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Cancer Diagnosis Program (CDP) — Biorepositories & Biospecimen Research Branch (BBRB) Cancer Diagnosis Program (CDP) Biorepositories & Biospecimen Research Branch (BBRB)
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Last Updated: 01/22/19

BBRB Staff Bios

Helen M. Moore, Ph.D.

Helen M. Moore, Ph.D.

Branch Chief

Dr. Moore leads the NCI Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research Branch (BBRB). As Chief she sets the direction and strategic vision for the Branch and oversees a complex set of projects related to biobanking:

  • Biospecimen Science research conducted under the Biospecimen Research Network (BRN)
  • Acquisition of biospecimens for the Cancer Moonshot℠ Biobank and the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) Program
  • The Biospecimen Research Database, a Web-based Biospecimen Science literature database
  • Biobanking economics research
  • The NCI Best Practices for Biospecimen Resources

Dr. Moore speaks nationally and internationally about BBRB and biobanking, publishes articles related to BBRB and related initiatives, and serves as expert reviewer and as member of advisory boards. 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 led and managed cross-functional teams to develop bioinformatics products focused on comparative genomics and data visualization; 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; and contributed to the assembly and annotation of the human genome. Dr. Moore earned her doctorate at Cornell University and her B.A. degree at Wellesley College.

Lokesh Agrawal, Ph.D.

Lokesh Agrawal, Ph.D.

Program Director

Dr. Lokesh Agrawal directs and leads Biospecimen Research Network (BRN)-PI-led projects on human biospecimen integrity and biomarker development by studying pre-analytical variables using proteomics and molecular approaches. His work also involves leading the collaboration with several other programs/institutions at the NCI including the office of physical sciences and oncology (OPSO) and Center for Strategic and Scientific Initiatives (CSSI). Dr. Agrawal has expertise in biomarker development including clinical laboratory science and regulatory experience to strengthen BBRB programs in biospecimen acquisition and biospecimen research. Dr. Agrawal worked most recently at MedImmune Inc., where he was a team leader on various projects involving pre-clinical/clinical biomarker assay development/validation and managed several cross functional teams across to qualify and validate clinical biomarker assays; CTC’s, SNP’s, vaccine immunogenicity, B and T-cell proliferation & repertoire analysis. Prior to MedImmune he worked at Rapid Pharmaceuticals, Inc., as a team leader in infectious diseases/vaccines biomarker and clinical end point assay development, qualification and validation in collaboration with contract research organizations (CRO’s). Dr. Agrawal also led and directed 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 did his M.S., and B.S. at different institutions in India. Dr Agrawal has authored and co-authored several manuscripts in high impact journals and has given/presented his work at both national and international conferences. Dr Agrawal has published extensively on antioxidant gene therapy approaches against neuroinflammation/neurodegeneration, dopaminergic neurons apoptosis, rat models of ischemia, role of caspases, metalloproteinases and VEGF. Dr Agrawal was the first one to show the Role for CCR5Delta32 protein in resistance to R5, R5X4, and X4 human immunodeficiency virus type 1 in primary CD4+ cells using recombinant Adenoviruses and has developed assays to quantify viruses in blood. Dr. Agrawal main interests include development and validation of human (both normal and cancer) 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.

Philip A. Branton, M.D., FCAP

Philip A. Branton, M.D., FCAP

Surgical Pathologist

Dr. Branton has served on both the Cancer and Surgical Pathology Committees for the CAP since 2000 and was chair of the surgical pathology committee for the CAP from 2013-2016; he has served as chair of CAPís Biorepository Accreditation Committee since Jan 2017 and is the CAP Deputy Commissioner for Biorepository Accreditation. He also is a consultant pathologist for The Cancer Genome Project (TCGA) based in Columbus Ohio. He received his degree in medicine from Johns Hopkins medical school (1987) and is diplomate in anatomic and clinical pathology after residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (1992) and gyn/breast pathology at the AFIP (1996). He was vice chair and chair of the Pathology Department at Fairfax Hospital near Washington DC, where he was on staff from 1997 Ė 2010. He joined the Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research Branch (BBRB) and the Cancer Human Biobank (caHUB) at the National Cancer Institute as a consultant surgical pathologist in October 2010. His main interests are in gynecologic and breast pathology and in biospecimen science. In January 2016 he accepted a position as consulting pathologist in gyn/breast pathology at the Joint Pathology Center (JPC), a US Defense Health Services Agency entity providing histopathology consults to military and VA surgical pathology laboratories.

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 received her Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from the University of California, San Diego and trained as a post-doctoral fellow at The Scripps Research Institute, San Diego. She has over a decade of scientific expertise studying gene expression biology including spinal cord development and genetic drivers of cancer metastasis. Dr. Casas-Silva joined BBRB as AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow in 2016 and became a Scientific Program Manager after completion of her fellowship in 2018. Her work within BBRB involves work on several Cancer Moonshot projects that center around patient and provider participation and engagement. In addition, Dr. Casas-Silva works within BBRB to help carry out its mission of developing and communicating policies and techniques that support evidence-based biospecimen collection, handling and processing practices.

 

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 in the summer of 2013 as a Program Manager for the NIH Common Fund Initiative Genotype Tissue Expression (GTEx) program, which procures high-quality human tissues to help identify patient-specific change in gene expression and will ultimately contribute 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. Her current focus is on the Biospecimen Methodological Study (BMS) which has provided valuable information about tissue processing parameters as well as an economics initiative that will address the challenges that human tissue biobanks encounter to sustain a financially stable operation. The information garnered about cost and operational modeling will help develop programs to support biobanks worldwide.

Christina Vivelo, Ph.D.

Christina Vivelo, Ph.D.

Health Communications Fellow

Christina Vivelo earned her Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in July 2018. Her doctoral research focused on elucidating the mechanism of degradation of an RNA binding protein found to be over expressed in various cancers. In addition to performing research at the bench, Christina helped to curate and launch the first database of proteins modified by the post translational modification of ADP-ribosylation; a post-translational modification prevalent in the DNA damage response, cellular stress response, and a multitude of other biological pathways. After graduate school, Christina chose to pursue a translational role in the scientific community through science communication. She joined DCTD in August 2018 as a Health Communications Fellow in both the Cancer Imaging Program (CIP) and Cancer Diagnosis Program (CDP) where she works on a variety of science communication projects.