IDRI - Infectious Disease Research Institute

Internship is Like Learning a New Board Game


IDRI Summer 2015 interns: Shomith Mondal, Cole Phalen and Brandon Paris.

Working for IDRI this summer has really helped me learn more about real world lab work. Taking lab classes is great, you learn a lot, but even so they don’t compare to the learning experience of working in a lab like IDRI’s.

Like learning a new board game, you only really “get it” once you start playing the real game. This internship has felt a lot like the real thing. It doesn’t hurt that the professionals here are eager to help and are some of the best scientists I’ve worked with.

This summer, I mainly focused on assay development for the tuberculosis drug discovery group. After development, we are planning on implementing this assay to test over 150,000 potential drugs. Early in the summer, I learned more about protein expression and purification, a key tool in any lab position going forward. I also got more acquainted with lab hardware like the Fast Protein Liquid Chromatography (FPLC) and various plate readers.

I learned most about assay development, naturally, as I spent most of my time on this. Learning the nuances of controls, different independent variables and, most importantly trouble-shooting, has better prepared me for a future in the sciences. Assay development is tough and can be frustrating at times (especially when commercial products don’t work as expected), but the experience was well worth the effort.

I’m excited to implement the knowledge I’ve gained this summer at school and beyond, whether that be a PhD or MD program.

Posted by Cole Phalen, IDRI Intern



Autoimmune Disorder Sparks Interest in Science

IDRI summer intern Brandon Paris, left, shares data with his mentor, Jeff Guderian.

IDRI summer intern Brandon Paris, left, shares data with his mentor, Jeff Guderian.

NOTE: Brandon Paris was one of three interns who spent 10 weeks at IDRI in summer 2015, as part of IDRI’s internship program for college undergraduates. He is a biology major at Whitman College.

I have been interested in the human immune system since I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder in 2006, but I never imagined where that interest would lead. In my three years at Whitman College, I have explored every corner of the biology major with this interest in the back of my mind. It has been a blessing to be able to bring this interest to IDRI, mesh into the framework here, and work towards IDRI’s global mission.

During my time at IDRI,  I have worked with the adjuvant development team on a study that aims to better understand how IDRI’s adjuvant formulations provoke inflammatory responses, ex vivo, following incubation at different temperatures. I was given the opportunity to see one particular study through, start to finish, with many cytokine assays along the way. To grow and develop these lab skills with this project has been an invaluable learning experience. (more…)

Avoid Unwanted Travelers During Vacation

As we move into August, everyone wants to get in a summer vacation before Labor Day. There’s no better way to bring your Travel-Medicine_Reducedvacation to a screeching halt than an encounter with an infectious disease, which is unfortunately a likely occurrence.

In summer 2015, nearly 200 million Americans are planning a vacation – almost 85 percent of American are planning at least a one week getaway. According to the New York Times, traveler’s diarrhea is the most common health problem a traveler encounters, but there are others lurking as well.

Going on a cruise? You’ve probably read the stories about what happens when the notorious norovirus comes along for the ride. But norovirus isn’t just for cruise ships anymore – it’s now causing problems on tour buses.  In August 2014, a survey of bus drivers in Yellowstone National Park showed  that five buses were carrying passengers who had diarrhea or vomiting — both symptoms of norovirus.

Going on a plane? Hopefully you won’t be as unlucky as Samuel L. Jackson who encountered numerous Snakes on a Plane; however, you will most definitely come across Pathogens on a Plane.With recirculating air and forced close proximity, airplanes have a bad reputation as hotbeds of disease. (more…)

IDRI’s Summer Reading List

summer-reading-logoWith a long weekend looming and vacations starting, the annual summer reading lists have begun to appear. We thought it would be fun to share what IDRI employees are reading this summer – you might be surprised!

Ayesha Misquith just finished reading Still Alice by Lisa Genova, which portrays an accomplished female professor who realizes she has early onset Alzheimer’s disease, which is a devastating diagnosis as this form of Alzheimer’s (under the age of 65) is more aggressive and rapidly progressing than the older onsets. “It resonates with the work we do at IDRI, to be able to accurately diagnose a disease and the race to find a cure for it,” said Ayesha, who also recommended checking out this list in Nature for popular “lab lit” summer reading.

With two little ones at home, Jessica Cohen is skimming through books — including Brain Rules for Baby by Dr. John Medina and Positive Discipline by Dr. Jane Nelsen —  about babies and preschoolers and what scientists have learned about baby development, parenting and sleeps. (more…)

From the Field: Visiting Leprosy-Affected Families

rural fam 1

At a rural farm, visiting with families affected by leprosy.

During a recent visit to Cebu, Philippines, I was privileged to join the Leonard Wood Memorial surveillance team, which was visiting with patients and their families in their homes as part of our Novartis Global Foundation-funded program. The goal of this program is to integrate rapid diagnostic tests into these visits and potentially identify emerging leprosy cases earlier than is currently possible among this higher risk group.

urban fam 3c

This family is living with leprosy (photo intentionally blurred to protect patients).

One family we visited numbered 16 in total; the dad was recently diagnosed with leprosy infection. He was a Jeepney driver, a job requiring reasonable dexterity in the hands and feet to enable safe driving. As the sole breadwinner for his large family, advancement of his disease to the point of affecting his ability to drive would be devastating.

rural fam 1g

Joining the surveillance team for lunch.

We then continued on to visit another family in the countryside. The hospitality offered by each family we visited was incredible, and this particular family invited us to stay for a lunch that they had prepared especially for us. In this situation, the patient was the 21-year-old son, who had dropped out of school a couple of years ago because of his unknown (at that time) but very visible condition. One of his sisters was home on vacation from her studies in the city, which are supported through a scholarship. The remarkable drawings from a 14-year-old were proudly displayed in the small home. The potential in this family is tremendous, showing just how important it is to monitor them for M. leprae infection and intervene early.

My work takes me to clinics around the world, from Brazil to the Philippines, and it’s devastating to see this disease in action.  But, with new tools — like our diagnostic test — we can make a positive difference for families like those I met recently.


Posted by Malcolm Duthie, Ph.D., Senior Scientist/Principal Investigator

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