WVU microbiology graduate student accepted to prestigious Kadner Institute

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A track record of authoring research papers on flesh-eating bacteria helped Clayton Caswell win acceptance to the American Society for Microbiology’s Kadner Institute at the University of Colorado in July.

“We are extremely proud that a student from West Virginia University was accepted to this program,” said Slawomir Lukomski, Ph.D., of the WVU Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Cell Biology, who oversees Caswell’s research.

Graduate students and postdoctoral scientists must compete to attend the Institute, which helps jumpstart their careers in microbiology by training them in grant writing and other communications skills. The students also learn the ins and outs of granting agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Caswell, who did his undergraduate work at Texas A&M University, has spent the last four years at WVU studying streptococcus pyogenes. Strains of this organism are responsible for causing everything from strep throat to necrotizing fasciitis, popularly known as flesh-eating bacteria.

 WVU’s Clayton Caswell will attend the American Society for Microbiology’s Kadner Institute at the University of Colorado in July.

Caswell is the lead author on two research papers published in the journal “Molecular Microbiology,” one in 2007 and one in 2008. Both papers deal with the collagen-like proteins of group A streptococcus, which play a role in the organism’s ability to escape from the human immune system.

“It’s been really exciting the last couple of years to learn how these proteins influence the ability of the bacteria to be invasive and to avoid the immune system,” Caswell said. “We have been able to show the protein’s interaction directly with human cells. It can acquire things from our serum and then fight off the immune system.”

While the research hasn’t yet led to a vaccine or a targeted drug therapy to disrupt the bacteria’s operations, studies in Lukomski’s lab have chronicled the organism’s processes.  “This helps us better understand how it causes disease,” Caswell said.

The Kadner Institute’s summer program takes place July 19 through July 23. A cash award that Caswell won earlier this year at the annual the E.J. Van Liere Memorial Research Convocation at WVU will help pay for his travel expenses.

Caswell is scheduled to graduate this fall. After postdoctoral training, he plans to pursue a career in academia.

For more information on the Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Cell Biology, see http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/som/micro/.

- WVU -

For more information:
Andrea Brunais, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087
ab: 06-04-08

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