UCLA JCCC Strategic Plan Aligned Project Seed Grant

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Prof. Danielle Schmitt

The UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center (JCCC) has awarded Assistant Professor Danielle Schmitt a $77,800 Strategic Plan Aligned Project Seed Grant for her project entitled “iGlo: A Novel Molecular Biosensor for Imaging Glutamine Dynamics Across Scales Background and Significance”.

Schmitt’s project aims to develop iGlo, a novel molecular biosensor for imaging glutamine dynamics across different scales, from single cells to whole tissues. Glutamine plays a crucial role in cancer metabolism, and understanding its dynamics could reveal new therapeutic targets. The project involves developing and optimizing a biosensor for glutamine and using it to study glutamine dynamics in cancer cell lines. The ultimate goal is to use iGlo for in vivo imaging and identify new targets for cancer therapy. The project will be led by Schmitt with assistance from graduate and undergraduate students, focusing on enhancing our understanding of cancer biology while supporting underrepresented trainees in cancer research.

Schmitt joined the UCLA faculty as an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry in July 2022.  Her group employs an interdisciplinary approach to study cellular metabolic regulation. They develop fluorescent protein-based genetically encoded reporters for metabolites, amino acids, and kinases involved in regulating metabolism. These microscopy-based tools help them investigate the spatial and temporal organization of metabolism in single cells. Their ultimate goal is to understand the regulation of metabolism in healthy cells and its disruption in disease.

In 2023, Schmitt and collaborator Professor Tara TeSlaa (UCLA Molecular and Medical Pharmacology) were awarded $250,000 from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to investigate why diets deficient in choline and methionine can cause liver damage.  The same year, Schmitt received a prestigious $1.5 million New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) High-Risk, High-Reward Research program.

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.