Erwin G. Van Meir, Ph.D., Principal Investigator

Dr. Erwin Van Meir is a professor in the UAB Department of Neurosurgery. He was trained in molecular biology at the Universities of Fribourg and Lausanne, Switzerland where he obtained his Ph.D. in 1989. Dr. Van Meir pursued postdoctoral work at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in San Diego and joined the faculty of Emory University in 1998.

His research interest lies in understanding the molecular basis for human tumor development and how to use this knowledge to devise new therapeutics that will improve patient survival. Van Meir’s research examines how genetic alterations and hypoxia induce changes in cell biology that promote tumor formation with particular emphasis on heterotypic cell-cell signaling, including tumor angiogenesis. Van Meir has developed novel therapeutic approaches for cancer using oncolytic adenoviruses and anti-angiogenic molecules and is currently developing novel small molecule inhibitors of the hypoxia-inducible factor pathway. His research aims to translate these novel agents to testing in clinical trials with the hope to develop novel medicines for cancer treatment.

Kiyotaka Saitoh, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher

Kiyotaka Saitoh is originally from Miyazaki, Japan. Miyazaki is located on Kyusyu island, the southwest main island in Japan. Saitoh has been a neurosurgeon for 15 years, with extensive clinical experience in brain tumors, vascular disorders, and pediatric neurosurgery. 

Sarah Kammerud, Researcher V

Sarah joins the department as the lab manager for Dr. Van Meir. Sarah began her research career at UAB in January 2000, shortly after graduating from Auburn University. She has spent most of her time at UAB working in labs that focus on breast cancer research. In her free time, Sarah enjoys spending time with her family and making treats to share with friends.

Yuki Kuranaga, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher

Yuki Kuranaga is a postdoctoral researcher from the Graduate School of Drug Discovery and Medical Information Science at Gifu University in Japan. She has a passion for drug discovery for cancer treatment. Her doctoral research investigated the SRSF3 splicing factor, which regulates glycolysis in cancer cells. Yuki’s colleagues describe her as personable and kind. Feel free to reach out to her with questions about the lab.

Jesse Stillwell, Rotating Research Student

Jesse Stillwell completed his undergraduate degree at UAB where he also did research in drug synthesis and binding assays with Dr. Venkatram Atigadda. After graduation, he spent two years as an analytical chemist working with pharmaceuticals. He enjoys spending time outdoors and working with his hands. He recently bought a home in Hueytown where he lives with his fianceè. 

McKenna Killets, Program Coordinator

McKenna completed her B.S. degree in Biomedical Sciences at UAB. During her undergraduate time, she served as a Resident Assistant and was involved with Universities Fighting World Hunger and the Pre-PT Society. After undergrad, she served in AmeriCorps at non-profit sites committed to providing educational resources to underserved communities. She currently serves as a program coordinator for Dr. Van Meir.

Rashed Parag, student

Rashed has received his BSc and MS degree from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Chittagong, Bangladesh. Before joining UAB as a graduate student, he worked in the EuGEF Research Group to identify novel prognostic biomarkers and therapeutic options for Metastatic Breast Cancer (BC) and Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC).

Outside the lab, he is interested in reading novels and news of scientific discoveries, watching movies, playing games, enjoying the beauty of nature, etc. During the rotation in Dr. Van Meir’s lab, his wife has given birth to a baby boy. Now, he is enjoying parenthood and loves to spend time with the baby at home and the baby in the lab (growing cells in culture media).

Alex Torrelli-Diljohn, student

Alex completed his undergraduate & master’s degree in neurobiology & cognitive sciences from the University of South Florida where he also did research on early onset Alzheimer’s disease with Dr. Angele Parent. He is interested in working with glioma brain organoid models and learning about radioresistance.

Virgínea de Araujo Farias, Researcher V

Originally from Brazil, Virgínea received her Ph.D. from the University of Granada in Spain, specializing in cancer and stem cell biology. She is passionate about understanding the molecular basis of cancer progression and therapeutic resistance. Before joining UAB, she gained experience developing MSC-based cell therapies to improve radiation efficiency in solid tumors, including glioblastomas. Now, she is focused on investigating the tumor suppressive mechanisms of the BAI proteins in medulloblastomas. 

Outside work, she loves taking long walks with her husband and their dog, spending time with friends and family, and enjoying music, movies, and houseplants.

Maryam Ahmadian Elmi, Visiting Scholar 

Bio coming soon.