Ellen Corcoran and Jake Thrasher Awarded F31 Fellowships

Ellen Corcoran and Jake Thrasher
June 18, 2021

Two MB&B students, Ellen Corcoran and Jake Thrasher, each received a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (F31). The NIH grants the competitive fellowship through multiple institutes to fund the dissertation research and continued training of promising candidates in scientific health-related fields.

Corcoran, of the Koleske group, received the award from the National Institute of Mental Health branch for her project “Disruption of TRIO signaling through PDE4A5 in neurodevelopmental disorders.” It has been shown that disruption to the gene TRIO predisposes a person to schizophrenia and autism, among other neurodevelopmental disorders. With the F31 Fellowship, Corcoran intends to seek a functional interaction between TRIO and PDE4A5, and then determine how this interaction regulates neuronal development.

“These studies could reveal whether this TRIO-dependent signaling pathway could serve as a potential target for therapeutic interventions to treat neurodevelopmental disorders,” Corcoran said.

Thrasher, of the Jensen group, received funding for his project “Biochemical and Mechanistic Insights into the Roles of Rad51 Paralogs in Homologous Recombination Repair,” which aims to elucidate the functions of the human RAD51 paralogs (RAD51B, RAD51C, RAD51C, XRCC2, XRCC3). While known to play a role in homology directed repair (HDR), the functions of these proteins are still poorly understood. Thrasher plans to apply a combination of biochemical and cellular assays to determine mechanistic roles for the RAD51 paralogs in HDR.

“Similar to how germline mutations in BRCA1/BRCA2 predispose individuals to breast and ovarian cancers, mutations in the RAD51 paralogs have recently been shown to also increase the risk of those cancers,” Thrasher said. “While determining the functions of these proteins will allow us to better understand the ways our cells preserve genome integrity, a better grasp of the RAD51 paralogs’ functions will also help us better understand the nuances of certain cancers.”

The fellowship provides up to three years of funding support to enable “individualized, mentored research training from outstanding faculty sponsors while conducting dissertation research” relevant to participating NIH Institutes and Centers.

Congratulations to Ellen and Jake!

By: Brigitte Naughton