took classes toward an M.S. degree and later had the opportunity to work at Pall Corporation,
(currently under the parent company Danaher) in Port Washington, New York. After a year and a half at Pall, he decided to enroll at
CUNY Graduate Center of New York as a doctoral student in Organic Chemistry. He is currently studying stereoselective cross-
coupling reactions on densely functionalized troponoids.

                      Kirsten Allen, Rutgers University
                       Kirsten Allen, born and raised in the Metro Atlanta area, is currently a 3rd-year Ph.D. Candidate at Rutgers
                       University-New Brunswick pursuing her doctoral studies in Plant Biology with a concentration in Natural
                       Products and Human Health. Her research goals are to use gene editing approaches to improve essential oil
                       production in catnip (Nepeta cataria) along with abiotic and biotic elicitation technologies. She pursued her
                       Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Georgia along with a minor in Plant Biology
and a Certificate in International Agriculture. There she engaged in research within five different laboratories and ultimately
discovered her passion for investigating plant natural products and their biologically active secondary metabolites.

During her undergraduate career she was a Peach State LSAMP (Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation) Scholar and TRIO
Ronald E. McNair Scholar. Through LSAMP she also served on the executive board coordinating programs and events for student
development in STEM. She continues to be a diversity advocate on the Rutgers campus and serves as the graduate student
representative for the Plant Biology Department Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. She also volunteers as a graduate
school recruiter engaging undergraduate students at conferences and symposiums to promote the School of Graduate Studies.

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SMDP Biotech 2021 -
Jaylene Alvarez, University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus
                    Jaylene M. Álvarez is from Puerto Rico. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from the University of
                    Puerto Rico - Humacao Campus and is currently pursuing a Ph. D. in Pharmacology at the University of Puerto
                    Rico - Medical Sciences Campus. Her research is focused on drugs that can reduce insulin resistance as a
                    comorbidity of HIV. Her career goal is to pursue a post-doctoral degree in the Pharmaceutical industry and as a
pharmacologist, search for cures and treatments to improve the quality life for patients around the world.

As a leader she developed an initiative called "Science and Heels". Its objective is to seek the equitable participation of girls and
women in STEM. Through this project, she has impacted over 500 girls in Puerto Rico offering webinars about different science
fields, program opportunities, general science information, COVID-19 related information, role models "science queens", and more.
Right now, she is developing a summer camp for girls interested in science. Also, as a graduate student she has been involved in
graduate student associations and has served as co-founder of the Graduate Women in Science - Puerto Rico Chapter, Graduate
Student Association Vice President, Student Representative of biomedical sciences, and Strategic Planning Committee Member. In
her free time, Jaylene enjoys dancing, going to the beach, and watching T.V. series.

                     Brandon Applewhite, University of Miami
                     Brandon Applewhite is a first generation American, born to parents from Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago. He
                     was born and grew up primarily in Huntsville, Alabama, a tech town in its own respect, before moving to
                     Florida for high school. Brandon obtained his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering with a minor in
                     biomedical engineering from the University of South Florida where he was also a member of the Honors
                     College. Brandon is currently in the third year of his doctoral program in biomedical engineering at the
                     University of Miami.

Brandon has always been fascinated with biomedicine, which he attributes to observing his mother who worked as a nurse during
his childhood while studying to become a nurse practitioner. While he originally planned to become a doctor, his penchant for
innovation led him to engineering. Brandon’s research resides at the interface of regenerative medicine, uniting biomaterial design,
tissue engineering, and drug delivery. Specifically, he is developing a biomaterial treatment to prevent arteriovenous fistula surgical
failure. Upon obtaining his PhD, Brandon’s ultimate career goal is to be a pioneer in regenerative medicine, overseeing the
translation of fundamental science to globally accessible, ethical treatments for society’s many unsolved medical needs.

                     Jade Avery, Morehouse School of Medicine
                     Jade Avery earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of West Georgia. She is now a second
                     year Biomedical Sciences PhD candidate at Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM), where Jade is investigating
                     the underlying mechanisms of obesity-induced mitochondrial dysfunction in the pathogenesis of vascular

After graduate school, Jade plans to ensure the safety and efficacy of drug development and drug administration by working in
clinical science and/or regulatory affairs in the biotech industry. Her long-term career objective is to oversee the advancement of
biomedical sciences into novel therapeutic interventions for human health, and specifically health conditions that disproportionally
affect minority populations. Further, she plans to pay it forward through mentorship, educational and community-based programs,
and patient advocacy. Jade is also actively involved in MSM serving as a graduate biochemistry and human biology tutor, 2020-2021
Ph.D. Student Curriculum Committee Representative and 2019-2020 Graduate Education Biomedical Sciences Student Association
(GEBS-SA) Parliamentarian.

                     Jasmine Baker PhD, Baylor College of Medicine
                       Jasmine Baker, PhD is a self-motivated scientist who loves strategizing, problem solving, and contributing to
                       science by combining computational and translational research techniques. Jasmine is currently a postdoctoral
                       fellow at Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital. Her current research focuses on genetic
                       variants, pathways and their functional impact on stroke risk in sickle cell disease. She earned her Bachelor and
                       Master of Science at Louisiana Tech University in 2011 and 2013 respectively. In 2018, she earned her PhD at
Louisiana State University. Her PhD research focused on comparative genomics and phylogenetics of primates. She has published
first author publications and has presented research orally and through posters on a local and national level. Jasmine has also
received scholarships and travel awards throughout her career. She currently lives in Houston, Texas. In her free time, Jasmine loves
to garden.

