From the day she set foot at the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) College of Medicine and the Scott & White Hospital Department of Surgery in April 2010, Dr. M. Karen Newell Rogers has been nothing short of busy.

As the Raleigh R. White Jr., Endowed Chair of Surgical Research, Newell Rogers, Ph.D., stepped immediately into the role of director of the Texas A&M Health Science Center-Scott & White Center for Cell Death and Differentiation (CCDD), which was newly founded by the chair of surgery, W. Roy Smythe, M.D.

Dr. M. Karen Newell Rogers

“The year has been exciting, productive and filled with many CCDD-sponsored events,” says Dr. Newell Rogers from her offices in Temple. “What seems at first glance to be quite a diverse set of interests has, in fact, consistently provided ‘cross-seeding’ of ideas between laboratories and between what appear to be completely different fields.”

Already, she and her team of investigators are engaging experts in areas ranging from cancer and hepatitis to regulation of cell death in plants – the natural demise of a cell carried out in regulated processes during an organism’s life cycle. As the catalyst for these collaborative activities, CCDD is at the forefront to advance the understanding of cell metabolism, communication and programmed cell death in an effort to treat cancer, HIV/AIDS, Lyme disease, auto-immune diseases and more.

The CCDD’s accomplishments haven’t stopped at the lectern, though. Scott & White recently received a $3.5 million grant for cancer treatment and research, with $2 million toward cancer cell research led by Dr. Newell Rogers and state-of-the-art core laboratory facilities.

“This generous gift will further the advancement of critical cancer research, bridging the gap between research and the delivery of new therapies,” says Dr. Newell Rogers, who was nominated as one the year’s 28 protégé innovators for 2011 by The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST).

She added a gift like this reduces drug development time in half, and more funds mean more resources for research. The grant also allows Scott & White to construct a tissue cell culture laboratory.

Dr. Newell Rogers and members of her research team

In addition, for her steadfast commitment to offering hope for people with Lyme disease, Dr. Newell Rogers received the Lauren F. Brooks Hope Award at an April gala hosted by Time for Lyme, Inc. Her research and development of a protocol to treat Lyme and other tick-borne diseases includes a discovery that certain immune characteristics may contribute to whether a person is susceptible or resistant to the development of chronic inflammation as a result of infection.

Her theory proposes a “targeted” peptide to replace or remove the self-peptides and restore a healthy immune response in patients. The study aims to shed light on the chronic inflammatory response and symptoms shared by a significant subset of Lyme disease patients.

“We look forward to our ongoing CCDD activities as a catalyst for collaborations and as a wonderful asset to inform and inspire new ideas and new approaches,” Dr. Newell Rogers says.

“The CCDD exists to make the Texas A&M Health Science Center and Scott & White’s research enterprise magnets for exceptional research and to provide employment, research opportunities and professional excellence in a biomedical setting in Central Texas. By strengthening the research and educational opportunities in the area, we feel the CCDD can provide a new avenue for progress in innovative biomedical research.”

Dr. Newell Rogers and several members of her research team came to the TAMHSC-College of Medicine and Scott & White from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS), where she served as professor and Markert Endowed Chair in the Department of Biology and as chief executive scientific director of the University of Colorado Institute of Bioenergetics.

“The combined resources that the TAMHSC-College of Medicine and Scott & White bring to the recruitment of Dr. Newell represent an exceptional academic and clinical opportunity for both institutions and for continued collaboration with the University of Colorado,” Dr. Smythe said upon her arrival.

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