Sanford-Burnham News Archive

Burnham Institute for Medical Research Strengthens Research Programs with New Faculty Appointments

ORLANDO, Fla. , July 13, 2009

Burnham Institute for Medical Research at Lake Nona today announced two new faculty appointments to the Diabetes and Obesity Research Center. The newest research team members include Julio Ayala, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, and Ranjan Perera, Ph.D., Associate Professor.

“Burnham’s commitment to conduct translational research is greatly enhanced by the addition of Dr. Ayala’s expertise in cardiometabolic phenotyping and Dr. Perera’s genomics specialization. These research platforms provide fundamental understanding of unique disease manifestations and will serve as a discovery platform to understand complex diseases including diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Daniel Kelly, scientific director of Burnham’s Florida campus.

Dr. Julio Ayala
Dr. Julio Ayala

Julio Ayala, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, joins Burnham from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Tennessee. His most recent academic position was as Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics and Technology Transfer Director for the Vanderbilt-NIH Mouse Metabolic Phenotyping Center. Dr. Ayala received his Ph.D. and conducted his post-doctoral studies in molecular physiology & biophysics at Vanderbilt University.

Dr. Ayala established a research program focused on factors that increase the production and secretion of insulin. His research has shown that the hormone GLP-1 affects energy expenditure throughout the body. His research at Burnham will focus on understanding the control of inter-organ fuel metabolism with particular emphasis on the regulation of fuel utilization. He seeks to reveal how metabolic syndrome is influenced by errors in sugar and fat metabolism and to use those findings in the pursuit of new therapeutic approaches to treat diabetes and obesity.

Dr. Ranjan Perera
Dr. Ranjan Perera

Ranjan Perera, Ph.D., Associate Professor, most recently held faculty positions at Mercer University’s School of Medicine as an Associate Professor and Director of Genomics and R&D at Anderson Cancer Institute at Memorial Health Medical Center, both in Georgia. Prior to his academic affiliations he held positions at several major biotech and pharmaceutical companies, including ISIS Pharmaceuticals and Invitrogen Corporation. He received his Ph.D., in molecular genetics from Moscow State University, Russia and University of Gent, Belgium. Dr. Perera completed his post-doctoral studies in gene targeting and DNA recombination at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Dr. Perera has broad experience in molecular biology and genomics. His research focus is on identification of early prognostic and diagnostic markers for skin cancer melanoma. The research is a collaborative project with the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and is partly funded by a Department of Defense research grant. Dr. Perera will lead development of Burnham’s analytical genomics lab and establish expertise in RNA biology. He is a published investigator with over ten patented discoveries in the areas of genomics and molecular signatures and biomarkers associated with cancer. He hopes to identify candidate drug targets for melanoma treatment and other aggressive malignancies and to define the link between obesity and cancer.

About Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute


Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute is dedicated to discovering the fundamental molecular causes of disease and devising the innovative therapies of tomorrow. Sanford-Burnham takes a collaborative approach to medical research with major programs in cancer, neurodegeneration and stem cells, diabetes, and infectious, inflammatory, and childhood diseases. The Institute is recognized for its National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center and expertise in drug discovery technologies. Sanford-Burnham is a nonprofit, independent institute that employs more than 1,000 scientists and staff in San Diego (La Jolla), Calif., and Orlando (Lake Nona), Fla. For more information, visit us at sanfordburnham.org.

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