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Wayne Barnaby, University of Massachusetts Amherst
                     Wayne Barnaby is currently attending the University of Massachusetts Amherst as a Ph.D. candidate in
                     Neuroscience and Behavior. Specifically, he has been working to uncover the underlying mechanisms of
                     GABAergic signaling in locomotor behavior using genomic engineering in zebrafish and testing their locomotor
                     behavior at well characterized stages. He’s identified CRISPR targets and generated short guide-RNAs (sgRNAs)
                     for over 20 different genetic sites. He has also been able to knock down over 32 different lines and have
characterized and compared their locomotor patterns. Some results have led to production of clean and stable homogenic
mutations. Using techniques like fluorescent PCR and sanger sequencing he was able to confirm that these are frameshift mutations
leading to premature stop codons. Now he’s currently using RT-qPCR and recombinant plasmids to identify post transcriptional
mechanisms that may contribute to pathologies.

Wayne is a first-generation American and a first-generation graduate student. After completing his PhD he hopes to use hands on
laboratory techniques to help push the discovery and development of life-saving medicines targeting both well-known and less
common disease pathways. With a great deal of leadership and diversity advocacy work already under his belt, Wayne also hopes to
advance within a company and eventually help guide it’s trajectory into the future.

                     Salvador Bernardino, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
                   Salvador Bernardino was born and raised in Stockton, California. As a first-generation student, he attended San
                   Joaquin Delta Community College (SJDC) before transferring to the University of California, Davis (UCD). At
                   UCD Salvador researched the synthesis of conjugated polymers through transition metal catalysis until
                   receiving his B.S. degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry. Salvador is currently a PhD candidate in Chemistry at
                   the University of California, Los Angeles. His research involves the synthesis and characterization of novel
peptidomimetic macrocycles from native peptide residues and synthetic scaffolds.

Since the beginning of his academic career, Salvador has been involved in various outreach and mentorship programs. This includes
leading chemistry “magic” shows through demonstrations at local schools and community events to inspiring the youth towards
STEM. Salvador attributes much of his success and interest in science/research to mentors that have provided invaluable advice and
guidance. Paying it forward, Salvador provides mentorship to other students following the STEM path and expects to continue doing
so in the future.

                     Carlos Brambila, University of Texas Southwestern Center
                     Carlos Brambila was born and raised in San Diego, California where he was born of first-generation Mexican-
                     American immigrants. Carlos was also the first person in his family to graduate from college from San Diego
                     State University earning a Bachelor’s in Science in Biology with an emphasis in Bioengineering. During his
                     undergrad studies, he was first exposed to several research opportunities that paved the way of his career in
                     science and engineering. Of these experiences, the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development-Minority
Biomedical Research Support (IMSD-MBRS) program, which allowed students to conduct research, attend seminars, and travel to
conferences for the purpose of preparing them for graduate school, was the primary source of support and guidance.

Upon graduating, Carlos deferred his admission to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW) Biomedical
Engineering program for a year in order to experience the biotech industry, as that is where he wanted to direct his career after
graduate school. He joined Inovio Pharmaceuticals as a Bioengineering Research Associate from 2016-2017 and thoroughly enjoyed
his time at the company. Carlos began his PhD at UTSW in the summer of 2017 and is now in his fourth year of the program.
His research focuses on delivering drug loaded low density lipoproteins to the brain using focused ultrasound. As extracurriculars
from graduate school, Carlos has participated in leadership positions in the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native
Americans in Science and in the Biomedical Engineering Society chapters at his university. He enjoys presenting his research at
conferences which inspired him to follow the path of a medical science liaison. However, with the mentorship provided by SMDP,
Carlos hopes to also learn about other positions and roles in the biotech industry similar to science liaisons.

                     Derek Bratcher, Louisiana State University
                      Derek Bratcher is a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at
                      Louisiana State University- LSU. Derek’s research is centered on the functional characterization of the
                      bacterial enzyme Validoxylamine A 7-Phosphate synthase (VA7P). VA7P catalyzes a unique C-N bond formation
                      while conserving the stereochemistry of the chiral carbon. The resolution of VA7P has far reaching
                      implications. VA7P is one of nine enzymes currently known to yield αglycosidase inhibitors, one of which has
been industrialized to give way to a prescribed anti-diabetic drug (Precose). Through crystallographic analysis, Derek aims to reveal
more information about the unique internal return mechanism of VA7P and subsequently determine the key traits of this emerging

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subclass of enzymes. Derek is also working to expand his skillset in structural biology by gaining experience with Cryo Electron
Microscopy; he plans to pursue a future in the structural biology of infectious diseases. While attending Xavier University of
Louisiana, Derek earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry. Prior to attending LSU, Derek cross-trained with immunologists
while working as a research assistant at the United States Army Medical Research of Infectious Diseases and the Naval Medical
Research Center for the National Institutes of Health. After completing graduate school, Derek plans to apply his knowledge of
immunology and structural biology in the biotechnology sector to help advance therapies for infectious diseases. When Derek is not
in the lab, he enjoys reading science fiction and playing billiards with family and friends.

                     Alexis Carey, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
                     Alexis E. Carey is a 2nd year graduate student in the Cellular and Molecular Medicine program at Johns
                     Hopkins University School of Medicine. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Biology from Clark Atlanta
                     University in 2018. She then participated in an NIH postbaccalaureate research program (PREP) at the Medical
                     University of South Carolina.

Alexis is interested in the interface between aging, chronic inflammation, and overall immune function. During her time in graduate
school, she plans to investigate the role of age-related changes to the bone marrow play in progression of melanoma. In her spare
time Alexis enjoys science twitter, movie watching, as well as mentoring students interested in STEM.

