Boettcher Investigator Profiles

  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 2022: A Milestone Year of Growth & Impact as Foundation Celebrates 85th Year   DENVER, December 23, 2022 — The year 2022 was a milestone year for the Boettcher Foundation. Not only did 2022 mark the 85th year since the organization’s founding, and 70 years of the Boettcher Scholarship Program, the Foundation also increased its impact in multiple areas. “For 85 years, the Boettcher community has acted as stewards of our great state,” said Katie Kramer, president & CEO of the Boettcher Foundation, who celebrated her 25th year anniversary as a staff member earlier this year. “Our annual investments in transformational leadership and community building compounds the legacy of the investments that came before, and we know that the ripple effect of supporting our state’s doers and difference makers will be felt for generations to come.” In May, for the first time, Boettcher Foundation awarded 50 comprehensive Scholarships to an accomplished and diverse cohort of high school seniors from across Colorado. In total, Boettcher provided over $4 million to current Scholars studying throughout the state. Moving forward, the Foundation will award 50 scholarships annually after awarding 42 every year since the mid-2010s.   In 2022 the Foundation also increased the number of Fellows in its Doers & Difference Makers Fellowship Program from six to 10. The Boettcher Fellows represent communities throughout Colorado and are known as community champions for their impact, passion for service, and leadership potential.   This year, the Foundation piloted a Catalyst Grant Program for participants in our Rural Leaders Collaborative who are tackling key issues like access to child care, workforce development, affordable housing, and diversifying the leadership pipeline. We are thrilled with the interest in these grants and were honored to award 14 organizations from across the state. We are eager to continue to pilot the Catalyst Grant Program in 2023.   Additionally, around $1.8 million was issued to support the Foundation’s Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Awards. These awards support promising, early career researchers, allowing them to advance their research and compete for major grants. In 2022, Boettcher Investigators were awarded $25.6 million in federal grants, received 16 patents, and published 156 articles. Since 2020, half of the investigators have been women researchers, compared to 35 percent during the program’s first nine years. RESPONSIVE GRANTMAKING The Boettcher Foundation also provided approximately $2.1 million in grants throughout the Colorado. Highlights of our grantmaking this year are as follows: Community College of Aurora Foundation - Center for STEM, Power Mechanics, and Applied Technologies ($70,000) This new state-of-the-art facility will more than double the college’s annual number of skilled associate degree graduates in STEM, diesel-tech, and homebuilding trades, creating pathways to high-demand and high-paying careers in Colorado. Full Circle of Lake County – Community Hub ($25,000) Support will help this one-stop hub for youth and families to connect with resources and opportunities. The newly renovated space will provide much needed room for youth programming, adult education, cooking classes, and leadership training. Grand Mesa Arts & Event Center ($25,000) After successfully operating for four years in downtown Cedaredge, the Center had a timely opportunity to purchase a facility. The newly acquired home – complete with art galleries and a 175-seat theater – will ensure a long-term home for arts and community gatherings in rural Cedaredge. Gunnison Food Hub ($50,000) A joint project by Mountain Roots and Gunnison Country Food Pantry, the Hub improves access to food and food production. The 7,000 square-foot former bowling alley is being refurbished into a space that includes the county’s largest food bank, a community kitchen, and produce-processing equipment available to local farmers. Latino Leadership Institute (LLI) – Ignite Program Expansion ($40,000) With support from Boettcher, LLI will continue to expand the footprint of its burgeoning Ignite Program – a virtual professional development course for emerging Latino leaders – and scale-up its model to ensure long-term sustainability. Ouray Ice Park – Sustainable Water Infrastructure ($40,000) Since 1997, the Ouray Ice Park has been an off-season economic driver for Ouray County. Grant support from the Boettcher Foundation helped protect Ouray’s spring-fed water supply and build improved infrastructure to ensure that the town and the ice park have access to sustainable water sources for decades to come. Town of Hayden – Coworking and Entrepreneurship Center ($50,000) The Center will function as a coworking space, business incubator, and community gathering spot for local entrepreneurs, replete with resources of a Small Business Development Center. As area coal mines and power plants are scheduled to close in the coming years, this space will support workers and a transitioning regional economy. About the Boettcher Foundation At the Boettcher Foundation, we believe in the promise of Colorado and the potential of Coloradans because courageous leadership benefits every community in our state. By investing in people, programs, and organizations, we provide a foundation for transformational impact and community building.  ...

