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Poster Session to Showcase Campus Biotechnology Research

Research that may lead to a treatment for hepatitis C is one of the many projects that will be featured at a poster session showcasing biotechnology research by University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate students, held March 10 from 4:30 to 7:00 at the Monona Terrace.

The poster session, which is free and open to the public, is part of an event showcasing research generated by the UW-Madison’s Biotechnology Training Program, which supports more than thirty graduate students each year. Funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the program is the largest of its kind in the country.

“The program’s objective is to develop a new cadre of scientists and engineers whose training and experience cross traditional academic boundaries,” says Timothy Donohue, the program’s director and a professor of bacteriology in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. “There is an increasing need for cross-disciplinary teams of scientists and engineers to work closely on biomedical and agricultural problems. This program prepares students to function at the interface between the biological and physical sciences.”

Visitors to the session can learn about more than two dozen different research projects and meet the graduate students responsible, including Jeremy Johnson, a third-year Ph. D. student in biochemist Ron Raines’ laboratory. Johnson’s research involves modifying ribonuclease A, an enzyme that degrades certain genetic material, to make it toxic only to virus-infected cells.

By blocking the activation site on the enzyme, he has developed a type of ribonuclease that is toxic to cells infected with the hepatitis C virus but not regular cells-although it”s still what he calls “a test-tube experiment.” However, he says there’s a chance that the work he’s doing now could one day contribute to advancements in medical research, including perhaps a more effective treatment of hepatitis C.

Johnson says that the bnefit of the Biotechnology Training Program to him is the exposure to different research disciplines. “It”s given me ideas of how I could do things differently, and made me think about how to promote my work to people outside my lab.”