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Developing Novel Cancer Therapeutic Approaches in the Wafik-El Deiry Lab

Posted on Friday, December 30, 2016

Article from the Winter 2016 Postdoc Alumni Newsletter

When you walk into the El-Deiry lab you can feel it: the weight of powerful stuff being done under the umbrella of an energetic, collaborative, and generally happy team. In some ways, this is what many trainees crave: good science in a harmonious environment. But: how was this achieved? Was it the mentor or the people? Was it the questions being asked or something else entirely? To figure out what makes this lab—the biggest at the Cancer Center—tick, we bribed them with pizza to give us a peek behind the curtain. Here’s what we learned.

Top left, Lanlan Zhou and Shuai Zhao. Bottom left, Journal Covers displayed outside the El-Deiry lab. Right, Prashanth Gokare pictured with his birthday cake.Top left, Lanlan Zhou and Shuai Zhao. Bottom left, Journal Covers displayed outside the El-Deiry lab. Right, Prashanth Gokare pictured with his birthday cake.Top, The El-Deiry Community at AACR 2016. Bottom, Prashanth Gokare discusses lab techniques with visiting students from Philadelphia.Top, The El-Deiry Community at AACR 2016. Bottom, Prashanth Gokare discusses lab techniques with visiting students from Philadelphia.

The El-Deiry lab works hard—with each trainee averaging >50 hrs/week—working nights and weekends to ensure that the experiments keep on rolling (and access to sought-after equipment is available!). They are a cohesive team that balances hard work with a fun, supportive environment where desserts are made for everyone’s birthday (even Poop Emoji cakes are welcome), gifts are exchanged at Wafik’s annual White Elephant party, food potlucks are numerous and Trainee accolades (papers, journal covers and posters) are tweeted and permanently displayed for all visitors to see.

Beyond being a hard-working group, they are a community of current and former trainees where mentorship continues beyond the training period. This El-Deiry Community is especially evident at conferences: for example, they were tied for first place for the largest number of abstracts submitted to AACR in 2016. Moreover, mentorship is a critical component of their jobs (it’s part of their annual performance evaluations) and it flows between current and former trainees, among senior and junior members of the lab, and with the community.El-Deiry Lab

Diversity, diversity, diversity: They are a diverse crew in every possible way: job title, country of origin (from 5 continents and counting!), training background and expertise. Beyond sharing diverse traditions and celebrations, the wide-ranging experience and expertise of the lab members ensures that fresh ideas are brought to every project. David Dicker, the longtime El-Deiry Laboratory Manager, keeps a world map at his desk that chronicles where lab members have come from.Front, Varun Prabhu, Dave Dicker and Paulo Del Valle. Middle row, Liz Hernandez Borrero, Shuai Zhao, Amriti Lulla, Marie Baumeister, Wafik El-Deiry (seated), Prashanth Gokare, Jessica Wagner, Xiaobing Tian and Joshua Allen. Back row, Shengliang Zhang, Phillip Abbosh, Tali Lev and Niklas Finnberg. Not pictured Lanlan Zhou, Safoora Deihimi, Junaid Abdulghani, Leah Kline, Elizabeth Matthew and Alison Conn.Front, Varun Prabhu, Dave Dicker and Paulo Del Valle. Middle row, Liz Hernandez Borrero, Shuai Zhao, Amriti Lulla, Marie Baumeister, Wafik El-Deiry (seated), Prashanth Gokare, Jessica Wagner, Xiaobing Tian and Joshua Allen. Back row, Shengliang Zhang, Phillip Abbosh, Tali Lev and Niklas Finnberg. Not pictured Lanlan Zhou, Safoora Deihimi, Junaid Abdulghani, Leah Kline, Elizabeth Matthew and Alison Conn.

The El-Deiry lab is a translational drug discovery and development lab focused on defining cell death signaling pathways downstream of tumor suppressors (e.g., p53 and TRAIL) and using this knowledge to develop novel cancer therapeutic approaches. In 2014, the lab—containing five graduate students, three postdocs, and five senior scientists—moved from Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania to the join the Molecular Therapeutics Department at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Northeast Philadelphia. Read more about the lab here.

To see more articles from the Postdoc Alumni Newsletter Winter 2016 issue click here.

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