                     Christian Cazares, University of California, San Diego
                      An immigrant from Mexico, Christian received his B.A. in Cognitive Science at UC Berkeley funded by the Gates
                      Millennium Scholarship. He spent the following two years doing post-baccalaureate research as a member of
                      the PennPREP program at the University of Pennsylvania. Christian is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the UC San
                      Diego Neurosciences Graduate Program. During this time, he was awarded the NSF-GRFP, the NIH Blueprint
                      DSPAN, and became a SfN Neuroscience Scholars Program fellow. With the use of in-vivo calcium imaging and
extracellular recording techniques, Christian’s research focuses on how alcohol dependence disrupts the orbitofrontal cortical
circuitry supporting decision-making processes. When not in the lab, Christian skateboards and runs a graduate organization (Colors
of the Brain) which he co-founded to mentor underrepresented undergraduate students interested in applying to STEM graduate

                     Andre Chavez, Stonybrook University
                     Andre Chavez was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador. His family emigrated to the United States 6 months after
                     Andre’s birth and has resided in the Bronx, New York ever since. He was raised by his aunt and grandparents.
                     Despite Andre’s family's highest education level being high school, they instilled the value of schooling into
                     Andre from a young age. His family emphasized that a higher quality of life can be obtained by pursuing higher

During high school, Andre developed an interest in the life sciences such as biology. He participated in various extracurricular
activities after school and one program allowed him to visit New York University and learn about the various human systems from
medical students. Another activity at the same university allowed Andre to shadow various health care professionals. After
graduating from high school, Andre went on to attend St. Lawrence University on a full ride scholarship through the Higher
Educational Opportunity Program. Being first in his family to attend university, it was a struggle for Andre to study, balance
coursework and extra curriculars. Despite those challenges, he sought to improve himself. Through a chance encounter with a
professor in the biology department, Andre learned about academic research. He participated in research activities and studied
abroad in Kenya. While in Kenya, he worked at the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH). It was there that he
was propelled to learn about cancer after spending time in the oncology unit. Upon obtaining a Bachelors of Science in Biology
Andre went to work as a research technician in a cancer lab at The Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences. Four years
later, he was accepted to Stony Brook’s Molecular and Pharmacology PhD Program where he is currently in his first year. One of
Andre’s career goals is to work in pharmaceutical research and assist in the development of a product that benefits the population.
Andre spends his free time with friends and family or exploring NYC.

                     Ashley Christensen, Vanderbilt University
                     Ashley is a 5th year PhD candidate at Vanderbilt University, where she is studying strategies to improve beta
                     cell proliferation and survival in order to treat diabetes. She conducted her undergraduate studies at Cornell
                     University and participated in a post-baccalaureate program at Wake Forest University.

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Alberto Cintron-Colon, Western Michigan University
                      Alberto Cintrón-Colón, originally from Caguas, Puerto Rico, is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate focusing on
                      neurobiology and physiology in the Department of Biological Sciences at Western Michigan University (WMU).
                      He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey and a Master of
                      Science degree in Biological Sciences from WMU. During his undergraduate career, he completed two
                      Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs at Western Michigan University and Rutgers New
Jersey Medical School. Before pursuing a Ph.D., Alberto was a high school science teacher at Thomas Alva Edison School in Caguas,
Puerto Rico, teaching biology, chemistry, physics, and environmental sciences. Alberto's current research is understanding what
processes are essential for neurotrophic factor expression. More specifically, how do sedentary aging and exercise impact the
production of neurotrophic factors and maintenance of the nervous and muscle tissue?

Additionally, Cintrón-Colón is completing an internship as a Cell Biologist at Zoetis in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Alberto is a Yale Ciencia
Academy Alumni (2020) and developed an ongoing podcast titled "En Arroz y Habichuelas," explaining hot topics in science and
medicine in a digestible and easy-to-understand fashion for the general public and interviewing scientists in different stages of their
careers. Alberto enjoys cooking, exercising, music, coffee, painting, and doing outreach activities outside of academia.

                      Kehinde Cole, Stony Brook University
                    Kehinde Cole is a 4th year PhD candidate in the Integrative Neuroscience program at Stony Brook University,
                    New York. Her work focuses on understanding the neural mechanisms that underlie how prior experience can
                    alter and shape subsequent memories in animal models. Using techniques such as chemogenetics and
                    projection targeted activity mapping, she is able to delineate the cross talk between specific brain areas during
                    behavioral conditioning. The information gathered from her work has implications in the origins of fear-based
disorders and may open up opportunities for their treatment.

                     Elena Cortes, University of Chicago
                    Elena Cortes is a third-year PhD Candidate in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics program at the
                    University of Chicago. Here, she researches how to use neuronal receptors as biologics for neuropsychiatric
                    disorders. She graduated from a small liberal arts school, Calumet College of Saint Joseph, where she received
                    a Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Sciences. After her undergraduate career, she did a one-year post-
                    baccalaureate position at the University of Pennsylvania where she engineered proteins to combat
neurodegenerative diseases.
Being born in South Chicago to immigrant Mexican parents, Elena is passionate about being involved in her local community. She
does so by serving as the University of Chicago’s SACNAS Chapter Vice President, where she focuses on outreach activities geared to
expose high school students of color to STEM fields. She also taught an entry-level biochemistry course to Mexican undergraduates
through Clubes de Ciencia (Science Clubs), a program intended to offer educational opportunities to students in Latin-American
countries. Upon graduation, Elena plans to pursue an industry career and mentor students with underrepresented backgrounds.

                     Dallece Curley, Brown University
                    Dallece Elena Curley is a rising third year Neuroscience PhD student at Brown University. She has extensive and
                    varied research experiences that have well prepared her for a career in scientific exploration and discovery. In
                    her undergraduate research at Virginia Tech, she focused primarily on neurobiological mechanisms underlying
                    traumatic brain injury. During her post baccalaureate experience at the Mayo Clinic, she investigated spinal
                    cord injury and regenerative therapies. Currently, in her doctoral studies, she is undertaking thesis work
focusing on pharmacotherapies to treat alcohol use disorder and elucidating mechanistic pathways of drug interventions within
randomized controlled trials.