  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Boettcher Foundation Announces Awardees for 2022 Pilot Grant Program Catalyst Grants to Serve Rural Nonprofit Organizations and Communities   DENVER, December 22, 2022 —  The Boettcher Foundation is excited to announce the initial grantees of a pilot program designed to support nonprofit organizations tackling some of the top issues facing rural Coloradans. The capacity building grants, awarded to 14 organizations, were created for nonprofits to request a strategic injection of funding to impact one of the following issue areas -- housing, childcare, rural workforce, or leadership pipeline challenges. One of the grant recipients is Montezuma Leadership Network (MLN), a grassroots effort to create leadership training and professional development opportunities for business, nonprofit, and government professionals in Cortez and the surrounding areas. With its Catalyst Grant support, MLN will expand its course offerings and develop a five-year strategic plan. “In May of 2022, a handful of emerging leaders in Montezuma County came together to discuss the almost total disappearance of leadership training opportunities and programs in this small rural community,” said Nancy Schaufele, founder of MLN. “With the help of the Boettcher Foundation, (MLN) is poised to become a foundational part of this community in providing leadership pathways and opportunities for our business, nonprofit and governing leaders.” Those eligible for the Catalyst Grants were participants in Boettcher’s Rural Leaders Collaborative, a network of cross sector leaders from across Colorado who convene quarterly to advance the leadership in their organizations, communities, and regions. Launched in 2021, the collaborative includes rural superintendents, college presidents, elected officials, and nonprofit community leaders, among others. “We are thrilled to be able to offer this innovative grant to our rural communities,” said Katie Kramer, president and CEO of the Boetcher Foundation. “The capacity-building nature of these grants helps to address a short-term need that can have long-term impacts.” Another organization receiving a Catalyst Grant is Hugo Main Street, an economic development nonprofit with a mission to engage Lincoln County in the creation of a vibrant main street. With its support, Hugo Main Street will develop and launch a new Junior Main Street Program to involve youth at Genoa-Hugo School through entrepreneurial training and civic revitalization efforts. “We are so excited that this grant award will support our junior Hugo Main Street programming,” said Gillian Laycock, manager of Hugo Main Street. “The goal of Junior Main Street is to provide a platform for the youth in our community to learn new leadership and economic development skills and abilities that will equip and inspire them to stay living locally, grow to become community leaders, understand local, small-town economics and entrepreneurship, and how each of these components contribute to our towns economic revitalization.” The Boettcher Foundation received 65 eligible inquiries for the Catalyst Grant Program. In 2023, the program will continue across two grant cycles. Here is the full list of organizations funded this year, the counties where they are located, and the respective grant amounts. Hugo Main Street (Lincoln), $7,500 Integrated Community (Routt), $7,500 Holyoke Community Childcare Initiative (Phillips), $7,500 Boys & Girls Club SLV (Alamosa), $7,500 CSU Foundation (Larimer and Logan), $7,500 Community Foundation of Gunnison Valley (Gunnison), $7,500 Valley Housing Fund (Gunnison), $7,500 Early Childhood Council of Archuleta County (Archuleta), $7,500 Ignacio Creative District (La Plata), $10,000 La Plata Family Centers Coalition (La Plata), $7,500 Kids at Their Best (Morgan), $7,500 Montezuma Leadership Network (Montezuma), $7,500 Paradox Community Trust aka Telluride Rural Homes (San Miguel), $7,500 Roaring Fork Leadership (Pitkin), $7,500 About the Boettcher Foundation At the Boettcher Foundation, we believe in the promise of Colorado and the potential of Coloradans because courageous leadership benefits every community in our state. By investing in people, programs, and organizations, we provide a foundation for transformational impact and community building.    ...

