Two University of Richmond science professors awarded research grants for projects on Lyme disease and breast cancer

June 2, 2017

Biology professor Jory Brinkerhoff and chemistry professor Julie Pollock have each received a $100,000 award from the Thomas F. and Kate Miller Jeffress Memorial Trust to support their research. Jeffress grants focus on developing programs that advance public health and medical research.

Brinkerhoff’s project will focus on Lyme disease transmitted by black-legged ticks, which is expanding to Virginia and elsewhere and becoming a major public health threat. His project is titled, “Quantitative Genomic Analysis of Black-legged Tick Populations in Virginia to Identify Processes Associated with Increased Lyme Disease Incidence.”  

Brinkerhoff and his team, which will include two UR undergraduate students, will use advanced DNA analysis methods to identify genetic profiles of tick populations in different parts of Virginia in order to gain insights into the drivers of increasing Lyme disease risk. They will collaborate with a team from Old Dominion University, including biological sciences professor Holly Graff and two ODU undergraduates.

“This research will ultimately lead to a better understanding of Lyme disease risk and can be leveraged to inform public health campaigns where Lyme disease risk is increasing, as well as in places that may experience increased risk in the future,” Brinkerfhoff said.

Brinkerfhoff has taught at UR since 2011. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois, master’s degree from North Carolina State University and Ph.D. from University of Colorado. He completed his postdoctoral experience at Yale.

Pollock’s project will focus on research related to breast cancer, specifically a protein called MEMO1 that plays an important role in breast cancer growth, progression and recurrence. Her project is titled, “Experimental and Computational Investigations of MEMO1 and its Role in Breast Cancer.”

Pollock is collaborating with fellow UR chemistry professor Carol Parish, and three Richmond undergraduates will be on the research team. The researchers will identify how the MEMO1 protein interacts with partners within cancer cells. 

“In 2016, breast cancer was the most widely diagnosed cancer in women in the United States,” Pollock said. “These studies will allow us to understand the function of MEMO1 and determine if it could be a target for new breast cancer drugs.”

Pollock has taught at the University of Richmond since 2014. She earned her undergraduate degree from Hope College and Ph.D. from Duke University. She completed a post-doctoral experience at the University of Illinois.

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The Thomas F. and Kate Miller Jeffress Memorial Trust, Bank of America, Trustee was founded in 1981 by Robert M. Jeffress in memory of his parents to benefit the people of Virginia and their research in chemical, medical or other scientific fields. It is managed by The Medical Foundation, a division of Health Resources in Action, a non-profit leader in developing programs that advance public health and medical research.