Issue 2013-03 (March 13, 2013)



WSU Researcher Receives $1.6M to Study Gene Therapy for HIV/AIDS

By Lorraine Nelson, College of Pharmacy

Grant Trobridge, a researcher in the WSU College of Pharmacy, has received a $1.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue investigating the use of gene therapy for HIV and AIDS.

Portrait photo of Grant Trobridge

In the therapy, genes that interfere with the virus's ability to replicate are delivered to a patient's blood stem cells. Inefficient transfer of new DNA to the patient has been a significant roadblock that Trobridge and his colleagues have been trying to address. They have spent years developing a more efficient transfer agent to deliver anti-HIV genes to blood stem cells in a mouse model.

There is evidence that stem cell therapy for HIV/AIDS can be effective. A blood stem cell transplant done in Germany is believed to have erased the patient's HIV. He has been free of the disease for five years, and that has sparked hope that gene therapy could be a cure for AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). The transplant was a bone marrow transplant and involved a donor with a rare genetic condition that provides natural resistance to HIV; that resistance transferred to the patient and his HIV disappeared.

"The success in this patient is remarkable," Trobridge said. However, it is infrequent that there will be such a donor who is also a match for the transplant, he said.

The incidence of new cases of HIV—or human immunodeficiency virus, a disease of the immune system —has slowed since an effective drug therapy became available in 1996, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Drug therapy has greatly reduced the progression of HIV to AIDS, but the side effects can be severe and the emergence of drug resistance is a problem," Trobridge said. "Patients who have stopped taking the drugs experience a rapid resurgence of the virus."

Viruses fighting viruses

The goal of his research with the new five-year grant is to continue to improve the safety and efficacy of his approach.

"Different investigators have developed different genes that inhibit HIV," Trobridge said. "We are trying new combinations of those genes to see how that works."

Ironically their transfer agent—known as a vector—is a virus related to HIV. Viruses are often used to introduce new genetic material, and Trobridge is using a type known as a "foamy virus."

It may seem odd that scientists would use transfer agents such as foamy viruses, but they work well because they have evolved over millions of years to efficiently deliver genes, Trobridge said. Unlike HIV, foamy viruses are not known to cause any disease.

One goal of this research is to compare the safety of foamy virus vectors to the HIV vector and other vectors in the HIV class, known as lentiviral vectors.

Trobridge also will use bioinformatics—lots of human gene data accessible via computer—to study where the virus integrates and also to compare different vector designs to see if one is safer than another.

Trobridge is an assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences in the College of Pharmacy. Before coming to WSU in May 2010, he was a staff scientist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and a research assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Washington.

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Nutrition Student Helps Develop Kids' App to Promote Healthy Food Choices

By Doug Nadvornick

Portrait photo of Scott Webb

When Scot Webb graduates with a bachelor's degree in nutrition and exercise physiology in May, he might consider Chompin' Chuck to be just a small footnote during his student career on the Riverpoint Campus. But Webb's contribution to developing the character in a new mobile phone application may leave a legacy well into the future.

Webb was one member of an entrepreneurial team that won the top award for its Chompin' Chuck app at the recent Startup Spokane Weekend event on the Riverpoint Campus.

The game revolves around the brown, furry, monster-like character and the things he eats. The player decides which foods are part of Chuck’s diet.  

"Essentially when he eats bad food, he gets fat and throws up," Webb said.

Conversely, when the player makes good food choices, Chuck gets healthier and the player wins points that allow him or her to go deeper into the game.

Teaching nutrition using technology

Chompin' Chuck was originally conceived by Spokane graphic designer Stephanie Guerra. She and her team pitched the idea at Startup Spokane and were given the go-ahead to develop it during the weekend event in the Phase One Classroom building.

"I'm passionate about nutrition, especially for kids," she said. "I'd been watching a Jamie Oliver video about his work in making food that's healthier for children, and I thought about what I could do to help. So I created a character that's goofy and funny that could help teach kids about nutrition."

Image of iphone showing Chompin' Chuck
Popcorn or french fries?
It's just one of the many
choices kids will be
making while using
the Chompin' Chuck app.

Scot Webb's role was to provide nutritional advice and to make sure that the information the game offers to its players is accurate. He says he was drawn to the project because of its potential in spreading the word about America's obesity epidemic and especially its growing diabetes problem.