DENVER, July 21, 2022 — The Boettcher Foundation is excited to announce the second cohort of Fellows to participate in its Doers & Difference Makers Fellowship. The Fellowship, a component of the Foundation’s COLead Initiative, seeks to identify, celebrate, elevate, and connect community champions from across Colorado. The program elevates these individuals’ voices and amplifies their impact through structured opportunities to develop as individual leaders and members of Colorado’s ecosystem, including a financial investment, individualized coaching, and an emphasis on building connections. “I am honored that these 10 incredible Coloradans have chosen to take part in Boettcher’s Doers & Difference Makers Fellowship,” said Katie Kramer, president and CEO of the Boettcher Foundation. “Each one of these leaders impacts their communities through leadership and community building. We are excited to support them on their leadership journeys.” The 2022 Fellows, chosen from a competitive process, come from a variety of backgrounds, sectors, and geographic regions. They are local leaders engaged in economic development, youth development, civic engagement, and more. Though unique in their professional backgrounds and lived experiences, each Fellow is determined to serve Colorado and their community with courageous leadership. The Fellows are pictured below as follows (top row, left to right; bottom row, left to right): 2022 Boettcher Fellows Shelby Clark, Wray Esteban Salazar, Alamosa Gregory Kolomitz, La Junta Jennifer Holloway, Craig Chris Beasley, Colorado Springs   Gloria Perez, Leadville Dave Goe, Grand Junction Letitica Bancroft, Fort Morgan Gillian Laycock, Hugo Lupita Garcia, Alamosa   About the Boettcher Foundation:  We believe in the promise of Colorado and the potential of Coloradans. Every day, we build up and connect doers and difference makers from across the state, working to elevate people, programs, and organizations. Because by investing in Colorado leaders, we provide a foundation for transformational impact and community building across Colorado....

DENVER, June 1, 2022 — The Boettcher Foundation is proud to announce its 2022 class of Boettcher Investigators, recipients of grant funding through the Foundation’s Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Awards Program. The eight Investigators work in teaching and research positions at Colorado State University, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, University of Colorado Boulder, and National Jewish Health. The prestigious award supports promising, early career scientific researchers, allowing them to advance their independent research in Colorado and compete for major federal and private awards in the future. Each Boettcher Investigator will receive a $235,000 grant to support up to three years of biomedical research. The new Boettcher Investigators and their research topics are: Colorado State University Jaclyn A. Stephens, Ph.D., OTR/L - Evaluating yoga intervention-induced changes in performance and neurophysiology in adults with chronic brain injury. Allison Vilander, D.V.M., Ph.D. - Characterization of immune response to oral rotavirus vaccination in a murine model of environmental enteric dysfunction. University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus Martin W. Breuss, Ph.D. - Elucidation of the features of germ cell mosaicism and its impact on human health. Shanlee Davis, M.D., Ph.D. - Pathophysiology of cardiometabolic dysfunction in Klinefelter Syndrome. Michael S. Leibowitz, M.D., Ph.D. - Altering the tumor microenvironment to increase epitope spreading and augment chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapy for metastatic osteosarcoma. Andrew C. Smith, P.T., D.P.T., Ph.D. - Spinal cord lesion determinants of optimal responsiveness to spinal cord stimulation. University of Colorado Boulder Aaron T. Whiteley, Ph.D. - Novel mechanisms of STING signaling in disease. National Jewish Health Jessica W. Hui-Beckman, M.D. - The role of temperature on the atopic march.   “At a time when we are reminded of how vital biomedical research is to a healthy society, the Boettcher Foundation is honored to invest in these eight exceptional early career researchers as they investigate causes and treatments of disease, injury, and more,” said Katie Kramer, president and CEO of the Boettcher Foundation. “We know the ripple effects of their leading research at our beloved Colorado institutions will have immense beneficial impacts for people far into the future.” With the newest class, the 12-year-old Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Awards program has accelerated the breakthrough work of 90 Boettcher Investigators. Notably, this year's cohort is consistent with a recent trend of an equal proportion of women and men recipients. Over the past three years, 50% of the Investigators have been women researchers, compared to 35% during the program’s first nine years. In total, Boettcher Investigators have attracted more than $110 million in additional federal, state, and private research funding. Additionally, Investigators have published more than 100 articles and registered eight patent applications. “Colorado BioScience Association congratulates the newest class of Boettcher Investigators and thanks the Boettcher Foundation for its vision to advance Colorado’s leadership in health innovation by supporting researchers during the critical, early stages of their careers.” said Elyse Blazevich, Colorado BioScience Association president and CEO. “The Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Awards Program makes a critical contribution to our state’s momentum as a leading national and international hub for life sciences.” The Boettcher Foundation has been a leading philanthropic supporter of biomedical research in Colorado for many years. For more information about the Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Awards, visit the Boettcher Foundation website. About Colorado BioScience Association: Colorado BioScience Association (CBSA) creates co-opportunity for the Colorado life sciences community. CBSA champions a collaborative life sciences ecosystem and advocates for a supportive business climate. From concept to commercialization, member companies and organizations drive global health innovations, products and services that improve and save lives. The association leads Capital and Growth, Education and Networking, Policy and Advocacy, and Workforce Cultivation to make its members stronger, together. Learn more: cobioscience.com About the Boettcher Foundation : We believe in the promise of Colorado and potential of Coloradans. Every day we build up and connect doers and difference makers from across the state, working to elevate people, programs, and organizations. Because by investing in Colorado’s leaders, we provide a foundation for transformational impact and community building across the state. Photos of individual recipients are available by request.  ...

DENVER, May 25, 2021 — Boettcher Foundation today announced the names of six leading Colorado researchers who are the newest recipients of grant funding through the Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Awards Program. The program supports promising, early-career scientific researchers, allowing them to advance their independent research and compete for major federal and private awards in the future. The 2021 Boettcher Investigators represent three of Colorado’s leading research institutions, Colorado State University, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and University of Colorado Boulder. Each researcher receives $235,000 in grant funding to support up to three years of biomedical research. The new Boettcher Investigators and their research topics are: Colorado State University Julie A. Moreno, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Microbiology, Immunology & Pathology - Protein misfolding neurodegenerative diseases and aging University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus Joshua J. Bear, M.D., M.A., Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Neurology - Studying cortical networks in medication-refractory epilepsy Sarah E. Clark, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Otolaryngology - Host-pathogen interactions in the airway Craig M. Forester, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor; Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and BMT - Determinants of nascent gene expression in hematopoiesis Mia J. Smith, D.V.M., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics - B-cells in the pathogenesis of T1D University of Colorado Boulder Nausica Arnoult, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology - DNA repair and genome stability The $1.41 million in biomedical research grant funds facilitate the Boettcher Foundation’s goal to retain top scientific talent in Colorado. Katie Kramer, president and CEO of the Boettcher Foundation, said:   “The 2021 class of Boettcher Investigators represents some of Colorado’s most dynamic and promising researchers. These leaders are committed to developing treatments and cures that will improve health and change lives, as we’ve seen the biomedical research sector in action during this past year. The Boettcher Foundation is proud to support these researchers at a pivotal time in their careers and to contribute to the incredible advancements in health innovation underway in our state.” Since its inception in 2010, the Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Awards program has advanced the work of 82 Boettcher Investigators, including the 2021 class. Those researchers have attracted a collective $100 million in additional independent research funding from federal, state, and private sources. Ninety-six percent of award recipients remain at Colorado research institutions, advancing the Foundation’s mission of keeping Colorado’s top scientific minds in the state. Jennifer Jones Paton, president and CEO of Colorado BioScience Association, said: “Colorado BioScience Association thanks Boettcher Foundation for its enduring commitment to science and scientific research in Colorado. COVID-19 demonstrates the critical importance of science to our health, well-being, and economic stability. The Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Awards program invests in up-and-coming researchers, giving them support to continue their promising work in Colorado. I’m pleased to congratulate the Boettcher Investigators on this incredible honor.” The Boettcher Foundation has been a leading philanthropic supporter of biomedical research in Colorado for many years. For more information about the Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Awards, visit the Boettcher Foundation website. Photos of individual recipients are available by request. About the Boettcher Foundation: At the Boettcher Foundation, we believe in the promise of Colorado and the potential of Coloradans. Every day we champion excellence across our state by investing in our most talented citizens and high-potential organizations, because supporting their hard work and leadership will enable them to give back for years to come. About Colorado BioScience Association Colorado BioScience Association (CBSA) creates co-opportunity for the Colorado life sciences community. CBSA champions a collaborative life sciences ecosystem and advocates for a supportive business climate. From concept to commercialization, member companies and organizations drive global health innovations, products and services that improve and save lives. The association leads Capital and Growth, Education and Networking, Policy and Advocacy, and Workforce Cultivation to make its members stronger, together. Learn more: cobioscience.com...

