USF undergraduate student to present at prestigious biology conference

Justin Doherty, senior chemistry major, University of South Florida.

One USF student will soon experience something an undergraduate student rarely gets to experience and on one of the biggest stages for biomedical research. The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) awarded Justin Doherty, a senior chemistry major, a travel award and invited him to give an oral presentation on research he conducted at the USF Health Heart Institute.

He will be the only undergraduate speaker in the Division for Translational and Clinical Pharmacology’s Young Investigator Awards session, along with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, to share his research at the Experimental Biology 2018 conference, April 21 to 25, in San Diego, Calif.

“I really couldn’t believe it,” he said about his invitation from the society. “I’m not taking this for granted. I’m very excited and very honored by the invitation.”

Doherty’s research inquiry stemmed from unmet medical needs, whereby effective chemotherapies for cancer patients are disrupted due to treatment-induced toxicity. The goal of his research is mitigating the toxicity to keep patients on effective anticancer treatments.  The new therapy he and his research colleagues chose was a Rapamycin nanoparticle, which simultaneously enhances self-detoxification capability and inhibits inflammation. Using well-accepted research models, they introduced the nanoparticle as a pre-treatment to a broadly-used chemotherapy, Cisplatin, which, according to his early results, helped alleviate the acute kidney injury associated with Cisplatin treatment.

Justiin Doherty and his mentor Hua Pan, MBA, PhD.

Doherty credits his success to his mentor, biomedical engineer Hua Pan, MBA, PhD, an assistant professor in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Cardiovascular Sciences Department and a member of the USF Health Heart Institute.

“Her mentorship has been invaluable.  She holds me to an extremely high standard, which has allowed me to progress,” he said. “Dr. Pan has given me a lot of freedom and trust to conduct research in the lab.”

Dr. Pan compliments Doherty for his willingness to dedicate time to his research in the midst of a rigorous class and exam schedule.

“He’s exceptional. Not only very smart, but also dedicated and devoted to creating value for our patients,” she said. “The scientific training and research experience will certainly help him stand out among his peers when he goes to medical school.” She added, “We appreciate the generous donations made to the USF Health Heart Institute, which will have unparalleled impacts on global health care and talent development for many generations to come.”

Doherty will attend Oxford University to pursue his master’s in immunology this Fall.  He hopes to enter medical school when he returns stateside.