Success for Notre Dame researchers at annual Indiana CTSI Conference

Author: Joanne Fahey

On Friday, September 11, 2015, the 7th Annual Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI) Meeting and Watanabe Prize Lecture took place in Indianapolis. This year’s theme was “Immune and Cell-based Therapies.”

Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute Logo

The day-long, annual conference highlights advances in the clinical and translational sciences from the three partner universities, which include Indiana University, Purdue University, and the University of Notre Dame.

This year, Notre Dame’s own Holly Weiss-Bilka, a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Biological Sciences, together with basic science mentor Professor Matthew Ravosa from Notre Dame, clinical co-mentor Sean Shih-Yao Liu from the Indiana University School of Dentistry, and Notre Dame undergraduates, Matthew Mazur and Justin Brill, was awarded “Best Poster Presentation” in the postdoctoral division. The winning poster was entitled “Location matters: variation in non-sutural cranial osteoblast behavior is a function of embryological precursor, ossification mode, and anatomical origin.” As well as the honor, Weiss-Bilka received $1,000 in research supply funds from the Indiana CTSI to continue her research on the variation of bone cell behavior and load-induced responses throughout the developing skull in mammals. Weiss-Bilka has been previously recognized by the CTSI on a national level, as she was also selected to present at Translational Science 2015, the Association for Clinical and Translational Sciences’ annual conference.

A number of Notre Dame’s pre-doctoral students also presented posters at the Indiana CTSI annual meeting and four were selected to further present their work at Eli Lilly and Company later in September. Each of these posters involved research in molecular or structural T cell immunology and were aligned with the cancer immunology theme of this year’s conference. The students, who are all members of Brian Baker’s lab in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and their poster titles are as follows:

Cory Ayres: Molecular Dynamics Studies of the Role of Protein Flexibility in Immunological Molecular Recognition

Sydney Blevins: Conserved residues in TCR CDR loops and their role in influencing MHC recognition

Ruth Nelson: Homology Modeling of Cancer Neoepitopes

Tim Riley: Deconstructing the Peptide Specificity of TCR Recognition

Riley’s research, which involves predicting and controlling cross-reactivity in immunotherapy, is supported by a pre-doctoral fellowship from the Indiana CTSI.

Speaking about Notre Dame’s success at the annual meeting, Richard Taylor, Deputy Director of the Indiana CTSI at Notre Dame, said, “Each year Notre Dame’s contribution to the Indiana CTSI grows and expands. I am delighted that through the dedication and hard work of our faculty and students new, collaborative research opportunities continue to arise. I encourage any interested students or faculty to reach out to me with questions about CTSI research opportunities or to visit our website,, for more information.”

The Indiana CTSI is a NIH-funded, statewide collaboration between Indiana University, Purdue University, and the University of Notre Dame, as well as public and private partnerships, whose mission is to strengthen and support the entire spectrum of translational research, from scientific discovery to improved patient care. The Indiana CTSI provides funding opportunities for researchers and currently proposals for Research Use of Core Facilities, Early Stage Commercialization Diagnostics and Therapeutics Development, and Drug Development Services through the Molecular Therapeutics Program are open for applications. 

Originally published by Joanne Fahey at on September 23, 2015.