Postdoc Barbara Bailus, PhD, receives first fellowship from Double Xs group

Barbara Bailus, a postdoctoral fellow in the Ellerby lab, has received a $20,000 fellowship from the Double Xs – the Buck’s popular women’s donor group. BailusPostdoc Barbara Bailus, PhD was chosen based on her research aimed at fixing the gene that causes Huntington’s disease and her history and commitment to mentorship and support of women in science.

This is the first fellowship awarded directly to a scientist by the Double Xs – the group voted following presentations by five young female scientists who vied for the award. “Spectacular is the best word to describe the passion and expertise of these young women,” said Diane Rosenberger, a Double Xs member who is co-chairing a committee to plot the course of the group. “As a result, we got fired up and made a commitment to grow the group. Supporting promising researchers is critical to their success and will be rewarding for those of us who get to know them.”

Correcting a genetic flaw

Bailus got interested in neuroscience while getting her PhD in genetics from the University of California, Davis – where she worked on Angelman syndrome, a rare neuro-genetic disorder characterized by developmental delay, lack of speech, seizures, walking disorders and the need for life-long care.  When she came to the Buck in 2013 she turned her attention to Huntington’s disease – a fatal, inherited neurodegenerative disorder caused by a mutation in the Huntingtin gene. 

Bailus is pursuing a genetic correction for Huntington’s in a mouse model of the disease using a breakthrough genome editing system, called CRISPR.  She and her colleagues have already used the technology to correct DNA in human pluripotent stem cells derived from Huntington’s patients. That work reversed the cellular symptoms of Huntington’s.    The CRISPR delivery system being developed for mice by Bailus and others in the Ellerby lab would involve a less invasive IV injection - as opposed to a direct brain injection or treatment via a virus, both of which carry high risks of immune system reactions.  If successful, the approach could be applied to many genetic diseases.

“I want to thank the Double Xs for the faith they’ve shown in both my research and my plans to support other women in science,” said Bailus. “Interacting with donors so early in my career is an inspiration, both in terms of building my own confidence and reinforcing my decision to commit myself to research.”

Mentoring other women

Bailus has been very active in educational outreach at the Buck – participating inBuck faculty Lisa Ellerby and postdoc Barbara Bailus many programs underway in our Learning Center. This coming summer she’ll be mentoring a high school student in the Buck’s popular Summer Scholars program and plans on teaching a series of classes on bioinformatics for all of the students participating in the program.  She also has big plans for her future. She wants to run her own genetics-based neuroscience lab someday – in an organization where she’ll create a supportive environment by establishing a professor mentorship program pairing senior female professors with new female professors.  She also wants to encourage the establishment daycare center that would be free for employees, allowing for women to pursue a career in science more easily.

Double X Donor steps up to the plate to do more

Following the award to Bailus, a Double Xs member – who wishes to remain anonymous – wanted to support and encourage the two graduate students who competed for the fellowship award.  Both Courtney Hudson, from the Garrison lab and Megumi Mori, of the Haghighi lab, received $10,000 each for their research project and their mentorship activities.  Hudson’s project involves age-related effects of oxytocin on social cognition and Mori’s research involves the nervous system and aging.   

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