Shreveport, LA—The Louisiana Biomedical Research Network (LBRN) has awarded LSU Shreveport Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, Dr. Vonny Salim, $100,000 a year for three years to support her anticancer research project “Elucidation of Plant-Derived Drug Biosynthetic Pathways and Molecular Mechanisms as Anticancer Agents.” 

“My research focuses on understanding how medicinal plants produce anticancer compounds,” Dr. Salim said. “We have a number of species that we are interested in that produce compounds that are very valuable for us, but the production comes in a very small amount. We need the compounds as a source for cancer drugs. These are drugs that have been used in chemotherapy treatments, and we aim to find sustainable ways to produce larger amounts of these compounds by genetic manipulation of microbial and plant systems.”  

Dr. Salim’s study is in collaboration with LSUS Professor of Computer Science and Director of Laboratory for Advanced Biomedical Informatics (LABi), Dr. Urska Cvek; LSUS Professor of Biological Sciences, Dr. Elahe Mahdavian; and LSU Health- Shreveport Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Dr. Shile Huang. Additionally, undergraduate and graduate students, many of whom aspire to become medical doctors, are actively participating. 

“The students get excited about the research because of the application of what they’ve learned in the classroom and the exploration of how we contribute to the scientific community on how we can make better drugs,” Dr. Salim said. “They get opportunities to think at the molecular level, perform experiments and understand cellular processes in living organisms. They learn how to solve scientific problems and enhance their critical thinking skills. They also have opportunities to present their findings at the biomedical conferences.”  

The project involves cutting-edge and state-of-the-art machinery such as the Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) machine to sequence massive amounts of genetic information and the Ultra-Performance Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (UPLC-MS) to analyze metabolites. Both instruments are housed in the LSUS Cyber Collaboratory. 

“Recently, we used the NGS machine for metagenomic analysis. With this technology, we can identify certain microbial population in the environment that may influence the biological systems that we are studying. Furthermore, the UPLC-MS provides information about the identity of chemicals that we can quantify to answer biological questions. The applications of both NGS machine and UPLC-MS are not limited to biomedical research. The availability of these instruments also promotes interdisciplinary collaboration at LSUS.”  

Additional support is provided by an Institutional Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health, the Louisiana Board of Regents, the LSUS Department of Biological Sciences, the LSUS College of Arts and Sciences, and the LSUS Cyber Collaboratory. 

To learn more about the project, visit the LBRN site. 

LSU Shreveport was founded in 1967 and offers a wide array of nationally accredited undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including a doctoral degree. The university’s mission is to educate a diverse population of graduate and undergraduate students; engage in regional and global thought leadership through community collaboration and service; and innovate to enhance the application of knowledge and intellectual discovery through faculty and student research and creative endeavors.