UTSA receives $600K from Voelcker Fund to support new science faculty

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(Sept. 21, 2010)--Because of the generous support of a two-year, $600,000 gift from the Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Fund, newly named Voelcker Fellows Oleg Larionov and Brian Hermann will join the faculty in the UTSA College of Sciences. Larionov joined the faculty in the Department of Chemistry this fall. Hermann will join the Department of Biology in fall 2011.

"Doctors Larionov and Hermann are promising young scholars working in important areas of research," said Banks M. Smith, trustee of the Voelcker Fund. "We are pleased to support their recruitment to UTSA and look forward to the world class research they will conduct at UTSA."

Larionov, an organic chemist, specializes in natural product synthesis. At UTSA, he will research chemical compounds that will prove useful to the pharmaceutical industry as cancer treatments, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs. In particular, Larionov will study the Myristinin class of compounds, which have proven to be effective in treating cancer without causing the severe and harmful side effects typically caused by chemotherapy.

Educated in Germany at Gottingen University and trained in the U.S. under Nobel Prize winning chemist E.J. Corey at Harvard University, Larionov has published 27 scholarly articles and reviews, a nearly unprecedented track record by a scholar at the early stage of an academic career. Many of those publications appear in top-tier chemistry journals. Larionov also is the recipient of fellowships from the Degussa Foundation (2002-2004) and the Max Planck Society (2006-2007), two of Europe's most prestigious awards for new scholars.

Next year, Hermann will join UTSA's growing group of stem cell researchers in the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Primatology. Hermann and his research collaborators study spermatogonial stem cells, a type of adult stem cell that produces sperm. Their hope is to exploit spermatogonial stem cells to preserve and later restore fertility in prepubertal boys treated with toxic treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.

At UTSA, Hermann's research will focus on understanding the biology of spermatogonial stem cells and maximizing their ability to regenerate spermatogenesis, the process of producing sperm. His stem cell research will contribute to treatments for organs damaged by cancer and other diseases and may have broader implications for other types of stem cells.

Hermann joins UTSA from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where he completed a five-year postdoctoral fellowship at the Magee-Women's Research Institute and Center for Research in Reproductive Physiology. He earned his Ph.D. in 2005 from the University of Kansas Medical Center. Hermann also is the recipient of a prestigious Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00) from the National Institutes of Health, which will help launch his research career at UTSA.

Based in San Antonio, the Voelcker Fund is a private nonprofit organization that supports medical research in San Antonio and Bexar County. Target research areas include heart disease, cancer, arthritis, muscular dystrophy and maculative degeneration of the retina.