Handel Lab Members





The Boss

Useful Links


Available Positions 




Damon Hamel 

My current research aims to characterize the physical mechanisms of chemokine GPCR activation/inhibition. To this end, I am exploring new technologies for the solubilization of membrane proteins, including discoidal nanolipoprotein particles (nanodisks) . I am currently focusing on the chemokine receptor CCR1, a potential drug target in many diseases including cancer. 


Given the critical role played by chemokines and their receptors in a wide range of physiological processes, it is essential to understand their interaction from both structural and functional perspectives.  Currently I am developing novel methods to express and purify functional chemokine receptors in large quantities, which in turn will allow characterization of the chemokine:receptor interactions by biochemical and biophysical techniques.


John Jones 

Chemokines and their GPCRs play an important role in health and disease.  GPCRs signal through a complex network of protein:protein interactions.  Along these lines, my interests are in studying these networks using proteomics and basic protein biochemistry to identify key proteins involved in chemokine-mediated receptor signaling. These studies will further our understanding of chemokine GPCRs (e.g. CCR1, CCR2, CCR5, CXCR4) and further elucidate their roles in inflammation, development, cancer, and viral infection.




Taylor Gilliland - Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

I am currrently working on developing novel methods for the expression of chemokine receptors in E. coli and baculovirus systems and optimizing their functional reconstitution into artificial membranes. Using fluorescence and bioluminescence spectroscopy and radioactivity assays I hope to characterize the conformational changes that occur in chemokine receptors upon ligand binding. I am also studying the interactions of a dual-specificity viral chemokine binding protein with various chemokines via DXMS, radiolytic footprinting and x-ray crystallography.

 Email: cgilliland[at]ucsd[dot]edu

Melinda Hanes

I am interested in the energetic and specificity determinants at protein interfaces. BLIP is a potent and promiscuous inhibitor of class A beta-lactamases. I'm interested in using computational, structural, and directed mutagenesis techniques to characterize the interaction of BLIP with SHV-1, TEM-1, and KPC-1 beta-lactamases.  

Email: mshanes@berkeley.edu 

Ariane Jansma - Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry

My project involves the structural and functional analysis of the chemokine CTACK.  This particular chemokine plays an important role in cancer metastasis and we are interested in determining its oligomeric structure through a combination of NMR and X-ray crystallography in addition to probing potential antagonists by mutagenesis combined with functional assays.  The second part of my project is focused on expression and functional reconstitution of chemokine receptors for structural studies.

Email: ajansma@ucsd.edu 

Morgan O'Hayre- Biomedical Sciences Program

I am using a combination of directed and global mass spectrometry proteomics approaches to examine signaling events activated by the chemokine, SDF-1α, in cancer cells. SDF-1α and its receptors, CXCR4 and CXCR7, are known to play important roles in the development and progression of various types of cancer. Specifically, I am interested in how SDF-1α signals survival and proliferation downstream of CXCR4 and CXCR7 activation in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and breast cancer cells.

Email: mohayre@ucsd.edu

Rina Salanga- Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry

I am interested in applying H/D exchange coupled with Mass Spectrometry to characterize chemokine interactions (e.g. chemokine:GAG, chemokine: receptor).  Information gleaned from H/D exchange results can be used to carry out a more directed evaluation of  chemokine binding interfaces.  I am also interested in the role of chemokines in breast cancer metastasis.  Together with another grad student in the lab, M. O'Hayre,  we are studying the role of SDF-1alpha and its receptors, CXCR4 and CXCR7, in the survival, proliferation, and migration of breast cancer.

Email: csalanga@ucsd.edu



Postdoctoral Fellows

Samantha Allen

I am interested in the structure and function of chemokine receptors and am working on methods to express, purify and functionally reconstitute these proteins for such studies.  I am also working on the biochemistry and high-resolution structure of chemerin, a 16kDa novel chemoattractant, by NMR spectroscopy.

Andrew Douglas 

I am interested in how the Viral Empire is able to evade the Rebel Immune system.   I am working on the structure of a variety of immunomodulatory proteins expressed by pox viruses and trying to understand how they interact with their host's immune system, including chemokines.


Arnab Chowdry 

I am working on developing protein-based antagonists for the CXCR4 receptor involved in both cancer metastasis and HIV infection. Using phage display to select tight binding and internalizing mutants of SDF1-alpha, the receptor's natural ligand, I hope to screen new antagonists that will be capable of blocking the function of the receptor in the disease state. This method has been applied successfully to only one chemokine-receptor pair, so extending it to the SDF1-CXCR4 system is an important step in generalizing its use.

 Arnab graduated in December of 2008 with his PhD and is now working as a scientist and programmer at a DNA Testing company called 23andMe.

Susan Crown, Kimberly Reynolds, Andro Hsu, Navin Pokala , Mark Voorhies, Elaine Lau, Julie Lougheed, Greg Lazar, Chad Paavola, Daina Avizonis, Julie Sohl, Laura Mizoue, John Desjarlais 


 Undergraduate Lab Assistants

Andrew-London Park

    Year: Third

    Major: Pre-Med/Theatre, Minoring in Biology and                           European History

Angela Shih

    Year: Fourth

    Major: Human Biology, Minoring in International                           Studies

Katherine Chan

Year: Third

Major: Physiology and Neuroscience