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Last Updated: 04/15/21

BBRB Staff Bios

Helen M. Moore, Ph.D.

Helen M. Moore, Ph.D.

Branch Chief

Dr. Helen Moore leads the National Cancer Institute’s Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research Branch (BBRB). As Chief she sets the direction and strategic vision for the Branch and oversees a broad set of projects related to biobanking, including: The NCI Best Practices for Biospecimen Resources, a foundational document for biobanking; a Biospecimen Science research program to develop the evidence for biospecimen best practices; the Biospecimen Research Database, a Web-based Biospecimen Science literature and SOPs database; research in the ethical, legal, and social implications of biobanking; and biobanking operations for major NCI and NIH programs including the Cancer Moonshot and the NIH Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project. Dr. Moore previously led BBRB’s Biospecimen Research Network (BRN). Under her leadership, the BRN grew from concept stage to an internationally known, multidimensional program.

Dr. Moore is a molecular biologist with a broad background in research and development. She came to NCI from Celera Genomics, where she contributed to the assembly and annotation of the human genome; led and managed cross-functional teams to develop bioinformatics products focused on Comparative Genomics and data visualization; and developed new drug targets for complex diseases using multiple approaches including genetic analysis of disease association study data, biological pathways analysis, literature mining, and genomic analysis. Dr. Moore earned her doctorate at Cornell University and her B.A. at Wellesley College. Dr. Moore is a member of the Science Policy Committee of the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER) and is Biospecimen Science section editor for the journal Biopreservation and Biobanking.

Lokesh Agrawal, Ph.D.

Lokesh Agrawal, Ph.D.

Program Director

Dr. Lokesh Agrawal is a Program Director at the Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research Branch (BBRB). Dr. Agrawal leads the Branch’s biospecimen science research program, "Integrating Biospecimen Science Approaches into Clinical Assay Development." He also contributes to the Cancer Moonshot Biobank that is collecting longitudinal biospecimens from ~1000 cancer patients. Dr. Agrawal has expertise in biomarker development, clinical laboratory science and regulatory experience to strengthen BBRB programs. He is actively involved in designing biomarker plans for NCI clinical trials in collaboration with Clinical Trials and Evaluation Program (CTEP) of NCI. Dr. Agrawal is also engaged in several trans-NCI programs on cancer technology development, low-cost technology global health programs and physical sciences and oncology. Before joining the NCI in 2012, Dr. Agrawal worked at AstraZeneca Inc. (Medimmune Inc.) where he was a team leader on various projects involving pre-clinical/clinical biomarker assay development/validation in oncology and managed several cross functional teams to qualify and validate clinical biomarker assays. Assays included circulating tumor cells (CTC’s), vaccine immunogenicity, B and T-cell proliferation and repertoire analysis. Prior to Medimmune he worked at Rapid Pharmaceuticals, Inc., as a Research Director in oncology, infectious diseases/vaccines biomarker and clinical end point assay development, qualification and validation in collaboration with contract research organizations. Dr. Agrawal also led several NIH-sponsored projects at Thomas Jefferson University and did his postdoctoral fellowship at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI). He earned his Ph.D. from All India Institute of Medical Sciences, India and graduated from Delhi University. Dr. Agrawal has authored and co-authored several manuscripts in high impact journals and has presented his work at national and international conferences. Dr. Agrawal’s main interests include biobanking, understanding biospecimen science in a clinical setting, and development and validation of human biospecimen integrity markers using proteomic and molecular approaches and novel biomarkers for cancer treatment and diagnosis.

Kelly Bonner Engel, Ph.D.

Kelly Bonner Engel, Ph.D.

Lead Curator for the Biospecimen Research Database

Dr. Engel is the Lead Curator of the Biospecimen Research Database, a project within the Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research Branch (BBRB), and has served on the project since 2008. She recently co-authored a review paper on the effects of formalin fixation and processing variables on immunohistochemistry analysis. Dr. Engel earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences with specialties in Marine Biology and Ecology from Florida Institute of Technology, and her Ph.D. in Biology from Boston University with an emphasis on Physiology, Endocrinology, and Reproduction. The focus of her doctoral dissertation was the identification of male reproductive impacts as a result of environmental contaminant exposure using molecular, histological, and ecological approaches in animal model systems. Dr. Engel has also gained experience in scientific editing, ecological analysis, plant and soil heavy metal analysis, and wetland surveying.

Lori Campbell, Ph.D.

Lori Campbell, Ph.D.

Curator for the Biospecimen Research Database

Dr. Lori Campbell joined the Biospecimen Research Database project as a Curator in November 2015. Dr. Campbell participates in literature mining, curation, and meta-analysis. She earned her Bachelor's degree in Biology from East Tennessee State University and her Ph.D. in Biomedical Science from Quillen College of Medicine with a specialization in Cellular and Molecular Immunology. Her experience includes managing the research and development departments in clinical diagnostics laboratories and 10 years managing the CASPIR facility and services contract at the CDC. She is an active member of ISBER and is the current Editor-in-Chief of the ISBER Best Practices.

 

Esmeralda Casas-Silva, Ph.D.

