Jaime Fornetti, PhD
After completing my graduate training at the University of Colorado, I joined Alana Welm’s lab in 2014 as a postdoctoral fellow. My project is focused on understanding the role of macrophage-stimulating protein (MSP) and its receptor, Ron tyrosine kinase, in breast cancer metastasis to the bone. Currently, I am investigating MSP/Ron signaling in bone destruction by osteoclasts and evaluating Ron inhibition as a therapeutic target for breast cancer bone metastases. When I’m not in the lab, I like to be outside on my mountain bike or camping.
Receptor tyrosine kinase RON, besides being expressed on tumor cells is also expressed on host macrophages and epithelial cells. My project is focused on deciphering the role of Ron (receptor tyrosine kinase) expressing resident peritoneal macrophages in breast cancer metastasis. I am using immune competent in vivo mouse models to address this question. I am also interested in delineating the developmental origin of Ron expressing resident peritoneal macrophages. Contrary to the previously well-established dogma that all macrophages originate from bone marrow derived monocytes recent studies has shown embryonic origins of certain tissue resident macrophages. I am using in vivo lineage tracing models to address this question. And outside of the lab, I love kayaking.
Alicia Lai, PhD
I grew up in Taiwan and travelled to Australia for my Ph.D. I joined Alana’s lab in 2015 as a postdoctoral fellow and moved to the US. My project is to look at the potential of Ron receptor tyrosine kinase inhibition to treat breast cancer metastasis based on the concept of immunotherapy. I love, animals, travel, photography and good vegetarian food!
Senior Lab Specialist
I conduct pre-clinical testing of possible compounds designed to block receptor tyrosine kinase signaling in breast cancer models.
Sandra Scherer, PhD
“I joined Alana Welm’s lab in July 2017, after completing my PhD at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. The two main focuses of my postdoctoral research humanization of the immune system in breast cancer patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models, and establishment of organoid models derived from breast cancer patients as a tool for co-clinical studies and precision medicine. Outside of the lab, I like to mountain bike, ski, snowboard, and drink coffee.”
“Born and raised in West Jordan (south of Salt Lake City), I graduated from Utah Valley University with my bachelor’s degree in biotechnology in December 2018. I wanted to learn more about fields I haven’t had so much practice in before committing to grad school, so I joined the A. Welm lab as a technician and manager in April 2019. In my spare time, you can usually find me playing video games or pen-and-paper games such as Dungeons and Dragons with my family and friends.”
Graduate Research Assistant
"I grew up in Bangalore, India, and moved to the United States in 2016 to pursue my master’s degree in biomedical science in Dr. Faye Johnson’s lab at MD Anderson Cancer Center. With an ardent interest to study metastasis and the tumor microenvironment, I joined Alana Welm’s lab in 2019 as a PhD student. My research is focused on studying the vicious cycle of bone metastasis and characterizing the pro-metastatic components of the bone microenvironment that drive breast cancer metastasis. When I am not in the lab, I love hiking, exploring, and taking pictures of the scenic spots in the mountains.”
Jason (Chieh-Hsiang) Yang, PhD
"I joined Alana Welm’s lab in 2018 as a postdoctoral fellow. My research goal is to develop personalized precision medicine for breast cancer patients. I am using a panel of breast cancer patient-derived organoid models to perform drug screening in a high-throughput manner, which allows prediction of cancer patient treatment response and identification of effective therapeutic compounds to improve patient care."
I am the bioinformatician in the lab. After finishing my graduate work at Washington University in St. Louis, I came to the Welm Lab to help close the gap between genomic analysis and precision medicine. My current project weaves genomic vulnerability identification with drug response outcomes to identify biomarkers for off-label drugs. I also develop analysis pipelines and optimize data collection strategies, and I will drive an analysis team for the PDXnet consortia. When I’m not coding, I enjoy audiobooks, camping, and fishing with my kids.
I am Italian (from sunny Sicily) and arrived in Utah October 2019. After completing my PhD at the Beatson Institute in Glasgow, UK, in breast cancer research, I joined Alana Welm’s lab as a postdoctoral fellow to work on tumor dormancy in hormone-receptor (HR)-positive breast cancer. Based on preliminary data gathered in the lab, we hypothesized that certain immune cells might help HR-positive breast cancer survive in a dormancy-like state under estrogen deprived conditions. We are going to test this hypothesis with a combination of HR-positive patient-derived xenograft (PDX) lines and humanized mouse models. Outside the lab, I like running and hiking, and since I have been in Utah I’ve had the fortune to ski again and learn snowboarding. I also enjoy cooking and eating, like a proper Italian.
Originally from Seattle, I graduated from the University of Washington in 2001 with a degree in zoology. Since then I have lived in Colorado, Tennessee, and now Utah. For the last 18 years, I have worked in academia and industry in the South and the West, with humans, microbes, flies, and organoids. In 2019, I finished a web development bootcamp and discovered a passion for coding. I enjoy building tools to help the lab work more efficiently. In my free time I am happiest rock climbing, but I also like home improvement projects, good coffee, biking, hiking, and travel.
I joined the Welm Lab to help efforts in precision oncology. I currently supervise the lab’s high-throughput screening pipelines and drug libraries. After refining my skills on PDxO breast establishment, I wanted to expand the lab’s expertise with other tissues. A small seed fund allowed me to create a clinical collaboration resulting in melanoma, colorectal, pancreatic, ovarian, and endometrial patient-derived organoids establishment with a novel pipeline. My current research focus is on generating high success pipelines to establish an array of patient-derived models in an economical way. Originally from Spain, I trained in chemical engineering (BSc, MSc), then moved to Scotland for Synthetic Biology training (PhD) and had a short postdoc on medicinal chemistry at the University of Utah before joining HCI. When I’m not in the lab, I need to burn energy by mountain biking, climbing, and backpacking in the summer and snowboarding and skiing in winter. I’m also an avid fly fisherman (and am sponsored!).