MCP Graduate Student Joanna Lum Receives ChadTough Defeat DIPG Foundation Fellowship Award

By Lynn McCain | January 18

Joanna Lum headshot sq 500.jpgIn the world of research and grant funding, it is easy to lose sight of the effort required for foundations to provide funding to researchers and the underlying motivation for that funding. This is not the case, however, for Molecular and Cellular Pathology Graduate Student Joanna Lum. Lum was recently awarded the ChadTough Defeat DIPG Foundation Fellowship Award, providing her with $200,000 over 3 years to study Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, the deadliest form of pediatric brain cancer. DIPG is a brainstem glioma most commonly affecting children ages 5-9 years old. More than 90% of these children will die within 1.5 years. The DIPG foundation was created by two families who lost their sons to DIPG.

Joanna Lum with Venneti Lab colleagues (Dr. Chan Chung, Derek Dang, Dr. Mateus Mota, Dr. Siva Natarajan, Dr. Sriram Venneti, and Matt Pun)  at the ChadTough GalaLum reflected on this award, stating “As a trainee at the University of Michigan, I feel incredibly lucky to have experienced up close the impact that the ChadTough Defeat DIPG Foundation is making to achieve their mission. Attending events such as RunTough,  the DIPG/DMG Research Workshop, and the ChadTough Gala gave me the opportunity to meet founding families and family partners who have been personally affected by this devastating disease. These experiences not only helped me put into perspective the privileged position that I am in as a researcher to be able to hopefully accelerate the path to a cure, but it also impressed on me that it takes a great deal of effort and tireless advocacy to fundraise for research funding. Receiving this grant means that the scientific advisory council thinks that this proposal shows promise in revealing new biology for this disease. This is an honor that I do not take lightly, especially understanding that research money is a precious resource that the foundation and family partners worked hard to secure.”

Working under her mentor, Dr. Sriram Venneti, Lum will be studying how a metabolite, lactate, can be used as a fuel for energy-producing pathways and DNA-associated modification in DIPG. The goal of her research is to target this critical dependency on lactate, thereby killing DIPG cells using an integrated epigenetic and metabolic approach.

“Receiving this grant would not have been possible without the support that I continuously receive in the Venneti Lab and the MCP program! I want to thank my mentor, Dr. Sriram Venneti, for his excellent mentorship, scientific expertise, and genuine interest to learn about and empower us as trainees. I also want to thank the MCP program, the Training Program in Translational Research (TPTR) T32, my clinical mentors (Dr. Carl Koschmann and Dr. Andrea Franson), and the MCP research grant for supporting some of the early work for this proposal and for positioning me as a competitive applicant for this grant.” Lum continued, “I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of such a collaborative and motivated group of basic, translational, and clinical scientists and providers here at the University of Michigan.”

Please join us in congratulating MCP student Joanna Lum on this important grant award!