On the wall of Dr. Robin Dowell’s laboratory hangs a map that resembles a Middle Earth relic. Created not by J.R.R. Tolkien, but Robin’s illustrator husband, the yellowed chart conveys aspects of Robin’s work and sense of humor: “The Sea of Data” and the “Isle of RNA Modification;” the “Ploidy Peaks” and the “Nucleo-tides.” Most importantly, though, the map captures the principle at the heart of her research: “Follow the problem wherever it leads you.” For the 2010 Boettcher Investigator, following the problem wherever it leads, and breaking down established silos in pursuit, has been a lifelong quest – one that continues in her current role as an appointed faculty member in both molecular, cellular, and developmental biology (MCDB) and computer science at the University of Colorado Boulder. Growing up, Robin expressed interests in genetics, computers, and working on old cars that were nurtured by her father, an engineer. While taking genetics classes “in secret” as an undergraduate computer engineering major, a professor encouraged her dual interests and connected her with a research opportunity at Baylor College of Medicine. “My path changed from that day forward,” said Robin. After receiving bachelor’s degrees in computer engineering and genetics, Robin earned a master’s in computer science and a doctorate in biomedical engineering from Washington University in St. Louis. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology before being recruited in 2009 to the BioFrontiers Institute at CU Boulder, a place she feels at home. “BioFrontiers recruits people with a unique interest in an interdisciplinary field, and then asks where you’d like to be placed. I’m in MCDB but I’ve always been interdisciplinary in my approach, so working down the hall from quantitative biologists and biochemists has been ideal. It’s made for some outstanding hallway conversations.” Robin’s primary focus is understanding the problems that lie at the intersection between genetics/genomics and machine learning. To this aim, the Dowell Lab employs a diverse mix of undergraduate, doctoral, and post-doc researchers from fields such as computer science, creative writing, molecular biology, and neuroscience to develop new approaches to biological questions. Robin is also very intentional about diversity in her lab. In fact, she believes that the experiences and perspectives, especially of traditionally underrepresented thinkers, are especially well-suited for interdisciplinary problem-solving. “Because we’ve never quite fit in, women and minorities are often more comfortable with interdisciplinary fields, especially those that emphasize the human component and collaboration,” said Robin. That’s one of the reasons that Robin hosts underrepresented students in her lab as well as Boettcher Scholars through the Boettcher Foundation’s collaboration grants program. Currently, with the assistance of 2016 Boettcher Scholar Michael Gohde, Robin is producing a curriculum that will translate scenario-based case studies into “choose-your-own-adventure” type stories to teach emerging researchers ethical decision-making. Michael has also been involved in the development of machine learning software for the improved analysis of genomics data. For Robin, the benefit is simple: “More undergrads doing research will produce better grad students and better problem-solvers. And for me, the long-term access and relationship I have with great undergrads will have a far greater impact than the original Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Award. I selfishly know that one day I’ll benefit from that connection.”...