Esmeralda Casas-Silva, Ph.D.

Scientific Program Manager

Dr. Casas-Silva is a Scientific Program Manager in the Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research Branch (BBRB) where she helps carry out BBRB’s mission of developing biospecimen research policies and programs to enable precision medicine. Her work has included leading participant and provider engagement strategies for the Cancer Moonshot Biobank, and creation of governance and data sharing policies for the Biobank. Dr. Casas-Silva is also a member of the NCI Bioethics Working Group and the Cancer Moonshot Network for Direct Patient Engagement Implementation Team. She joined the NCI as a Science and Technology Policy Fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Casas-Silva received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the University of California, San Diego where she studied genetic networks involved in cancer metastasis. She completed her postdoctoral studies at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.

 

Helena J. Ellis

Biobanking Consultant

Helena Ellis joined the Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research Branch in 2019. Ms. Ellis contributes to the Cancer Moonshot Biobank study in the areas of governance, informed consent, information management, biobanking operations, and participant and provider engagement. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Biopsychology from Vassar College. Ms. Ellis has contributed to several biobanking projects at academic medical centers and non-profit research foundations, including managing the biobank for several large Harvard longitudinal cohort studies, implementation of an enterprise-wide biobanking software system at Duke University and piloting a statewide biobank in the State of Rhode Island. She is an active member of the International Society for Biological and Environmental and Repositories (ISBER), a member of their Standards Committee, and has contributed to their Best Practices. Ms. Ellis is a current committee member of the College of American Pathologists Biorepository Accreditation Program.

 

Veena Gopalakrishnan, Ph.D.

Scientific Program Manager

Veena Gopalakrishnan, Ph.D.

Veena obtained her PhD from Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore where she studied regulation of telomere maintenance for applications in cancer therapeutics. She also has a Master's in Bioinformatics from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Prior to her PhD, she worked at the National Cancer Centre Singapore where she coordinated efforts to set up a gastric cancer tissue repository, and integrated data from genomics platforms to identify novel biomarkers in gastric cancer. Veena joined Biorepositories and Biospecimens Research Branch (BBRB) in the summer of 2017. At BBRB, she is involved with the Cancer Moonshot Biobank which aims to set up a biobank of solid and hematological malignancies that will serve the research needs of new initiatives in improving cancer cures.

 

Sarah Greytak, Ph.D.

Sarah Greytak, Ph.D.

Curator for the Biospecimen Research Database

Dr. Sarah Greytak is a Curator of the Biospecimen Research Database, and joined the project in July 2010. Dr. Greytak participates in literature mining, curation, and meta-analysis. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a minor in Chemistry, and her Ph.D. and her Ph.D. in Biology from Boston University with a specialization in Physiology, Endocrinology, and Reproduction. After completion of her PhD, Dr. Greytak spent three years a post-doctoral fellow at the Molecular Cardiology Research Institute at Tufts Medical Center. Dr. Greytak has experience in scientific writing and editing, human genotype analysis, and RNA and protein expression analysis in human tissues and model organisms.

 

Ping Guan, Ph.D.

Ping Guan, Ph.D.

Program Director

Dr. Ping Guan is a Program Director in the Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research Branch (BBRB) at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). She plays a leading role in planning and designing research programs at the branch and contributes to cross-functional team work to support the Cancer Diagnosis Program's initiatives. Dr. Guan applies her broad expertise in biomedical research in developing and managing projects related to pre-analytic impacts on downstream molecular profiling molecular analysis, for BBRB's Biospecimen Preanalytical Variables (BPV) program. Her interdisciplinary expertise includes Genomics, Bioinformatics, Systems Biology and Translational Sciences. Dr. Guan's 13 years of experience working in the private sector provided her with a strong background and rich experience in drug discovery and therapeutic research. Prior to joining NCI, she worked at Merck, leading biomarker discovery and validation through genome-wide expression profiling and comprehensive analysis on a systems biology scale. Dr. Guan has a strong educational background with training in Human Genetics (PhD) and Computer Sciences (MSc).

Pamela Malone

Pamela Malone

Program Assistant

Pamela Malone is an administrative assistant supporting Doctors Helen Moore (BBRB) and James Tricoli (TD). She joins us from the private sector where she was an office manager supporting the Vice President of Operations and CEO of an energy redistribution company. She is currently attending Anne Arundel Community College to obtain her Associates Degree in Business Management with a future goal of obtaining her bachelor's degree in Psychology. Her interest is cooking, bowling and spending time with family and friends.

 

Abhi Rao, Ph.D.

Abhi Rao, Ph.D.

Program Director

Dr. Rao joined BBRB as a Program Manager for the NIH Common Fund’s Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) program, which procured high-quality human tissues to help identify patient-specific change in gene expression, ultimately contributing to the development of targeted molecular medicine. She received her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and completed her postdoctoral studies in clinical nanotechnology at Georgetown University. In addition to GTEx, she has focused on a number of varied initiatives related to the Cancer Moonshot Biobank, the NCI Best Practices for Biospecimen Resources, the economics of biobanking, specimen access review, communication initiatives, BBRB’s funding opportunity, and more.