April 04, 2006
Since September 2005,
Professor Diana Bartelt has been spending her sabbatical
research leave engaged in cutting edge cancer research at OSI Pharmaceuticals in Melville,
Long Island. At the invitation of Dr. Neil Gibson, the Chief
Scientific Officer at OSI, she has been rotating through
departments in OSI Leads Discovery division, assisting in the
identification of target proteins or genes known to be involved in
the progression of some cancers of the pancreas, lung and
Committed to “shaping medicines and changing lives,” OSI is
involved in discovering, developing and commercializing
high-quality and novel pharmaceutical products that extend life or
improve the quality of life for patients with cancer, eye diseases
and diabetes. Professor Bartelt, who is Director of the Institute for
Biotechnology and Associate Professor in the Department
of Biological Sciences at St. John’s, has already spent time in
Protein Production, where she made a target protein to be tested
against a library of 350,000 different compounds. Now moved on to
High Through-put screening, she is working to screen these
compounds for the ability to inhibit another protein
She marvels at the technology available at the pharmaceutical
company, calling it “fabulous, unbelievable.”
For 2006, Professor Bartelt explains, about a dozen protein
targets have been selected for further testing. Because
confidentiality is critical in this kind of research, she notes,
she had to check whether OSI’s confidentiality and patent
agreements conflicted with those at St. John’s before she could
join the pharmaceutical company’s research team.
Additionally, the St. John’s researcher has been advocating for
a more formal relationship between the University and the
pharmaceutical company, and she reports that several agreements
with OSI are “in the works.” Since September, she has been working
with OSI’s Vice President of Cancer Chemistry, Dr. Lee Arnold and
the Assistant Director of Cancer Chemistry, Dr. Mark Mulvihill to
create summer internships--both graduate and undergraduate--for St.
To date, OSI has committed to one undergraduate intern in
Chemistry for the summer of 2006. The company would also look to
St. John’s for students in other majors--such as business--to work
in other areas at OSI and has expressed a particular interest in
recruiting Pharmacy majors and graduate students in “medicinal
chemistry” for permanent employment.
“Most exciting,” Professor Bartelt says, is OSI’s proposal to
set up “studentships,” in which students would perform the
concluding steps in experiments started by scientists in OSI’s
laboratories, under the watchful eyes of faculty in the labs at St.
John’s. Both the students and faculty providing this valuable
service would be listed as co-authors, along with the OSI
scientists, of the published piece. “It’s a very inviting
idea,” she comments. Dr. Arnold has just committed to sponsoring
two such agreements in chemistry for the summer of 2006.
Despite the intricate work she is performing at OSI, Professor
Bartelt remains connected to the University. With Assistant
Gillespie of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, who is
serving as Interim Director of the Institute for Biotechnology, she
continues to shepherd a proposal to create a Professional Science
Masters degree in Biological and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology,
which will be offered jointly by the College of Pharmacy and
Allied Health Professions and St. John’s College,
through the required approval process. The courses in this new
degree consolidate those in both the M.S. in Biological Sciences
with a concentration in Biotechnology and the M.S. in
Pharmaceutical Sciences with specialization in Biotechnology that
are currently offered. In December, the new degree was approved by
the University’s Board of Trustees and will soon be submitted to
the New York State Department of Education, the final step in the
process. Professor Bartelt estimates that the new degree could be
offered as soon as fall 2006 and assures that courses taken in the
current degree programs will be fully credited to the new
Also in the planning stage is an Institute for Biotechnology
Colloquium for the local biotechnology industry, which will be
sponsored by OSI and consist of three or four lectures by
outstanding scientists, during the next year.
What is Biotechnology?
The Houghton Mifflin dictionary defines biotechnology as
“the use of microorganisms--such as bacteria or yeasts--or
biological substances--such as enzymes--to perform specific
industrial or manufacturing processes.”
What is the Institute for
Biotechnology at St. John’s?
The Institute is an administrative arm of the Provost’s Office. It
was created to administer programs in Biotechnology that are
offered jointly by more than one academic unit.
What are the opportunities for students
who study Biotechnology?
While enrolled in a master’s program in Biotechnology at St.
John’s, students can qualify for internships with companies like
OSI Pharmaceuticals, Estee Lauder, Inc., AGI Dermatics, Pall
Corporation, Glia Med Inc. and InGenious Targeting Laboratory,
among others. After graduation, they can expect to enter a job
market in which, according to Time (May 22, 2000), “five of the
hottest employment markets will be biologically based jobs.”