2016 Boettcher Investigator Schuyler van Engelenburg has an audacious goal: understanding and disrupting Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). “HIV is one of the most studied viruses in the world, so some people discouraged me from entering such a concentrated research field,” said Schuyler. However, imaging techniques utilized in Schuyler’s lab at the University of Denver have demonstrated potential for how HIV and genetic diseases can be treated. With support from a Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Award from the Boettcher Foundation, Schuyler has refined the use of super-resolution microscopy in HIV, an imaging technique that won two Americans the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2014. Using high-power light microscopes, Schuyler flags and tracks the movement of single HIV molecules within living infected cells. A high-resolution image is created by combining images in which different molecules are activated, enabling a much clearer picture of previously unobserved viral infection pathways. “We’re bringing a technical, optical, and computational approach to quantitatively describe how viral assembly works. Or if you’re an artist, think of the imaging as a type of pointillism. Except instead of coming into view as you step back, this sub-viral resolution is crossing the micro scale frontier of what was previously visible,” explained Schuyler. “If successful, we should then be able to either prevent the virus from ever assembling or harness the virus to deliver corrective genes to patients’ cells who are suffering from genetic diseases.” A native of New Castle on Colorado’s western slope, Schuyler earned a bachelor’s in chemistry from Fort Lewis College and graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with a Ph.D. in biochemistry. He was offered a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, where he studied cell biology and optics under National Academy of Sciences member Dr. Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz. Schuyler’s experience at NIH was transformative, but he has enjoyed returning to Colorado, where, as an assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Denver, he is able to teach and mentor the next generation of interdisciplinary biomedical researchers. “I’m excited by the thought of coming up with new technology and applying it to understand how our cells work at the molecular level. But all the while I want to mentor the next best and brightest scientists who can hopefully go on to make an impact on our understanding of biology in health and disease,” noted Schuyler. “That includes undergraduate [Boettcher] Scholars who have been a great asset in my lab.” When asked if working with the smallest particles in the world was constrictive, Schuyler noted that his work was remarkably similar to astrophysics and astronomers in search of macro understanding. “In many ways, microscopy is riding on the tail of astronomers, who have led the research to see beyond what we can even imagine. The infinitesimally large universe and the inconceivably small nanoscale particles are ordered more similarly than we recognize. My work lends a perspective on the rules of bioassembly on this nanoscale.”...

The following individuals were selected as Boettcher Investigators for 2017. For detailed profiles of their research, click on their names. Colorado School of Mines Andrew Petruska, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering – Magnetic manipulation for medical applications Colorado State University Erin Osborne Nishimura, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology – Gene expression, chromatin and developmental biology Kelly S. Santangelo, DVM, Ph.D., Diplomate ACVP, Assistant Professor of Veterinary Pathology – Prevention and therapy of post-traumatic osteoarthritis National Jewish Health  Camille M. Moore, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biostatistics – Statistical methods for longitudinal RNA-sequencing data University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus  Joshua C. Black, Ph.D, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology – Epigenetic regulation of tumor heterogeneity Angelo D'Alessandro, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Director of the Metabolomics Core – School of Medicine – Systemic metabolic reprogramming in health and disease Kristine A. Kuhn, MD, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology – Gut-joint lymphocyte trafficking in inflammatory bowel disease and spondyloarthritis Eric M. Pietras, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Hematology – Hematopoietic stem cell and inflammation biology John A. Thompson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery – Neurobiology of sensory-motor driven decision-making processes ...

