Dr. Goutham Narla, M.D., Ph.D., Principal Investigator

Goutham Narla, M.D., Ph.D., is the Division Chief of Genetic Medicine in the Department of Medicine at the University of Michigan. His laboratory is focused on the identification and characterization of the key negative regulators, tumor suppressor proteins, of cancer development and progression. In addition, his laboratory is focused on developing small molecule-based therapies to these underlying drivers of tumorigenesis and chemotherapy resistance. These novel small-molecule tumor suppressor gene activators represent the first example of drugs that directly bind and activate tumor suppressor genes for cancer treatment and provide the mechanistic and translational framework/foundation to develop entire classes of drugs directed at the key negative regulators of oncogenic signaling, an area that to date has not been the focus of major drug development efforts. His clinical interests and practice are in the field of medical genetics where he cares for high-risk cancer patients, including prostate, breast, ovarian and colon cancer patients. Several of his students have been awarded NIH F grant and a HHMI medical student fellowship. His accolades as a principal investigator include the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Physician-Scientist Early Career Award, the Irma T. Hirschl / Monique Weill-Caulier Trust Scholar Award, and the Diekhoff Mentoring Award. To date, Dr. Narla has authored 11 patents. He has over 65 publications in journals including Nature Genetics, Science, Science Translational Medicine, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and the Journal of Clinical Investigation.


Linda, Administrative Specialist

Linda Howell, Administrative Specialist, joined the Division of Genetic Medicine in May 2018. Linda began her career at Michigan Medicine in May of 2001 as an Administrative Assistant Senior in the Division of Hematology/Oncology. When Dr. Narla joined the University of Michigan as the Chief of Genetic Medicine in May 2018, Linda became a valuable part of his team. Linda coordinates activity of the division and academically supports Dr. Narla.


Dr. Jaya Sangodkar, Ph.D., Research Investigator

Jaya Sangodkar, Ph.D., is a Research Investigator in Dr. Goutham Narla’s laboratory. She earned her doctoral degree from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. During her graduate program, she uncovered a transcriptional axis involving the KLF6 and FOXO1 tumor suppressor genes that negatively regulated EGFR signaling in both cell culture and in vivo models. Based on these findings, she identified and repurposed FDA approved tricyclic neuroleptic medication to reactivate this key transcriptional network in both disease relevant cell culture and mouse models of lung cancer.


Dr. Caitlin O’Connor, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow

Caitlin O’Connor is a Ph.D. Student in the Pharmacology Department at Case Western Reserve University. She earned her undergraduate degree at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota earning a B.A. in Biochemistry and Biophysics with a minor in Biology. After graduation, she worked as an Analytical Chemist at Pace Analytical Life Sciences where she worked in the raw materials group. Here, she performed a wide variety of testing for pharmaceutical products and served as a technical lead for the group. Caitlin joined Dr. Narla’s lab in December of 2013.


Dr. Aqila Ahmed, Ph.D., Staff Scientist

Aqila Ahmed, Ph.D. is a Staff Scientist in Dr. Narla’s laboratory. She earned both her B.S. and Ph.D. from Wayne State University. Her graduate work focused on clarifying the role of POLB in ageing phenotype of Down syndrome. Her postdoctoral work was completed in the Department of Urology at the University of Michigan. There she utilized single-cell technologies to study immune infiltration in prostate cancer bone metastasis. Aqila’s current work in the Narla is concentrated on understanding the role of PP2A in cancer development and progression.

Dr. Caroline Farrington, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow

Caroline is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of pharmacology at Case Western University. She first joined the Narla lab as a research assistant when it was located at Mount Sinai in New York City and joined the lab for her graduate work at Case Western. Her thesis work investigates the potential to inhibit cancer growth driven by the c-MYC oncogene by negatively regulating it through activation of the tumor suppressor, PP2A. Her research focuses on cancers characterized to be frequently driven by c-MYC such as Lymphoma, Lung, Breast and Prostate Cancer.


Dr. Sahar Mazhar, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow

Sahar earned her Ph.D. in Pathology from Case Western Reserve University and her B.A. from Ohio Wesleyan University. Her dissertation work established that the phospho-Tyr307 PP2Ac-directed antibodies commonly used to detect this inhibitory mark on the PP2A catalytic subunit are in fact agnostic to their intended target, binding unphosphorylated PP2A with equal affinity. Her work also offers a reinterpretation for data generated using these reagents, demonstrating that the antibodies appear to be biased towards the unmethylated form of PP2Ac. Sahar’s current project is dedicated to defining the role of PP2A subunits in hereditary forms of cancer.


Dr. Tina Xiaohua Gao, M.D., Research Lab Specialist

Tina Xiaohua Gao, M.D., is a Research Lab Specialist Intermediate in Dr. Goutham Narla’s laboratory. She earned her medical degree from Shandong University and completed her OB/GYN residency at Jinan Children and Women Health Hospital in China. During that time, she refined her operative skills and brought that talent to the lab where she currently works to test SMAP therapies effect on the mouse and rat xenograft cancer model.


Dr. Jiang Hu, Ph.D., Lab Technician

Jiang Hu, Ph.D., is a Lab Technician in Dr. Goutham Narla’s laboratory. Jiang earned his doctoral degree from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, with a multi-disciplinary training both in Biomedical Science and Biomedical Engineering. Jiang finished his postdoctoral training at the Department of Biologic and Materials Sciences, University of Michigan Dental School. Jiang has extensive research experience in Regenerative Medicine and Cell Therapy.

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Tahra Suhan, M.S., Research Lab Specialist Intermediate

Tahra is a Research Lab Specialist Intermediate in the Narla lab. She received her BS in Zoology from Michigan State University and her MS in Molecular Cellular and Development Biology from the University of Michigan.  She began her career at the University of Michigan with the Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine (ULAM), after which she was recruited to serve as the Assistant Program Manager of Dr. Max Wicha’s cancer stem cell research laboratory at the University of Michigan.


Erika Amini, Clinical Research Coordinator

Erika has a BA in Biochemistry from Smith College. She assists in analyzing the clinical side of the data from the patient samples used in the lab. From that she looks at correlations between genetic mutations and outcomes, mutations and drug efficacy,and other data points to better understand the patient outcomes for our research.


Anthony Ventura, Lab Manager

Anthony, the lab manager, comes from a non-science related background. He has several years of experience in customer relations, marketing, and management in various industries. By Anthony taking care of the day to day management of the lab, it allows lab members to be able to solely focus on their research. Bringing a unique outside perspective he has helped to implement processes that allow the lab to function in a smooth and efficient manner.