Webb says he'd like to stay on as a consultant to the Chompin' Chuck development team, but for various reasons, his involvement may be done. First, there's his schedule. He'll graduate with his bachelor's degree in May and is scheduled to spend two months in North Carolina this summer working at a cardiac rehabilitation internship.

But Guerra says the process is also moving more toward a technical phase, including the code writing needed to make the app work. That isn't Webb's area of expertise.

Guerra says she's working with other members of her development team to create a beta version of Chompin' Chuck. She says the game will be aimed not only at children, but also at their parents.

"There's a crazy amount of misinformation and horrible marketing about food," she said. "I hope this can make a difference in reversing that. There's a real need for good nutrition information."

She hopes to begin marketing the Chompin' Chuck app in May.

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WSU Researcher Studies Disorder Associated with Autism and Epilepsy

By Lorraine Nelson

The National Institutes of Health have awarded a $743,974 grant to a WSU professor to test an experimental drug's effectiveness on an inherited disorder with characteristics of autism and epilepsy.

Portrait photo of Mike Gibson

K. Michael Gibson, head of the clinical pharmacology section in WSU's College of Pharmacy, and three other collaborators have already tested the effectiveness of an amino acid for the disorder. They will use a similar clinical trial approach to test the experimental drug SGS742.

The researchers also will make a recommendation to the NIH as to whether SGS742 has sufficient promise to warrant further investment. The drug has been around since the 1990s and showed some promise for memory improvement, but was not further explored for use in Alzheimer’s disease.

The drug selectively competes with a neurotransmitter receptor in the brain that is intricately involved in the inherited disorder succinic semialdehyde dehydrogenase (SSADH) deficiency. Gibson has studied the deficiency for more than 30 years since discovering the primary enzyme defect in his doctoral work at the University of California at San Diego.

According to the NIH, SSADH deficiency causes a variety of neurological problems, including developmental delay, intellectual disability, decreased muscle tone, seizures, difficulty coordinating movements, and decreased reflexes, and behavioral problems such as sleep disturbance, hyperactivity, difficulty maintaining attention, and anxiety.

The disorder is the result of a single missing enzyme—SSADH—because of a mutation in the gene that produces it. The enzyme is involved in breaking down a neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), whose primary role is to balance electrical activity in the brain by selectively inhibiting neurotransmission.

The absence of the enzyme results in an increase in GABA and a related molecule known as gamma-hydroxy butyric acid (GHB), particularly in the central nervous system, but it is not clear how an increase in the two causes the symptoms of the disorder. Those processes are a key focus of research in the Gibson laboratory at WSU. Of interest, GHB gained headlines in the late 1990s as an illicitly consumed drug of abuse.

There are only approximately 500 cases of SSADH deficiency worldwide, but the long-term significance of the research is its identification of effective treatment for the disorder and other similar inherited disorders that disturb GABA, Gibson said.

Gibson is a new researcher at WSU and was recruited from Michigan Technological University in July 2012 with the help of a grant from the Health Sciences and Services Authority of Spokane County.

Gibson has spent his career studying a specific group of inherited disorders of metabolism. Metabolism is the set of enzyme-catalyzed biochemical transformations that sustain living organisms. Gibson studies a group referred to as Mendelian disorders, which have a specific pattern of inheritance and are caused by a single gene abnormality in the DNA, resulting in a single enzyme defect responsible for the disorder.

Gibson's collaborators and co-principal investigators on this project are William Theodore, of the clinical epilepsy section of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, and Phillip Pearl and Robert McCarter Jr., of the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC.

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Roloff to Head WSU Spokane Communications, Public Affairs

By Judith Van Dongen

Washington State University Spokane has hired Terren Roloff as director of communications and public affairs, effective March 14. As the chief external affairs officer, she will oversee the campus' strategic public affairs, public relations, alumni communications and marketing activities.

Portrait photo of Terren Roloff

"I'm very pleased to have Terren join the campus leadership team," said Lisa Brown, WSU Spokane chancellor. "She brings an impressive array of skills and experiences that will be invaluable to WSU Spokane’s growth as a world-class center for health sciences education and research."

Roloff has an extensive background in communications and community relations in Spokane’s public education and health care sectors. She comes to WSU from Spokane Public Schools, where she has been director of community relations and communications for the past 15 years. Prior to that, she served 10 years as community relations specialist for Empire Health Services.