For 2011 Boettcher Investigator Dr. Robert Doebele, the satisfying part of medicine is researching an idea in his lab, and then seeing that idea come to fruition in treating his patients. And that’s exactly what is happening in the first-of-its-kind clinical trial that he is currently leading. Dr. Doebele holds both an M.D. and a Ph.D., which allows him to spend part of his time in the lab and part with his patients, which is also what guided him to specialize in lung cancer.  “I like the patient relationship. Some doctors like healthier patients, and while I don’t like having sick patients, I don’t mind it,” Dr. Doebele explained. “I get to see my patients often, from diagnosis through treatment.” It’s that same patient interaction that helped Dr. Doebele to make a huge breakthrough in his lab. Dr. Doebele researches oncogene targeted therapy, or precision medicine, where he identifies the dominant genes that are critical for developing cancer. When those genes are specifically targeted in treatment, doctors are able to shrink tumors. “When I started working in lung cancer in 2005, the treatment for lung cancer was pretty much all the same,” Dr. Doebele said. “The treatment is now very different based on the genetic abnormalities present in each patient.” Because of this genetic research, lung cancer now has identifiable mutations that make gene-targeted therapy possible. But what happens when a patient has none of the identified mutations, is a non-smoker in her forties, and presents with stage-four lung cancer? Around that same time, Dr. Doebele realized there must be other targetable genes that can become cancer-driving cells. Thus, his most-recent research was born. His lab did not discover a new gene, but using modern techniques, they were able to identify that this specific gene was truly cancer-driving and, beyond that, they developed a method for targeting that gene in treatment. Working with Array Biopharma out of Boulder, Dr. Doebele helped develop a drug to test in these cancers. Unfortunately, Dr. Doebele’s inspiring patient passed away, but thanks to the tissue that she donated, Dr. Doebele was able to directly advance his research, initiate a clinical trial, and literally save lives. The first patient to participate in his clinical trial was much like Dr. Doebele’s patient who donated tissue. She was incredibly ill with widely metastatic sarcoma in her lungs, and even moved to Denver with her family for a month to participate in phase one of the study. “I was nervous because this was the first test of my research to see if it actually does anything,” remembers Dr. Doebele. “You feel like you are laying your chips on the table, and it was my idea combined with a real patient.” Week by week during the clinical trial, his new patient improved. Now, almost two years later, she is still taking the drug he developed and has no measurable tumor in her lungs. And she’s not alone. All of the trial patients have had tumor shrinkage and most have had a highly measurable response. “This is not going to cure millions of cancer patients, but if we test patients and identify these mutations, it’s a very good start. It’s a bedside-to-bench-to-bedside approach,” said Dr. Doebele. Two companies are now developing drugs to specifically treat what Dr. Doebele identified, and are awaiting FDA approval. “It’s rare but satisfying when you get to come full-circle and see your research directly affect patients.” Dr. Doebele said. Looking back, he credits his scientific success with both luck and preparedness, plus a boost from the Boettcher Foundation. “The luck was finding a patient that had this mutation, but the Webb-Waring Biomedical research funding allowed me to prepare my lab to take on this project very quickly,” said Dr. Doebele. This combination allowed Dr. Doebele to publish his findings in approximately a year, which meant getting this treatment to clinical trial, and ultimately, to patients sooner. Since then, he has received more funding, including an R01 grant from the National Institute of Health. Looking ahead, Dr. Doebele is very interested in bringing increasingly better drugs to patients, and plans to continue testing new drugs and new ideas with the ultimate goal of saving lives.  ...

The following individuals were selected as Boettcher Investigators for 2016. For detailed profiles of their research, click on their names. Colorado State University  Rushika Perera, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of RNA Virology – Exploiting vulnerabilities in mosquito metabolism for prevention of human arboviral transmission Timothy J. Stasevich, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology – Imaging cancer epigenetics in living cells   National Jewish Health  James L. Crooks, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics – Wildfire smoke and pediatric asthma   University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus  Wen-Yuan Elena Hsieh, M.D., Assistant Professor of Immunology & Microbiology and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Allergy and Immunology – Immune dysregulation in pediatric SLE pathogenesis Ethan G. Hughes, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology – Intrinsic and extrinsic mechanisms regulating cortical remyelination Bernard L. Jones, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Medical Physics – Achieving safe and effective dose escalation in pancreatic SBRT through tumor tracking and robust treatment planning Cristin Welle, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery and Bioengineering – Development of high-density neural sensors for bioelectronics therapeutics Hongjin Zheng, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics – Mechanical studies of disease-related substrates entering mitochondria via protein import machinery TOM-TIM   University of Colorado Boulder  Sabrina Spencer, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry – Elucidating the causes and consequences of slow-cycling cells within isogenic population   University of Denver Schuyler van Engelenburg, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Department of Biological Sciences – Site-specific targeting of engineered retroviruses to the Interleukin 2 Receptor locus for correction of genetic immunodeficiency ...