EPIC celebrates past accomplishments – with an eye to the future

Clemson President James P. Clements (second from right) and the EPIC team pose on the stairs of the Life Sciences Facility.
Image Credit: College of Science - Jim Melvin

CLEMSON – Clemson University’s Eukaryotic Pathogens Innovation Center (EPIC) celebrated its five-year anniversary Wednesday with a spirited discussion about the College of Science center’s latest explorations into biomedical research.

Then came the cutting of the cake – and the fun continued.

A special guest joined the crowd to express his thanks for everything EPIC has done. Clemson University President James P. Clements spearheaded a lively exchange with faculty, staff and student researchers who had crammed into a long hallway inside the University’s futuristic Life Sciences Facility.

EPIC stands at the forefront of biomedical research on pathogens that affect complex cells, so it was understandable that the topics ranged from data analytics to brain-eating amoeba.

“I really like to tell others about the very cool and innovative work you are doing here,” Clements said to the gathering. “Your team has a lot of different skillsets and backgrounds which help you tackle the causes of complex diseases from a wide range of angles. You are doing transformational work, and I’m very proud of you. You are doing the kind of research that is changing lives in a positive way.”

President Clements poses with EPIC's Lesly Temesvari (left) and Kerry Smith.

President Clements is presented with an EPIC sweatshirt by Lesly Temesvari (left) and Kerry Smith.
Image Credit: College of Science - Jim Melvin

EPIC is a National Institutes of Health “Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE)” that is dedicated to advancing the understanding of the molecular mechanisms regulating the virulence of eukaryotic pathogens through interdisciplinary research. The center was established in 2013.

“EPIC was initially formed as an interdepartmental center composed of seven tenured or tenure-track faculty in the departments of biological sciences and genetics and biochemistry,” EPIC director Kerry Smith said. “But we now have 11 tenured or tenure-track faculty in four departments (biological sciences, chemistry, genetics and biochemistry, and physics and astronomy) who train 14 postdoctoral researchers and technicians, 20 graduate students and 70 undergraduate researchers with grant awards totaling more than $20 million.”

Highlights of the past five years include:

  • COBRE designation via a $10.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in April 2016.
  • Eleven EPIC labs from the departments of biological sciences, chemistry, genetics and biochemistry, and physics and astronomy that train more than 100 scientists.
  • Hosting of the fifth annual NIH-funded Cell Biology of Eukaryotic Pathogens (CBEP) meeting at Clemson, which was held last October and had about 120 attendees from 16 universities across the U.S. and Canada.
  • Creation of the MEnTOR (Medical Enrichment Through Opportunities in Research) Summer Program for medical students from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville, and submission of an NIH T35 training grant to support the program in future years.
  • Purchase of new equipment and upgrades to Clemson Light Imaging Facility and Clemson University Genome Computational Laboratory.
  • Hiring of a center coordinator and grants development officer in the EPIC office, and establishment of an External Advisory Committee.
  • Bill Marcotte, Mark Leising, Bob Cohen and Chris Cox enjoy the EPIC celebration.

    From left, Bill Marcotte, Mark Leising, Bob Cohen and Chris Cox enjoy the EPIC celebration.
    Image Credit: College of Science - Jim Melvi

    EPIC faculty serving on NIH study sections, National Science Foundation grant panels and journal editorial boards.

  • Graduate students winning awards and moving on to prestigious post-doctoral positions at Stanford, City of Hope, UNC Chapel Hill and other university’s and institutions.
  • Undergraduate researchers winning awards and moving on to M.D., Ph.D. and M.D.-Ph.D. programs at Duke, Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt, Emory, UNC Chapel Hill, UT Southwestern and Washington University, among others.

“Just this past year, we’ve had nine publications, 107 visits to conferences, 43 poster presentations, eight invited talks and 12 grant submissions,” said Lesly Temesvari, an Alumni Distinguished Professor of biological sciences who is one of EPIC’s founding members.

“We’re hosting medical students who come here during the summer,” Smith added. “And we’ve also purchased equipment upgrades for the Clemson Light Imaging Facility. We’ve done so much, but there is so much left to do. It’s challenging, fun and exciting – all wrapped into one.”