                     Kevin Darko, University of Tennessee College of Pharmacy
                    Kevin Darko has had a diverse upbringing. Born in Newark, New Jersey, he is acquainted with the sports
                    fanaticism of the Northeastern region of the United States. He loves to stay active in the gym and is a big Los
                    Angeles Lakers basketball fan. Raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Kevin has delighted in the cuisine, music, and arts of
                    the South. His parents are immigrants from Ghana, West Africa and currently reside in Maryland where Kevin
                    graduated from Bowie State University with a bachelor’s degree in Biology in Spring 2018. He is currently a
fourth-year pharmacy student at the University of Tennessee College of Pharmacy (UTCOP) where he received his bachelor’s in
Pharmaceutical Science and will graduate with a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) in May 2022. Upon graduating from pharmacy

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school Kevin aims to start a career in the pharmaceutical industry where he plans to apply his pharmacy experience and knowledge
to enhance patient care and become an innovative leader in the industry.

Throughout his pharmacy school career, Kevin has been heavily involved on campus. Holding numerous leadership positions such as
UTCOP student ambassador, UTCOP Equity, Inclusivity & Diversity Advisory Board member, and Legislative & Membership Chair of
the Student National Pharmaceutical Association. Outside of academics Kevin is very business-minded and looks to start his own
company one day. He is currently working on a start-up to change the way people approach achieving their goals by adding a social
media element to the process. He looks to further develop both his leadership ability and knowledge of the biotech space as an
SMDP Scholar to help him navigate the market as he prepares to graduate in May 2022.

                      David de la Cerda, Wake Forest University School of Medicine
                       David A. de la Cerda grew up in Arlington, Texas and is the first in his family to pursue a doctoral degree. He is
                       currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Genomics at Wake Forest School of
                       Medicine. He obtained his BS in Biology at the University of North Texas and later received his MPH with a
                       specialization in Biostatistics and Epidemiology from Washington University in St. Louis. His research interests
                       are currently in population genetics and statistical modelling. He is specifically interested in statistical
innovations that will increase our biological understanding of complex disease processes and improve human health, especially in
historically marginalized populations.

His dissertation research implements a new method that can detect fine-scale changes in gene expression of fission yeast. He hopes
to use his training in public health, biostatistics, and molecular genetics to continue to work on a variety of research projects that
use genomic, transcriptomic, or population-level data. He believes that he can use his bioinformatic and statistical skillset to
contribute to the field of science and ultimately advance our understanding of biology and improve population health. In his free
time, David enjoys listening to true crime podcasts and long car trips to unfamiliar places throughout the US

                      Halima Diawara, Syracuse University
                     Halima Diawara is a Syracuse University graduate student. She lives in New Jersey with her 7 sisters and 4
                     brothers. Her experience in an underdeveloped country helped her understand the needs of underserved
                     populations. Growing up, she witnessed a great deal of diseases and reliance on traditional healing methods.
                     This included people using herbs and prayers due to a lack of access to doctors, hospitals and medicine, or
                     transport to reach medical facilities. Tragic memories of her mother’s near-death experience with a poisonous
snake bite confirmed in her young mind the necessity of using biotechnology to combat disease, not centuries-old traditional
methods. As a division 1 track athlete, she has also learned to accept that rewards only come as a consequence of hard work and
determination. Her dream is to be part of an investigative team that will lead to finding not only palliative solutions for those in pain
from genetic diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and those with disabilities like Down Syndrome, but also permanent cures for the current
world pandemic, COVID-19.

                      Kasandra Diaz, Iowa State University
                     Kasandra Diaz’s interest in science dates back to her childhood but it was June 2015 when she realized she
                     wanted to become a neuroscientist. At 18 years of age, her older brother suffered from a stroke that damaged
                     35 percent of his left hemisphere resulting in motor deficits and diminished brain function. After seeing the
                     confounding effects of such insult on the brain, she was compelled to pursue a career in research in the field of
                     neurodegenerative diseases. Her long-term career goal was, and is, to become a lead research scientist
focused on neuroinflammation and neurodegenerative therapies. Her main focus is to understand the underlying mechanisms
leading to degenerative disorders, and the role that peripheral inflammation and aging play. As an undergraduate at New Paltz State
University of New York, she studied cognitive psychology and pursued lab opportunities that helped her understand how
neurodegeneration can affect an individual’s motor and cognitive behavior.

Upon completing her BA in psychology, Kasandra was accepted into a post-undergrad research position at the University of Chicago.
Her project focused on the development of a mammalian neonatal brain injury model resembling characteristics of white matter
damage in infants. This work further confirmed her passion for conducting research within the neuroscience field. Moving into the
Ph.D. program in neuroscience at Iowa State University, her goal was to focus on brain insults and the association with behavior
impairment. However, after joining a Neurophysiology Lab, and assisting with a project that aimed at delineating the role of
inflammation in Parkinson’s disease (PD), her research interests shifted to examining the connections between peripheral
inflammation, Parkinson’s disease, antiparkinsonian medication, and motor impairment. Thus, the primary purpose of her
dissertation work is to determine the role of antiparkinsonian medication and peripheral inflammation in the progression of PD
specific motor symptoms, using a multidisciplinary approach of behavioral and molecular neuroscience. Successfully establishing
these connections will contribute to the identification of novel inflammatory targets to aid in the development of new therapies to
improve quality of life of persons with PD.

