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Our Team

Research Leaders


Raj Muthusamy DVM, PhD

Professor of Medicine

Dr. Muthusamy received his DVM from Madras Veterinary College at the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. He then earned his PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Kentucky, studying B cell activation through surface receptors. Following his PhD, Dr. Muthsamy completed two post-doctoral fellowships at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Michigan and at the University of Chicago.

Dr. Muthusamy joined the Byrd Lab in 2004 as a Research Scientist and visiting Assistant Professor in the Division of Hematology-Oncology. In 2007, Dr. Muthusamy was promoted to the position of Research Associate Professor. In the spring of 2011, Dr. Muthusamy recieved the title of Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology.  He has authored or co-authored 23 peer reviewed publications since joining the Byrd Lab. Dr. Muthusamy also teaches two graduate level courses on Immunology and Signal Transduction.

Dr. Muthusamy’s current research focuses on using transgenic and gene targeted mouse models to identify transcription factors and signaling pathways that regulate lymphocyte growth and survival. His research group is devising therapeutic strategies aimed at targeting intervention of signaling pathways to promote apoptosis in B cell malignancies. Other areas of focus include biological therapies and development of targeted nanoparticle based drug delivery systems for CLL and other B cell malignancies.

Click here to view Dr. Muthusamy's Curriculum Vitae

 

Amy Johnson, PhD

Associate Professor of Medicine

Dr. Johnson earned her PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Kentucky, studying the effects of cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors on apoptosis pathways under the mentorship of Dr. Ching-Shih Chen.

Dr. Johnson joined the Byrd Lab in 2002 as a post-doctoral researcher, examining the effects of OSU03012, a celecoxib derivative, on primary CLL cells. She also began the development and characterization of the Tcl-1 transgenic mouse model, an important tool for pre-clinical investigation of new therapeutic compounds. Dr. Johnson was promoted to the position of Research Scientist in 2005, Research Assistant Professor in 2007, and Associate Professor in 2013.

Dr. Johnson currently leads multiple exciting research projects. Her research team has ongoing studies examining PI3-kinase and BTK inhibitors as well as cell cycle and autophagy with flavopiridol in the treatment of CLL.

Click here to view Dr. Johnson's Curriculum Vitae

 

David Lucas, PhD

Research Assistant Professor

Dr. Lucas received his PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1996. His work focused on the mechanism of interferon-mediated activation of macrophages, a key functional component of the innate immune system. He continued his academic career as a post-doctoral researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington studying the role of SH2 domain-containing Inositol Phosphatase (SHIP) protein in cytokine signaling in myeloid progenitor cells.

Dr. Lucas moved to Ohio State University in 2000 to establish research laboratories first for Michael Grever, MD and then for John Byrd, MD. The early work in these highly collaborative laboratories centered on the characterization of tumor cells obtained from patients enrolled on clinical trials. However these efforts quickly expanded into the pre-clinical testing of novel therapeutics for leukemia, specifically chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

Currently, Dr. Lucas’ research group has three main areas of interest, each with strong collaborations with other OSU scientists and physicians: (a) the identification of novel active agents in leukemia
; (b) the evaluation of direct translation inhibition as a therapeutic target in leukemia, and (c) the transcriptional regulation of key regulatory proteins in CLL cell survival.

Click here to view Dr. Lucas's Curriculum Vitae

 

Rosa Lapalombella, PhD

Research Assistant Professor

Dr. Lapalombella received her PhD in Biotechnology from the University of Bologna under the direction of Professor Marina Marini, PhD. Dr. Lapalombella joined the Byrd Lab in 2006 as a visiting post-doctoral scholar, and has contributed to the completion of 9 peer reviewed manuscripts, including 4 first author publications. Dr. Lapalombella’s postdoctoral work focused on multiple projects, including the immunomodulatory agent lenalidomide and CD37SMIP, a small modular immune pharmaceutical agent targeting CD37 antigen. Her work on the CD37SMIP project earned her an oral presentation at the 2007 American Society of Hematology annual meeting.

In 2010, Dr. Lapalombella was promoted to Research Scientist. In this new role, Dr. Lapalombella over sees the Byrd lab’s efforts to understand the transcriptional regulation of the pathogenesis of CLL including epigenetic changes, mirRNA expression, aberrant transcription factors and other nuclear factors.

Click here to view Dr. Lapalombella's Curriculum Vitae

 

Jennifer Woyach, MD

Assistant Professor of Medicine

Dr. Woyach earned her MD in 2005 from The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health. She completed her internship, residency, and Chief Medical Residency at OSU, and stayed on in 2009 to become a fellow in the divisions of Hematology and Oncology. In 2012 she completed her training and joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine.

Dr. Woyach’s clinical interests are chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and other lymphoid malignancies.  Her clinical research focuses on clinical trials in CLL, with a focus on therapy in older patients.  She is a member of the Leukemia Committee and the Cancer in the Elderly Committee  in the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology cooperative group.

In the laboratory, she studies targeted therapies in hematologic malignancies and resistance to kinase inhibition.  She is also interested in the development of CLL and the role of stem cells in this disease.

She has been previously funded through a Young Investigator Award from ASCO’s Conquer Cancer Foundation and is currently funded through a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Fellow Award and SPORE Career Development Award.

Click here to view Dr. Woyach's Curriculum Vitae

 

Erin Hertlein, PhD

Research Scientist

Dr. Hertlein received her PhD in Integrated Biomedical Science from The Ohio State University under thedirection of Professor Denis Guttridge, where her work focused on the NF-kB cell signaling pathway.  After graduating in 2007, Dr. Hertlein joined the Byrd Lab as a post-doctoral fellow to continue her studies in this pathway, with the focus on novel therapeutic approaches to target NF-kB in CLL.  Erin’s work was awardedtwo oral presentations at the 2009 American Society of Hematology annual meeting. The first presentation examined the effect of the Hsp90 inhibitor 17-DMAG on NF-kB, while the second presentation highlighted her novel work targeting the CD74 receptor in CLL. Dr. Hertlein was also awarded an oral presentation at the 2009 International Workshop on CLL held in Barcelona, Spain for her studies on 17-DMAG.

In 2012, Dr. Hertlein was promoted to Research Scientist in Dr. Byrd’s group. Her work continues to focus on the transcriptional role of NF-kB, particularly how NF-kB is involved in gene silencing in CLL. Other ongoing projects within her research group include the role of Hsp90 inhibitors in CLL treatment and the tumor microenvironment, and the effect of non-coding RNAs in transcriptional regulation and CLL pathogenesis.

 

James Blachly, MD

Assistant Professor of Medicine

Dr. Blachly earned his MD in 2007 from The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, where he subsequently completed internship and residency before being asked to stay on as Chief Resident in Internal Medicine. In 2011 he came to The Ohio State University as a fellow in Hematology and Oncology. After completion of his fellowship training in 2014, Dr. Blachly joined the faculty as Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine.

Building on his prior training in mathematics and computer science, Dr. Blachly’s principal research interests lie at the intersection of translational medicine and computational biology. His work focuses on the cancer genome and transcriptome, where he looks for both novel biomarkers as well as markers of resistance to experimental therapies. Dr. Blachly’s clinical interest is in leukemia, principally Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) and Hairy Cell Leukemia, but also Acute Myeloid Leukemia. He has developed clinical trials in CLL with a special focus on collection of paired diagnosis and relapse samples from the same patient. These paired samples are extremely valuable for understanding mechanisms of drug activity and resistance.

His work is currently funded through a Young Investigator Award grant through the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN).

Click here to view Dr. Blachly's Curriculum Vitae