Indiana Biosciences Research Institute Hires First Independent Investigator
June 09, 2016
Mastracci Focuses on Regenerating Insulin-producing Beta Cells Destroyed by Diabetes
The Indiana Biosciences Research Institute (IBRI) has hired emerging talent Teresa Mastracci, PhD, as the first independent investigator to commence innovative scientific research in the Institute’s new laboratories. Dr. Mastracci is a molecular and developmental biologist who comes to the IBRI from the Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM) where she was an Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research, and the Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases. Her research focuses on finding ways to provoke regeneration of the insulin-producing beta cells that are dysfunctional or destroyed in people with diabetes. This research will produce new diabetes treatment options and will potentially identify ways to slow or even halt progression of the disease.
“Teresa is a bright, up and coming researcher in the area of beta cell biology and will now be pursuing her research interests as a Senior Scientist,” said Dr. Raghu Mirmira, Interim Chief Scientific Officer and Core Laboratories Director for the IBRI. “She has been funded at every stage of her career, and already has an impressive body of research. We look forward to seeing her expand and apply her research in ways that will ultimately help patients.”
Mastracci completed her post-secondary education in Canada, earning her bachelor’s degree from the University of Guelph and her PhD from the University of Toronto, where she studied with Dr. Irene Andrulis, a world-renowned breast cancer researcher and co-head of the Fred A. Litwin Center for Cancer Genetics at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute. The focus of her graduate work was understanding the early genetic events that direct a normal cell to become cancerous with the goal of identifying targets for early intervention. This work was supported by the U.S. Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program. These studies also were instrumental in driving Mastracci’s interest in translating biological research discoveries into diagnostics or treatments that directly impact human health.
During her postdoctoral studies with Dr. Lori Sussel at Columbia University and the Naomi Berrie Center for Diabetes Research in New York Mastracci completed specialized training and merged her interests in developmental biology and human disease by studying how the pancreatic insulin-producing beta cell develops and functions in the normal and diabetic contexts. In 2007, Mastracci was named the Naomi Berrie Fellow in Diabetes Research and was granted research support by The Russell Berrie Foundation. Subsequently in 2010, she was awarded a prestigious Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), which continued to support her career development and research. Together these fellowships were instrumental in launching Mastracci’s career in the field of diabetes research, and as a result, she was recruited to the Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases at the IUSM where she has continued to grow her research.
Currently, Mastracci is focused on understanding how pathways that direct protein synthesis drive the development and differentiation of the hormone-producing islet cells in the pancreas. Her goal is to discover factors that can be exploited to create new treatments that enable the regeneration of insulin-producing beta cells in people with diabetes. She is bringing this research program to the IBRI.
“We are excited to have Teresa as the Institute’s first independent investigator,” said David Broecker, President and CEO of the IBRI. “Supporting an emerging talent like Teresa who brings a combination of smarts, entrepreneurial mindset, and a pioneering spirit early in her career will only accelerate the potential for new discoveries and the next generation of breakthrough solutions.”
Mastracci has also been named an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at IUSM. Beginning this fall, Mastracci will be actively seeking talented graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and staff scientists to join her laboratory at the IBRI.
“It has been my goal to translate the research I do into tangible new treatments that will enable people with diabetes to better manage their disease,” said Mastracci. “The environment at the IBRI will do just this -- enable research to move in new and exciting directions by forging strong links between academia and industry. We will be merging the best of both worlds to advance science and improve health worldwide.”
About Indiana Biosciences Research Institute
The Indiana Biosciences Research Institute (IBRI) is an independent, nonprofit applied research institute focused on discovery and innovation targeting cardio-metabolic diseases, diabetes and nutrition. Inspired by the state and Indiana’s leading life sciences companies, research universities and philanthropic community, IBRI’s goal is to build a world-class organization of researchers, innovators, and entrepreneurs that will catalyze scientific discovery and its application, resulting in improved health outcomes for patients. Initial funding has been provided by the State of Indiana, Lilly Endowment, Eli Lilly and Company, Dow AgroSciences, Roche Diagnostics, Indiana University Health and the Indiana University School of Medicine. IBRI is looking to expand partnerships with life sciences companies and philanthropic organizations to increase the potential for research, discovery, and collaboration. For more information about IBRI and donation or collaboration opportunities, please visit www.indianabiosciences.org.
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