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Amanda Marie Diaz Garcia, Universidad Central del Caribe
                      Amanda Díaz-García was born and raised with her twin sister in Puerto Rico by her Mexican dad and Puerto
                      Rican mom. Since she was a child, Amanda has been motivated to help those suffering from severe illnesses by
                      developing innovative drugs or therapies. With this idea in mind, she pursued a bachelor’s degree in
                      Biotechnology at Universidad del Sagrado Corazón. As an undergraduate student, Amanda had the opportunity
                      to participate in a research project focused on the Martin Peña Channel, a water body in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The research aimed to analyze the channel’s water for the detection and quantification of fecal coliform concentrations. The
channel has been plagued by garbage and pollutants leading to mosquito breeding and subjected to frequent flooding, affecting the
health of 26,000 residents in the eight surrounding communities. Her undergraduate training provided her with the skills and
knowledge needed for her chosen career and motivated her to continue graduate studies starting in 2017.
Amanda is currently enrolled as a four-year graduate student at Universidad Central del Caribe specializing in Cellular and Molecular
Biology and aiming to graduate in 2023. At her laboratory in Retinal Physiology, she discovered retinal physiological changes in rat
eyes after HIV-Tat treatment. Her thesis work focuses on understanding the effect of HIV on the blood-retinal-barrier function to
elucidate the mechanism and potential attenuators for developing new therapies to preserve HIV patients’ visual health.
Additionally, Amanda collaborates with doctors and colleagues to detect the accumulation of Amyloid-beta in human glioma
samples and mice models of glioma by contributing to the tissue’s immunofluorescence analysis. Alongside her doctoral studies,
Amanda is currently working as a laboratory assistant in a clinical laboratory to extract COVID-19 RT-PCR tests and analyze and
report results. Aside from her educational and work responsibilities, Amanda enjoys spending time with her family, watching
movies, exercising, and going to church on Sundays. She currently lives in Puerto Rico with her parents.

                     Matthew Dominguez, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
                     Matthew Dominguez is from Las Cruces, NM. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry and a
                     Master of Science degree in chemistry from Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU). Matthew is currently a
                     Ph.D. candidate in the department of Cell Physiology and Molecular Biophysics at Texas Tech University Health
                     Sciences Center (TTUHSC). His dissertation research is focused on understanding the structure and function of
                     the dysferlin protein and its implications in Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy type 2B (LGMD-2B) and Miyoshi
Myopathy (MM). Matthew’s future research ambitions are to utilize structural biology to understand protein complex formation
and to discover therapeutics to rescue disease-causing mutations. Ultimately, Matthew would like to establish his own laboratory
as an independent scientist in an industry or academic setting.

                     Zerick Dunbar, Meharry Medical College
                     Born and raised in Sicily Island, Louisiana, Zerick Dunbar (he/him/his) has been instilled with a strong
                     character, work ethic, and ability to learn quickly. He has a passion for identifying and assessing problems,
                     leveraging resources, and implementing solutions. As an alumnus of Tulane University in New Orleans with
                     training in biomedical engineering, Zerick was first formally introduced to biomedical research through
                     multiple projects including an undergraduate thesis project on sickle cell adhesion. Zerick has a unique
background of diverse credentials that include various research and entrepreneurial experiences; experiences within teaching,
technical, and customer service positions; and experiences interfacing within teams and with external customers.
Currently Zerick is a fourth year biomedical sciences PhD candidate studying immunology at Meharry Medical College in Nashville,
Tennessee. Specifically, he works to study the functional heterogeneity of natural killer cells in solid tumors. Since enrolling at
Meharry, Zerick has continually sought out opportunities to gain and refine skills applicable to a career within biomedical research
and development. Outside of biomedical science, he has continued to be involved in community projects as well. For example, in
2019 Zerick founded Carr Choice Properties LLC, a company working to provide solutions for residential and commercial real estate
development in his hometown. Overall, he looks forward to utilizing his education, acquired skills, and networks to tackle challenges
and positively impact underrepresented communities like his own. In his spare time, Zerick enjoys cooking and eating, traveling, and
spending time with family and friends.

                     Filmon Emnetu, PharmD, Washington State University
                    Filmon Emnetu, PharmD, is a recent graduate from the Washington State University College of Pharmacy and
                    Pharmaceutical Sciences. He studied biochemistry at the University of Washington prior to entering pharmacy
                    school and graduated from his Doctor of Pharmacy program with a 4.0 GPA and a top 5 class rank. He will be
                    starting a Pediatric Acute Care PGY1 Residency at Seattle Children’s Hospital this June where he will gain
                    additional clinical experience in pediatric oncology, critical care, and solid organ transplant
pharmacotherapies. He has participated in several research projects with a primary focus of improving hospital and pharmacy
benefit manager protocols in addition to projects aimed at increasing underserved patient access to medications.

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Filmon also has a deep passion for community service. His volunteer experiences include COVID-19 testing at vaccinations sites,
adult family homes, public hospitals and much more. His hobbies include hiking with his dog, playing sports with friends, day trading
stocks, and reading scientific journals. He is interested in pursuing an industry career within regulatory affairs, pharmacovigilance, or
medical affairs but is also open to other functional areas as he becomes more familiar with industry as an SMDP scholar.

                     Safia Essien, UT Health MD Anderson Graduate School of Biomedical
                      Safia Essien was born in South Africa and immigrated to the United States at the age of 11. Since childhood,
                      she has had an avid interest in science and problem-solving. Safia’s passion for science drove her to major in
                      Biotechnology at the University of Houston and pursue her PhD at UTHeath MD Anderson Graduate School as
part of the Genetics and Epigenetics program. In 2018, Safia joined the Eisenhoffer lab to understand how tissues respond to
damage. Safia’s current research utilizes zebrafish to study cell death in epithelial stem cells, and how neighboring cells react. Her
research relies heavily on using high-resolution microscopy to catch dynamic cell events in real-time.

