Conference keynote speaker is t-PA pioneer researcher Dr. Diane Pennica

Dr. Diane Pennica

Dr. Diane Pennica

Undergraduate students and faculty members from across the SUNY system will gather at the State University of New York at Fredonia for the SUNY Undergraduate Research Conference West, featuring a keynote address by a Fredonia alumna that highlights the success of the clot-busting drug t-PA (Activase), on Saturday, April 22, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The day-long conference will also feature individual oral, performance and poster presentations, the SUNY Graduate School and Career Fair and professional development workshops for students and faculty. Presentations and performances will be given at Steele Hall, Dods Hall, Diers Recital Hall, King Concert Hall and Williams Center. All events are free and open to Fredonia students, faculty and staff, and community members.

Dr. Diane Pennica will deliver the talk, “The 50 Year Journey to the Development of the Clot-Buster: t-PA” in King Concert Hall at 11 a.m. Drawing upon her expertise in the biotechnology industry and drug development, Pennica discovered and cloned the gene for the clot buster t-PA — the body’s natural clot dissolving substance — so it could be produced in large quantities (under the name Activase) to treat patients who experience a heart attack or stroke.

It was more than 80 years ago that researchers discovered t-PA (tissue plasminogen activator) and its clot busting function. Now, t-PA (Activase) is administered for two previously untreatable diseases – heart attacks and strokes. The effectiveness of t-PA will be validated by outcomes to be shared by Pennica.

Heart attacks are the single largest killer of men and women in the United States. Every 20 seconds someone suffers a heart attack. Over one million people have a heart attack every year.

Strokes are the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. Every 40 seconds someone has a stroke and there are about 800,000 new cases every year. Without warning, a stroke can paralyze, blind or kill. Some victims recover, but many don’t and suffer long term disability, which costs the United States over $33 billion every year.

“I felt very honored and excited to be asked to speak to the undergraduates about how my education at Fredonia State was instrumental to my successful career as a scientist,” Pennica said. It was a microbiology course with Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus Kevin Fox that “hooked” Pennica on science during her junior year and inspired Pennica to change her major to biology.

Pennica, who has a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Rhode Island and was awarded her Fredonia degree in 1973, will also share how her Fredonia education laid the groundwork for her job with Genentech, a pioneering biotech company. She visits the area several times a year to see her father, now 92, who still lives in Fredonia, and also see Dr. Fox whenever possible. She has also visited the new Science Center.

The undergraduate research fair, a multidisciplinary spring event hosted each year at a different SUNY campus, is supported by the Offices of the Chancellor, Provost, and Research Foundation, as well as SUNY student and faculty governance organizations. More information can be found at the Fredonia SURC website.

COMMENTS