Dr. Walter Adams and Dr. Frank Huynh in Biology win NIH grants to fund their biomedical research projects

Bio facultyRight to left: Dr. Walter Adams, Dr. Frank Huynh

Two faculty members in the Biology Department, Dr. Frank Huynh and Dr. Walter Adams, have been awarded research grants from the National Institutes of Health this year. These funds will directly support Dr. Huynh’s and Dr. Adams’ biomedical research projects that investigate the role of nutrient metabolism and infectious disease, respectively. The assistant professors are relatively new to the Department of Biological Sciences, having joined SJSU within the last three years and are excited to build robust research programs in the College of Science. Both faculty members mentor undergraduate and masters-level researchers, and these grants will allow them to expand their mentorship and student research experiences in their laboratories.

Dr. Huynh’s research centers on understanding how nutrients are metabolized and how this contributes to overall health. He is currently studying the enzyme sirtuin 4 (SIRT4), which is found in mitochondria and has major effects on how cells metabolize carbohydrates, lipids, and amino acids. Interestingly, mice that lack this SIRT4 have impaired mammary gland development, but the reason for this is unclear. Dr. Huynh’s new grant is aimed at uncovering how the metabolic effects of SIRT4 contribute to mammary gland development. By completing this research, the Huynh lab hopes to discover how SIRT4 and the nutrients we consume may affect normal mammary development and whether a disruption of these normal processes can lead to breast cancer.

Finding novel ways to improve human health is also front and center in the research proposed by Dr. Adams. His grant focuses on understanding the dynamic, microbial battle between bad bacteria and white blood cells. This microbial warfare, or “Game of Thrones under a microscope” takes place in our bodies every day. In his research proposal, Dr. Adams seeks to understand how our white blood cells fight off Streptococcus pneumoniae, a dangerous bacterium that infect our lungs. Both the white blood cells and S. pneumoniae use different strategies and tools to eliminate each other, the outcome of which, can sometimes mean life or death. By identifying what tactics and weapons each side uses, Dr. Adams and his lab aim to uncover novel treatments for patients with respiratory infections.

Both Dr. Huynh and Dr. Adams credit the University Grants Academy (UGA) as an important first step to securing their NIH funding. This SJSU program is specifically designed to support faculty members in the grant writing and application process. One additional benefit of the UGA is that it provides teaching release for participants, which provides valuable time for faculty to reflect deeply about their research and how to effectively communicate their approach in their proposal documents.