April 14, 2009
Contact: Public Affairs and Publications, 508-856-2000; ummsnews@umassmed.edu 


Anna Zinovyeva, PhD, named first recipient


 Tara Bean Foundation GroupTara Bean Foundation (TBF) President and Co-Founder Karen Bean, left, stands with John L. Sullivan, MD; Craig C. Mello, PhD; Margery Piercey, TBF President; and Lizabeth Rombousek, TBF Clerk and Co-Founder.

WORCESTER, Mass. — The Tara Bean Foundation (TBF), a charitable organization founded in memory of a young girl from Shrewsbury who died from complications caused by a brain tumor, has partnered with the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science to establish a two-year post-doctoral research Fellowship in RNAi Translational Medicine. Anna Y. Zinovyeva, a 29-year-old postdoctoral student researching potential anti-cancer drugs, has been selected as the inaugural Fellow.

“RNAi holds tremendous promise and has already yielded great insight into the disease process, and yet we’ve really only begun to understand how we can apply it therapeutically,” said Terence R. Flotte, MD, Dean of the UMMS School of Medicine. “Partnerships between organizations like the Tara Bean Foundation, as well as generous individuals and others, can help accelerate the process of developing innovative treatments for a variety of human diseases. On behalf of the patients this research may help, we are very grateful to the Tara Bean Foundation. By recognizing the potential in researchers like Anna Zinovyeva, the Foundation is opening up an avenue of investigation that might have remained unexplored.”

The fellowship, supported with a $50,000-per-year stipend, is intended to allow researchers to explore innovative ideas backed by world-class experts in RNAi as they seek to better understand human disease or to develop RNAi-based therapeutic applications for human disease. Dr. Zinovyeva’s project will screen chemical compounds that suppress the activity of LIN 28 protein in the worm C. elegans. LIN 28 has been shown to function in developmental timing of C. elegans; in humans it is important in the regulation of a class of small RNAs which act as natural tumor suppressors; by seeking drugs that interfere with LIN 28 function, Zinovyeva hopes to stop the protein’s detrimental effect on these tumor suppressors.

Karen Bean, Tara’s mother and president of the foundation, said, “Through this fellowship, we hope to position young scientists like Anna for careers as independent clinical and translational researchers and leaders in their fields.” The stipend may be used to support salary, research supplies and research travel expenses.

“I’m grateful to the Tara Bean Foundation for establishing this fellowship,” said Zinovyeva. “It’s a sign of their faith in our work and in the process of moving from findings of basic science to translational research and eventually to clinical studies. Translational research serves as an important bridge between basic and clinical studies and is indispensible for finding ways to end human disease.”

Fellowships in research and medical education are an additional period of training, usually one or two years, for a physician or scientist who has already completed graduate school or medical school and a residency program in a particular specialty. Fellowships then allow for intensive training in a particular area under the direct supervision of an experienced mentor.

“With this support and with Tara as inspiration, we can train a new generation of researchers focused on finding answers,” said Craig C. Mello, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, Blais University Chair in Molecular Medicine and distinguished professor of molecular medicine and cell biology. Mello received the 2006 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his co-discovery of RNAi; he is chair of the Foundation’s RNAi Fellowship Review Committee, which also includes Dr. Flotte and John L. Sullivan, MD, Vice Provost for Research.

Established in 2005, the Tara Bean Foundation is a 501(c)(3) Massachusetts non-profit corporation whose mission is to secure and allocate funds for medical treatment and research advancements. The Foundation is named in honor of Tara Bean, a seemingly healthy fourth grader who passed away in February 2000 from complications just three short weeks after being diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Brain tumors are the leading cause of solid tumor cancer deaths in children through high school age and the second most common form of cancer in children and adolescents after leukemia. There are more than 120 different types of brain tumors, making effective treatment difficult and complicated. The Foundation, which was originally established in 2001 as the Tara Bean Fund, has supported both treatment and research of pediatric brain tumors at UMMS and UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center.

About the University of Massachusetts Medical School
The University of Massachusetts Medical School has built a reputation as a world-class research institution, consistently producing noteworthy advances in clinical and basic research. The Medical School attracts more than $200 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources. The work of UMMS researcher Craig Mello, PhD, an investigator of the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), and his colleague Andrew Fire, PhD, then of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, toward the discovery of RNA interference was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and has spawned a new and promising field of research, the global impact of which may prove astounding. UMMS is the academic partner of UMass Memorial Health Care, the largest health care provider in Central Massachusetts. For more information, visit www.umassmed.edu.