The Charles E. Schmidt College of Science is pleased to announce that Juliana Marques, Ph.D., has been named a 2023 awardee of the inaugural Jumpstart Postdoctoral Program. Dean Valery Forbes, Ph.D., launched the new initiative last fall, with the aim of “jumpstarting” new multidisciplinary research collaborations between faculty and postdoctoral associates to solve some of today’s complex societal challenges.
“Our goal for this new program is to act as a catalyst for novel partnerships that seed discoveries with our collaborators across the university and beyond,” said Dean Forbes.
Marques, along with principal investigator Professor Salvatore Lepore, Ph.D., Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, and co-principal investigators Associate Professors Claudia Rodrigues, Ph.D., and Bommareddy Ajay, Ph.D., Schmidt College of Medicine, will investigate the role of a novel compound developed at FAU, in preventing damage to the heart caused by chemotherapy in their study, “Development of Cardioprotective Treatments for Cancer.”
“Patients undergoing cancer treatment suffer from life-threatening cardiovascular disease due to the toxic effects of the drugs used,” Marques explained. “This novel compound has never been used in this context and, if it’s successful, it will be a major improvement to cancer therapy and improve patients’ quality of life – even for pediatric patients.”
Last year, Lepore and Rodrigues sought each other out as research partners when it became apparent that compounds being made in Lepore’s laboratory had a unique protective effect against oxidative damage, which is one of the main ways a heart is injured during chemotherapy. Rodrigues is a molecular pharmacologist who is an expert in cardiotoxicity, while Lepore specializes in synthetic organic chemistry with applications to small molecule drug design.
“Dr. Rodrigues and I come from different ends of the drug discovery spectrum,” stated Lepore. “Nevertheless, by working together, we have the potential to resolve a long-standing problem in cancer care.”
Based on preliminary data in a related system, the team feels confident that compounds produced in Lepore’s lab (e.g., RVM-3) will exert a protective effect against chemotherapy induced cardiotoxicity. However, in order to garner external funding, strong preliminary data are needed.
“The Jumpstart Program makes available, at a crucial time in this new project, a talented full-time postdoctoral fellow – Dr. Marques – to perform the experiments needed to establish proof-of-concept,” expressed Lepore.
During her doctoral studies, Marques worked in cardio-oncology and realized the importance of preventing heart damage in chemotherapy patients and improving their health outcomes.
“On both an intellectual and personal level, I find it greatly fulfilling to find ways to prevent heart damage brought on by chemotherapy,” said Marques. “This project will give me a chance to continue performing research in cardio-oncology and enhance my current skills in cardiac physiology. It will also allow me to gain new skills in other areas such as pharmacology.”
Marques will receive a salary following the NIH postdoc scale, with benefits, and $5,000 per year for research supplies and research-related travel. This postdoctoral project will be funded for up to two years, assuming satisfactory progress toward research goals are made during the first year.
Lepore shared that the team’s ultimate goal is to translate its findings and hopes the project opens the door for future collaboration with FAU Health or other clinical entities.
To learn more about the Jumpstart Postdoctoral Program, visit: science.fau.edu/postdoc-program/.