Visual imagery to highlight content on this page

Biotechnology Research Symposium Turns 10

Biotech Symposium

What’s on the minds of students in the biotechnology program?

Human breast tumor organoids. Prostate cancer. Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome. Familial dysautonomia. Hepatitis C virus. Endocrine cancer.

Approximately 15 students presented research findings at the 10th Annual Research Symposium, held by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Biotechnology Education. The research symposium, held at Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus, is an opportunity for the Center for Biotechnology Education to showcase its strengths in the area of biotechnology education and research. The event was an evening of networking, poster presentations and speakers, including keynote remarks from a top scientist with the U.S Food and Drug Safety Administration. (photo gallery)

Megan Donegan conducted research on Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome, a genetic condition characterized by the appearance of aging in childhood.

“I’ve been interested in rare diseases for a long time,” Donegan said. “I got very lucky when I came to Tom’s lab. It was a perfect match for me.”

Donegan, who just completed her master’s degree in biotechnology and is interested in pursuing a M.D./ Ph.D., spent time researching in the lab of Tom Misteli, a cell biologist at the National Cancer Institute.

“I learned I want to pursue research in my career,” Donegan said. “As a physician, it’s important to have background knowledge in research.”

Participants in the poster session included:

  • National Cancer Institute fellows in the Molecular Targets and Drug Discovery Technologies concentration of the Master of Science in Biotechnology degree program
  • Students who have completed research projects in bioscience and bioinformatics as part of their requirements for the Master of Science in Biotechnology, Bioinformatics and Bioscience Regulatory Affairs degrees and
  • High school students from Montgomery County Public Schools, presenting their research posters from their internships.

Kathleen Burke, associate dean of Advanced Academic Programs within the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, said the students were the “real  stars” of the night.

Lynn Johnson Langer, director of Regulatory Science and Enterprise Programs, said the symposium was a good way to launch a new degree program within the Center for Biotechnology Education: the Master of Science in Food Safety Regulation. The first students in the program just finished their first semester of classes. The degree is designed to give students an understanding of the legal and regulatory complexities of food production, labeling and distribution.

As she introduced the keynote speaker, David G. White of the FDA, Johnson Langer said food safety is a topic we all care about. Issues of food poisoning and food contamination touch the lives of people every day.

White, the FDA’s acting director for the Office of Resource Planning and Strategic Management of the Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine Program, talked about the role the agency plays in working to prevent foodborne illnesses.

Among the topics he discussed:

  • The FDA’s responsibilities to ensure that foods are safe, wholesome, sanitary and properly labeled
  • The FDA’s role in regulating human and veterinary drugs, protecting the public from electronic product radiation, and regulating cosmetics, dietary supplements and tobacco
  • Challenges the FDA faces, including dealing with bioterrorism, antimicrobial resistance, new food pathogens and dietary supplements
  • Creating collaborative relationships with groups  outside of the FDA and the role of public-private partnerships and
  • The Food Safety Modernization Act.

The research symposium began a decade ago as part of a partnership between Johns Hopkins and the National Cancer Institute. Each year NCI supports three to five master’s degree students in the molecular targets and drug discovery technologies concentration.