Outside of the laboratory, Safia is the President of First-Generation student group, and she is the media relations coordinator for the
Student Network on Extracellular Vesicles (SNEV). Safia’s passion for making a difference in her community has driven her to help
organize science nights for elementary students, summer camps for high school students, and lab tours for students to understand
what it’s like to work in a lab environment. In her spare time, Safia enjoys speculative fiction, documentaries, and science fiction

                      Reginald Evans, University of Michigan
                       As a first generational college student, raised by a single mother, Reginald found his purpose and passion to
                       improve public welfare. Driven by his passion and the desire to be a role model for the black community he
                       chose to pursue a PhD in chemical engineering (ChE) at University of Michigan. He holds a Master degree in
                       ChE at the University of Michigan, and a bachelor’s degree in ChE from the University of California, Riverside.
                       He is a PhD Candidate, investigating how to improve efficacy of Antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) in cancer
systems. Specifically, he researches how adjusting physiochemical properties of ADC and high avidity, low affinity antibodies change
drug distribution in different cancer types, using mechanistic simulations. His findings have led to better understanding on how to
engineer optimal physiochemical properties for improved efficacy of ADCs in poorly expressed cancer systems. These findings have
led to a publication (in prep) as well as provided the foundation for 2 more publications. When not in the lab, Reginald is a chief
proponent of mentorship, being involved in multiple mentorship programs and pioneering a graduate student vlogging series at the
University of Michigan. Reggie’s dedication to mentorship and research resulted in multiple awards and fellowships, including the
Rackham Merit Fellowship, and a Ford Foundation Fellowship honorable mention. Reggie is a lifetime learner who is inquisitive and
excited about the various areas in biotechnology.

                      Mary Figueroa, MD Anderson Cancer Center
                      Mary Figueroa earned her bachelor’s degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) from the University of
                      Arizona. Mary’s passion for translational cancer research began during her undergraduate research
                      experience. She earned a two-year NIH-T34 fellowship that enabled her to dedicate her time to conducting
                      biomedical research. She went on to be awarded the Outstanding Undergraduate Research award for the MCB

Mary is currently a 5th year PhD candidate in the program of Therapeutics and Pharmacology at UT MD Anderson Cancer Center
UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Her research focuses on understanding the impact of modifiable health
behaviors on acute leukemia progression and treatment response. Mary has held multiple leadership positions in student led groups
in her graduate school and program. She hopes to combine her translational scientific knowledge and leadership skills in a career
outside of academia after graduating.

                      Kafi Friday, Campbell University
                    Kafi Friday was born and raised on the island of Trinidad and Tobago. She attended Brooklyn College and
                    earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry. During her time at Brooklyn College, she was introduced to
                    research through the NIGMS Research Initiative Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program and in her junior year
                    she was inducted into the NIGMS Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) program. In her undergraduate
                    years, she had the opportunity to participate in numerous prestigious research opportunities and has
presented them at various conferences.

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Currently, Kafi is pursuing her Doctor of Pharmacy at Campbell University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. She serves as a
Student Ambassador, tutor, class chaplain, and the social/professional chair for the Kappa Epsilon fraternity on her campus. She
recently completed a research project, calibrating cost-effective capsule machines in the hopes that pharmacies, health care centers
and patients around the world may receive affordable medications and have access to more effective medications. Also, she has
been selected to participate in the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) 2021 Summer Research Exchange Program.
Her project this summer is studying health outcomes (economic, clinical and humanistic) in chronic diseases using the secondary
databases, NHANES and MEPS. Kafi wishes to pursue a Masters in Global Public Health soon and gain valuable industry experience.

                      Sonia Garcia, University of Maryland Baltimore
                       Sonia A. Garcia was raised in Silver Spring, Maryland and graduated from Trinity Washington University in
                       Washington, D.C. with her Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biology. She is currently a PhD. Candidate at the
                       University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) in Baltimore Maryland in the Molecular Medicine Graduate Program
                       with a Cancer Biology focus. Her current thesis work focuses on understanding how retinoic-nuclear-receptor-
                       gama exherts its anti-tumor action on osteochondromas in human osteochondromas explants and in mice. In
addition, Sonia serves as a secretary for the Student Advisory Committee at UMB and is a Career Navigator Mentor for UMB’s CURE
team, in which she mentors Baltimore’s high school students with their scientific careers. Sonia’s goal is to continue to become an
expert of her field. She is excited to acquire new skills sets and her goal is to be able to apply her knowledge in an industry setting.

                      Jennifer Garcia Rodriguez, Purdue University
                       Jennifer attended the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao and completed a B.S in Industrial Chemistry with
                       magna cum laude honors. During her undergrad she worked on developing asymmetric synthetic
                       methodologies using organic boron compounds as chirality transfer agents for the preparation of important
                       chiral drugs. While working in this lab, she was also selected to be one of three students for the Minority
                       Access to Research Careers (MARC) program and participated in a summer research program at Emory
University, where she studied how RNase I regulates E. coli 2’,3’-cyclic nucleotide monophosphates levels and biofilm formation
and, synthesized a library of ellagic acid glycosides to study their antibiofilm activity. In the Summer of 2016, she worked at Purdue
University and became fascinated with mussel-inspired adhesives chemistry. After finishing her bachelor’s degree, she worked as a
lab technician in her undergraduate institution for a year and then enrolled as a graduate student at Purdue University. She is
currently working on developing a biomimetic polymer system with varied levels of cationic groups to determine the effects upon
surface bonding as a function of cationic content. During her time at Purdue University, she has participated in different leadership
opportunities like the Chemistry Diversity Team and the Graduate Student Advisory Board.

