A.P. Giannini Foundation

Winter 2022 Newsletter

Calling all Alumni & 3rd-Year Fellows!

Virtual Alumni/Fellow Gathering

January 27, 2022

10 am to 1 pm PST

Mari Sciabica will share tips & best practices for creating a successful mentoring relationship

2017 Fellow Astra Bryant, Ph.D., will share her work as a mentor for Project SHORT, which seeks to shrink the socio-economic gap in graduate and medical schools.

To register, click here.

Former Fellows Win Prestigious Awards

Cressida Madigan Ph.D.

Cressida Madigan Ph.D.

2016 Fellow named an NIH New Innovator Awardee & Pew Biomedical Scholar

Cressida Madigan, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor at the University of California, San Diego, in the Division of Biological Sciences.  Dr. Madigan’s research, which began as a postdoctoral fellow studying leprosy, investigates the interactions between infection and the nervous system.  Specifically, the Madigan Lab studies how the mycobacteria that cause leprosy and tuberculosis instigate neurological injury, as well as how infections like meningitis cause inflammation in the brain.

“In each disease, we are interested in how the microbe regulates inflammation within the nervous system and then how that inflammation destroys the cells of the nervous system and changes their function,” Dr. Madigan explained.

What is particularly innovative about Dr. Madigan’s research is her use of a cutting-edge animal model: the zebrafish. Zebrafish are transparent, and using them as a model host allows for real-time observation of infections that typically play out at difficult-to-access sites in humans.  By infecting zebrafish with human pathogens, Dr. Madigan is one of only a handful of researchers using zebrafish for microbiology.

Dr. Madigan’s work suggests that inflammation within the nervous system that is brought on by infectious diseases mirrors that of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  Dr. Madigan is optimistic that what she learns from studying infectious diseases will be broadly applicable to understanding many neuro-inflammatory conditions.

For her research, Dr. Madigan received an NIH Director’s New Innovator Award and was named a Pew Biomedical Scholar, which provides funding to young investigators of outstanding promise in science relevant to the advancement of human health.

To read more about Dr. Madigan’s research, click here.

Bennett Penn, M.D., Ph.D.

Bennett Penn, M.D., Ph.D.

2010 Fellow Named a Pew Biomedical Scholar

Bennett Penn, M.D., Ph.D., is Assistant Professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Department of Medical Microbiology at the University of California, Davis.  Dr. Penn has been named a 2021 Pew Biomedical Scholar by the Pew Charitable Trusts.  

The Penn Lab examines the molecular mechanisms that enable the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB) to develop tolerance to antibiotics. Most bacterial infections can be eliminated with a course of antibiotics lasting one or two weeks. But patients with TB require treatment with multiple antibiotics for six months or more to eliminate their infections.

Dr. Penn and his team are using an innovative combination of cutting-edge CRISPR-based genetic tools and protein mass-spectrometry to study how TB interacts with its host, how the immune system responds to TB, how the pathogen changes in its environment, and how TB responds to antibiotics and enters an antibiotic-tolerant state.  

The ultimate goal of this research is to find a more effective way to eliminate TB from the body.  “Prior to COVID-19, TB killed more people each year than any other infection,” Dr. Penn explained.  “We are looking at ways to prevent TB from going into an antibiotic-tolerant state so the infection can be treated more effectively, and with less toxicity to patients.”

Dr. Penn credits his A.P. Giannini fellowship with providing him a critical steppingstone for launching his postdoctoral work.  With three years of Foundation support, Dr. Penn accumulated data that enabled him to apply for and secure an NIH Career Development Award, and research conducted with the support of that award led to a faculty position.

To read more about Dr. Penn’s research, click here.

Foundation Board Funds Don Mullane Fellowship

Donald “Don” Mullane served on the board of the A.P. Giannini Foundation for 30 years; he was chairman of the board for two decades.  His commitment to the Foundation was born out of his executive role at Bank of America, which was founded by A.P. Giannini in 1904.  Among other roles before his resignation, Mr. Mullane served as the chairman of Bank of America’s Community Development Bank.

In honor of Mr. Mullane’s longtime service to the A.P. Giannini Foundation, the board of directors established the Don Mullane Fellowship in 2019.  To date, the Board has raised more than $150,000 to fund the fellowship.  The Don Mullane Fellowship augments the number of fellowships that the Foundation supports each year.

If you are similarly interested in contributing to the development of tomorrow’s most highly respected medical and scientific investigators, please click here.