Tom Broker ’66, professor emeritus of biochemistry and molecular genetics at the University of Alabama at Burlington, delivered a public science seminar titled “Infectious Disease Pandemics and Cancer” on Sept. 30. He was joined by Rich Olson, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; Ishita Mukerji, Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; and Jan Naegele, Dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics division, Alan M. Dachs Professor of Science.
Broker is an expert on human papillomaviruses (HPVs), which are sexually-transmitted diseases of viral origin. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 million Americans become infected each year, and HPV is estimated to cause nearly 35,000 cases of cancer in men and women. Broker has been involved in the development and validation of topical agents to treat the virus and is the founding president of the Human Papillomavirus Society.
“This one was actually a bit of a surprise to me, and if this was data-based on prevalence and macroeconomic status, and I fully expected that the low ‘this is human development index’ would be the place where the worst . . . and it was the worst in the richest countries, at least by what the data shows,” Broker said. “China has a tremendous prevalence, as does India, as a single country, but in the wealthy areas of North America, and Europe and East Asia, papillomaviruses’ prevalence is very high and would benefit immensely from training and treatment, and in the long run, a vaccine could prevent it.”
Broker also delivered the 21st annual Molecular Biophysics Virtual Retreat keynote address titled “HPV—Host Cell Interactions and Anti-Viral Drug Discovery in 3D-Tissue Systems” on Sept. 28. “Generally, from infection to someone getting a HPV cancer, like cervical cancer, is 20 years, so these viruses are persistent, they’re opportunistic; a little bit of damage every once and a while tips them closer and closer to over-expression, and eventually the failures of the defense responses and the over-expression of the virus drive us down the cancer pathway,” he said.
The annual retreat, which is open to all faculty and students, was sponsored by the Molecular Biophysics Program and the Biology, Chemistry, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, and Physics departments. Broker was joined by Olson, Mukerji, and Donald Oliver, Daniel Ayres Professor of Biology, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.
Several students presented virtual poster sessions during the retreat, including Oliver Cho ’22, a chemistry and philosophy double major; Jack Kwon ’21, a molecular biology and biochemistry and College of Integrative Sciences double major; Carol Dalgarno ’21, a molecular biology and biochemistry and Science in Society double major; and Rujun Yan ’21, a computer science and math double major.
Oliver Cho presented “Modifying a Mini Protein with Two Conformational States to Instead Adopt Only One Conformation.” (Click to enlarge)
Jack Kwon presented “GCN Sensitive Protein Translation in Yeast.” (Click to enlarge)
Carol Dalgarno presented “Molecular Dynamics Studies of the Ribosome CAR Surface.” (Click to enlarge)
Rujun Yan presented “A Promising Machine Learning Tool for the Permeability of Alpha Helical Peptide.” (Click to enlarge)