                      Olivia Geneus, State University New York at Buffalo
                      Olivia Geneus is a Ph.D. Candidate in Physical Chemistry and an Arthur A. Schomburg Fellow at State University
                      of New York, Buffalo. Her research focuses on using Nanotechnology for biological applications. Specifically,
                      she is developing a Nanoformulation suitable for targeted cancer therapy for hypoxic regions of Glioblastoma
                      multiform (GBM). She holds a dual Bachelor of Science degree in Physics, and in Public Health from the
                      University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Olivia is also passionate about helping underrepresented high school and undergraduate students transition into their
undergraduate and graduate academic careers. As a STEM diversity advocate, her goal is to reduce the cold climate that
marginalized groups constantly face in scientific fields. Olivia has founded and is a part of multiple sustainable institutional
organizations that focus on further supporting Black scientists. Olivia is the co-founder of Black in Nanotechnology initiative, the first
non-profit organization for Black scientists in nanotechnology and related fields. This initiative is meant to highlight and support
both the contributions of Black scientists and the barriers they constantly face within the field of nanotechnology. As a graduate
student, Olivia co-founded the Graduate Student of Color (GSC) graduate club; a sustainable institutional organization that supports
graduate students of color throughout their academic and professional career. Furthermore, Olivia is an ambassador and a member
of the planning council for STEMNoire; a research conference and holistic wellness retreat for Black Women in STEM. Olivia is from
Boston, MA. She appreciates the outdoors, nature, fitness training, dancing, and photography.

                      Jasmine George, Morehouse School of Medicine
                      Jasmine George is a native of Virginia Beach, Virginia, and is currently a 5th year Ph.D. candidate and RISE
                      fellow at Morehouse School of Medicine. Her research project primarily focuses on mechanisms of renal lipid
                      metabolism and lipotoxicity in obese and type 2 diabetic mice that contribute to kidney disease pathology. She
                      attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, where she received her Bachelor of
                      Science in Biology. She developed her passion for research at A&T University by completing a senior thesis in

                                    SMDP Biotech Training Session, June 14-15, 2021                                             page 9
meprin-b associated degradation of tight junction proteins in kidney cells subjected to hypoxia. She then received her Master of
Science in Biomedical Science at Morehouse School of Medicine, where she completed a thesis on the relationship of MMP-9 and
podocyte loss in diabetic glomerulopathy. This thesis work included clinical studies on MMP-9 as a non-invasive biomarker for
kidney disease in underserved populations. She also served within quality control for Noramco, Inc. In addition, she used analytical
chemistry techniques to test the purity, stability, and chemical content of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients in an FDA and DEA-
controlled laboratory.
Outside of academia, Jasmine is actively involved in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for National Science Policy Network, where she
serves on the DEI committee. She is the co-founder and co-coordinator of the HBCU Science Policy College Tour, which aims to
increase minority access to science policy and communication resources. Jasmine also serves as the founder and president of
Morehouse School of Medicine's Health and Science Policy Group. In addition, she collaborates with both institutional and external
non-profit organizations to create an interdisciplinary community of future health policy leaders and science communicators at
MSM. Her career aspirations are to continue ensuring that biomedical research is accessible and equitable to disenfranchised
communities, as well as pursuing opportunities in the biotechnology field.

                      Kristal Gant, University of Wisconsin-Madison
                    Kristal Gant earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology with a Chemistry minor from Elizabeth City State
                    University, a Historically Black College or University (HBCU). Following graduation, she participated in a Post-
                    Baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) funded by the National Institute of General Medical
                    Sciences (NIGMS) at the University of Missouri-Columbia. The program thoroughly prepared her for her
                    doctoral journey. Kristal is currently a PhD Candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the
Endocrinology and Reproductive Physiology Program.
Her thesis research focuses on high grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC), the advanced form of ovarian cancer, and the associated
extracellular matrix (ECM) alterations that occur in reproductive tissues. Specifically, Kristal uses Second Harmonic Generation (SHG)
Microscopy to visualize and analyze the structural changes that occur in collagen as normal Fallopian tube and ovarian tissues
transform to metastatic ovarian cancer. The goals of her work are to understand the biological significance of collagen remodeling in
malignant tissues, and to lay the foundation for the development of efficient early diagnostic imaging modalities for ovarian cancer.
Kristal’s ultimate career goal is to use her scientific and research background to assist in the implementation of policies, laws, and
treatments that will protect and improve overall reproductive health and function. Aside from research, Kristal enjoys traveling,
spending time with family and friends, cooking, and supporting other underrepresented minority STEM leaders.

                      Justinne Guarin, Tufts University
                        Justinne is a 3rd year PhD candidate in Biomedical Engineering at Tufts University. Her primary research is
                        focused on understanding protein level changes that happen in the liver after chemotherapy treatment and
                        how these changes affect the progression and spread of metastatic triple negative breast cancer. Previously,
                        Justinne earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and graduated
                        from the Honors College with Great Distinction. Her long-term goal is to become a patient-focused scientist
utilizing interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches to improve our understanding of, and approach to treated diseases. She is
the first in her family to pursue a PhD. In her spare time, Justinne enjoys staying active whether it is rock climbing, ultimate frisbee,
or swimming.

