A 2013 Raymond W. Sarber Award has been awarded to Riley Ennis, undergraduate student, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire. Established in honor of Raymond W. Sarber, whose contributions to ASM have led to the growth and advancement of the Society, these awards acknowledge students at the undergraduate and predoctoral levels for excellence in research and potential.
During Ennis’ first biology class, he became fascinated with siRNA. Learning about this primitive immune system triggered a passion for molecular biology and microbiology and, later, a realization of how science can have the social impact to change the world. Ennis credits his love of the ocean for leading him to science at a young age. From a documentary about horseshoe crabs, he learned that horseshoe crabs make a protein that binds to bacteria and tells the body to destroy whatever it is bound to. He wondered whether vaccines against cancer could be based on the horseshoe crab system. In 2010, his elucidation of this insight came in first at the Virginia State Science and Engineering Fair and placed second at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. In October of 2010, Ennis started a licensing company, Immudicon LLC, which focuses on licensing cancer vaccine platform technology. This biotechnology company has been recognized by the BIO Convention’s BioGENEius Challenge, Fox News Live Solutions America, AXA Equitable Achievement Award, GE Focus Forward Competition, National Young Inventors Gallery, and the Virginia Academy of Science. Lawrence Mahan, Children’s National Medical Center, became a business/scientific development mentor for Ennis and describes him as “a bright and energetic entrepreneur in the best sense. His diligence and striving for quality in his work sets him apart from many at his level. His vaccine research, development overview, and Immudicon’s business plan showcased these talents.”
Ennis has had internships at Georgetown University, Children’s National Medical Center, and the Sheikh Zayed Research Institute, confirming his love for science and desire for helping the community. In the fall of 2011 Ennis enrolled at Dartmouth College and began an internship with the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center on magnetic nanoparticle induced hyperthermia for enzyme-prodrug therapy with Dr. Barjor Gimi. The research is focused on engineering bacteria to express a protein that converts inactive chemotherapeutic compounds to active forms. The bacteria are then locally implanting in tumors via nanotubes in order to create a novel local treatment platform. Gimi has been impressed with Ennis’ talents and enthusiasm. He explains, Ennis “contributes to lab meetings with impressive new ideas, is enjoyable to work with, and a tremendous asset to the research group.”
Back to the Raymond W. Sarber Awards