An Eastern Washington native, she is well known in Spokane for her passion for public education and her involvement in the community. She serves on the Greater Spokane Incorporated Public Policy Committee, Spokane Rotary Vocational Service Committees and Citizens for Spokane Schools Leadership Team.

Roloff holds a BA in journalism from Eastern Washington University; she completed two years of her studies at WSU.

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Antipsychotic Drug Use in Washington State Is Focus of Study

By Lorraine Nelson, College of Pharmacy

New research led by health policy professor Jae Kennedy at Washington State University Health Sciences in Spokane will compare the positive and negative effects of antipsychotic medications used by the state’s Medicare population. The results will be presented to state policymakers and healthcare providers.

Portrait photo of Jae Kennedy

Medications for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have serious side effects. Kennedy and his team will study the most recent data from Medicare drug claims to present a detailed look at medication use for these disorders.

A grant of $340,289 from the state attorney general’s office will fund the two-year study. The money is from a settlement paid to 37 states, including Washington, by Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., last year for allegedly promoting unapproved uses for its antipsychotic medications Risperdal and Invega.

Kennedy will prepare a thorough analysis of how patients are using the drugs, such as whether they are taking them as prescribed, taking multiple psychiatric medicines, and taking them for conditions for which the drugs have not been approved.

He will present the findings to mental health care providers and consumers in at least three forums around the state and at least one national conference. He will also submit the findings for publication and develop an interactive Web site.

Kennedy figures there will be about 17,500 antipsychotic medication users in the study.

"Appropriate use of antipsychotic medications can significantly extend and improve the lives of people with schizophrenia and manic-depressive psychosis," he said in his grant proposal. "But it can also heighten risk for serious adverse effects, including cardiometabolic dysfunction, diabetes, cerebrovascular events, thromboembolism, and sudden cardiac death."

Kennedy gathered letters of support for the project from the Washington State Psychiatric Association, Washington State Medical Association, and Washington State Pharmacy Association.

Co-investigators are Sean Murphy, assistant professor in health policy and administration, and Sterling McPherson, assistant research professor in the WSU College of Nursing. Matt Layton, a Spokane psychiatrist with faculty appointments at WSU and the University of Washington, will serve as a clinical consultant.

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SLIDESHOW: Students Stage Heart-Healthy Cook Off, Health Screenings

Photos and slideshow by Judith Van Dongen

Students in the nutrition and exercise physiology (NEP) program teamed up with doctor of pharmacy students last month to offer a free, public event centered around heart health. While students from both programs provided a variety of health screenings, four teams of NEP students competed in a juried cook off that featured heart-healthy and nutritionally balanced dishes with an international flair. A panel of six judges drawn from the community evaluated the teams' work. They gave the highest marks to team four—Angela Boyd, Liana Castilla, and Angelina Masino—who focused their efforts on Indian-Asian cuisine. Their lentil soup, date and raisin chutney, and parathas flatbread were deemed especially tasty.

After the judging was complete each team brought out their dishes for anyone to sample. Don't worry if you missed it—you can download the teams' recipes below. Bon appetit!

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Medical, Pharmacy Students Elected as ASWSU Spokane Student Officers

By Doug Nadvornick

WSU Spokane students have chosen Scott Hippe and Shurrie Dugas to serve as their student body president and vice president for the 2013-14 academic year.

Hippe is the first medical student to serve as Associated Students of Washington State University Spokane student body president since the University of Washington School of Medicine began sending first-year students to Spokane in 2008. Next year, Hippe will be part of the first group of second-year medical students to study in Spokane. (Traditionally, second-year students study in Seattle.)

Hippe is from Snohomish. He received his undergraduate degree at Gonzaga. Dugas is a third-year pharmacy student from Spokane. Both have been active this year in organizations related to their respective programs.

Students also elected 17 ASWSU Spokane senators. They include nursing students Nicole Brustkern, Taylor Boyd, and Teresa Snook; pharmacy students Anne Louise Male Ervik, Alexandra Palmer, and Tristan Jenkins; speech and hearing sciences students Rebecca Ly and Nichole Roberts, nutrition and exercise physiology student Caitlyn Cordrey, health policy and administration student Brendan Warwick, medical student Kameron Firouzi, education students Adrian Espindola and criminal justice student Josiah Surface. Three students were elected 'at-large': Naz Tesfay, Sean Leonard, and Emilio Sulpizio.