                      Stephania Guzman, Rutgers University
                      Stephania Guzman is a fourth year PhD candidate in the Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology Program at
                      Rutgers University in New Jersey. She also received her bachelor’s degree in Forensic Science from John Jay
                      College of Criminal Justice where she studied the microbiome to use bacteria in decomposing bodies to
                      determine time of death. Her current research project focuses on mechanisms involved in Non-Alcoholic Fatty
                      Liver Disease (NAFLD), the most common chronic liver disease. NAFLD has no approved pharmacotherapy, due
to incomplete understanding of its molecular mediators and compounded by its unpredictable progression to steatohepatitis
(NASH) and fibrosis. Her translational project focuses on a key factor secreted by the liver called kisspeptin, which her lab has found
controls fat accumulation in the liver and the development of NAFLD. The main goal of her study is to look at the role of kisspeptin
as a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of liver disease.
Outside of her research Stephania is also the Co-Chair of the Rutgers Graduate Student Mental Health Committee, which focuses on
promoting mental health within the graduate study body. She is also a peer mentor for the RUYES program (Rutgers Youth Enjoy
Science Program) and a mentor in the Honors College Graduate Mentor Fellows program. Before her graduate school career, she
worked as a Research Study Assistant in the Melanoma department at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Her clinical
experience has provided her with a different perspective on the application of translational medicine. As a researcher she keeps the
importance of bridging clinicians and researchers as the cornerstone of her career goals.

                                     SMDP Biotech Training Session, June 14-15, 2021                                           page 10
Cody Hernandez, University of Chicago
                      Cody Anthony Hernandez is a Mexican-American RNA Biochemist from El Paso, Texas. He was introduced to
                      RNA biology by his first research advisor, and a shoelace. She explained the process of pre-mRNA splicing to
                      him using a multi-colored shoelace that spanned the entire length of her office. After a few hours of questions
                      and interacting with the shoelace, Cody was hooked! So much so that during his junior year, Cody traveled two
                      hours to his undergraduate university and two hours back so that he could keep working with RNA. During this
time, he trained 5 undergraduates, published a paper, and received multiple awards for research and academics. Cody graduated
cum laude from the Honors College at Texas State University with a B.S. in Biochemistry and a minor in Applied Mathematics. His
senior thesis was a proposed course for teaching students how to do molecular cloning. Prior to this, he served as the lead tutor for
Biology, Math, Physics, and Chemistry at a tutoring center that received over 20,000 visits a year, he also served as president of the
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Texas State University and carried our multiple large-scale outreach
events to underserved elementary schools.
Cody is currently finishing his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago where he works on understanding the role of RNA secondary
structure on splicing. Outside the lab, Cody has co-founded two organizations, The Graduate Recruitment Initiative Team (GRIT) and
Transforming Academic Ecosystems (TAE). GRIT, a student-led, faculty-supported initiative, focuses on creating sustainable
practices for recruiting and retaining minority scientists to PhD programs. This initiative has since expanded across the country to
several other graduate programs. TAE, an international, multi-institutional collaboration, aims to change the academic ecosystem
using a real-time data-driven approach to expose vulnerabilities in support of minority students. Cody has also served as UChicago
Chapter President for the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). He and
another graduate student fundraised over $15,000 for the first ever regional Midwest SACNAS conference. Since its founding, the
conference has continued to rotate between universities and has grown in numbers and support. These efforts earned Cody the
prestigious University of Chicago Leadership Award and the HHMI Gilliam Fellowship. In short, Cody is focused and relentlessly
pursues what he believes in. Cody’s hobbies include Soccer, Golf, and reverse engineering lab equipment/reagents.

                      Valery Hernandez, University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus
                      Valery Hernandez Rodríguez has a Bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Puerto Rico, Cayey
                      campus. Currently, she is pursuing her Master’s degree at the University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences
                      campus in the field of Pharmaceutical Industry. She joined the Crystallization Design Institute in 2020 where
                      she is working on her thesis project. Also, she has been selected for two consecutive years as student chair for
                      the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) University of Puerto Rico chapter. Valery has an
interest in biotechnology which has given her the opportunity to participate in the International Academy of Automation
Engineering (IAAE) Student Council and her latest achievement where she was selected as a scholar for the 2021 Scientist Mentoring
& Diversity Program for Biotechnology (SMDP Biotech).

                     Luis Hevia, Tennessee Technological University
                     Luis Hevia was born and raised in Maracaibo, Venezuela. Due to the social and political crisis that Venezuela is
                     going through, Luis’ family decided to move to the United States looking for a better future. He attended
                     Tennessee Technological University where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering. As an
                     undergraduate, Luis participated in the Creative Inquiry Summer Experience (CISE), using computational
                     chemistry to better understand how Rosette nanotubes can be used to deliver strands of RNA into cells. The
following year, he continued his research endeavors working in a wet lab performing protein separation with the goal of better
understanding the mechanisms of arrestin-mediated signaling. Additionally, Luis was a member the Society of Hispanic Professional
Engineers (SHPE) chapter at Tennessee Tech where he served as public relations officer.
Luis is currently a PhD student in the Chemical Engineering department at Tennessee Technological University. His research focuses
on developing mathematical models to better understand tumoral microenvironment in order to develop new therapeutics to treat
cancer. He is also interested in developing new tools to diagnose and treat alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency. In the future, Luis plans to
use his scientific skills in the biotechnology industry.

                     Keino Hutchinson, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
                     Keino Hutchinson is a third year PhD candidate at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where he
                     studies computational structure-based drug discovery. Keino was born in Trinidad and Tobago, where he lived
                     through high school, before moving to New York. He attended Brooklyn College and received his B.S degree in
                     Biology. During his time in college, he did an internship at NYU, where he learned aspects of computational
                     biology including homology modelling and analyzing protein-protein interactions in relation to diseases. He
then did a post-baccalaureate program at Mount Sinai where he studied a method of improving and harnessing the anti-tumor
activity of the immune system to target various types of cancer.

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