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In the News

  • Regents Professor of Neuroscience James Krueger was quoted in a Washington Post article on a new study that found that chronic sleep deprivation affects our genes. Read the article here. 
  • Work done by Area Health Education Center director Chris Blodgett and his staff to reduce the effects of childhood trauma in schools was the focus of a recent Seattle Times article. Read the article here.
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  • Photo of Lisa Brown receicing her award from Joyce Cameron
    WSU Spokane Chancellor Lisa Brown was recently recognized as Sacred Heart Children's Hospital Advocate of the Year for 2013 in the public policy category. She received the award at the hospital's annual Kids at Heart charity lunch on Feb. 26. The former state Senate majority leader was honored for being a champion for children, a supporter for social justice, and an advocate for Spokane, particularly in the areas of health sciences education and research.

Community Connections

  • Tuesday, March 19, Spokane Public Radio Health Forum
    Spokane Public Radio and City Cable 5 have teamed up to bring residents the facts and myths surrounding the Affordable Healthcare Act, also known as ObamaCare. The SPR Health Forum will take place in the Spokane City Hall Council Chambers from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.. The event is free and open to the public, health care professionals, government officials, and anyone who is curious or has concerns about the new laws and how residents of Washington State are affected.  WSU Spokane's very own Doug Nadvornick will moderate the discussion and take questions from the audience during the second hour. For more information, see the Spokane Public Radio Web site.
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Personnel and Staffing Changes


  • Libby Forsyth, Office Assistant 3, Human Resources Services, effective March 11, 2013
  • Margaret Holt, Office Assistant 3, Chancellor’s Office, effective March 14, 2013
  • Terren Roloff, Regional Director Marketing/Communications, effective March 14, 2013
  • Tanya Bailey, Office Assistant 2 (50%), Student Affairs, effective March 18, 2013
  • Azra Rasic, Administrative Assistant 2, Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, effective March 25, 2013


  • Kevin Stevens, from Instructor to Director, Center for Clinical Performance and Simulation, College of Nursing, effective February 1, 2013


  • Ryan Ruffcorn, Director, Capital Planning and Development, effective March 8, 2013

Recruitments & Searches:

  • Assistant/Associate Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences, open until filled, apply at
  • Assistant/Associate/Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences, open until filled, apply at
  • Assistant/Associate Professor/Professor, College of Pharmacy, open until filled, apply at
  • Assistant/Associate/Full Professor, College of Nursing, open until filled, interviews on-going, apply at
  • Associate/Full/Professor (Tenured/Tenure Track Faculty), Faculty Scholar in Residence, College of Nursing, open until filled, interviews on-going, apply at
  • Development Assistant Director (Director of Spokane Operations, Intercollegiate Athletics, open until filled, apply at
  • Electrician, Facilities Operations, closed February 28, 2013, screening applications
  • Extension Regional Specialist, Community and Economic Development Program, WSU Extension, open until filled, apply at
  • Extension Regional Specialist, Regional Extension Horticulture Specialist, WSU Extension, open until filled, apply at


Newly Tenured and Promoted Faculty:
Portrait photo of Kenn Daratha  Portrait photo of Linda Garrelts MacLean  Portrait photo of Jonathan Wisor
  • Kenn Daratha, College of Nursing, tenured and promoted to associate professor, effective August 16, 2013
  • Linda Garrelts MacLean, College of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmacotherapy, promoted to associate dean and clinical professor (non-tenure track), effective August 16, 2013
  • Jonathan Wisor, College of Veterinary Medicine, Veterinary & Comparative Anatomy, Pharmacology & Physiology, tenured and promoted to associate professor, effective July 1, 2013
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Way to Go!

Here's where you make someone's day a little brighter by extending your thanks for a job well done. Send your "Way to Go!" comments to Judith Van Dongen and watch for your thanks to be published in an upcoming issue of the Campus Bulletin!

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The Bulletin is a monthly publication that is usually published on the second Wednesday of each month. The exact publication date may shift due to holidays. If you have an item that you'd like us to include, send it to us by Friday in the week before publication.

The Bulletin covers news of interest to the faculty, staff, and friends of Washington State University Spokane, and associates on other WSU campuses and on the Riverpoint Campus.

Regular stories cover professional accomplishments, opportunities for involvement in the campus community and the Spokane community, notices of new developments on campus, upcoming events, personnel changes, and other news.

The Bulletin also serves as a source of information for external communications directed to alumni, future and current students, and friends of Washington State University Spokane. You'll read it here first!

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Editorial staff