SMB News banner, a young women doing lab work

SMB News

  • Margaret Black's research developed the thermostabilized suicide enzyme currently being used in clinical trials for brain tumors

    New advances in the treatment of brain cancers such as glioblastomas are being investigated in clinical trials using Toca 511, a novel suicide gene therapy.  Toca 511 is a replicative virus that produces a suicide enzyme (yeast cytosine deaminase) able to convert 5-fluorocytosine, an anti-fungal agent to a potent anti-cancer drug.  This therapy is an advancement to traditional chemotherapy in which all cells in the patient are exposed to drug.  Suicide gene therapy restricts the production of the chemotherapeutic drug at the tumor site, thus limiting exposure to the drug.  Work by Dr. Margaret Black, Professor in WSU's School of Molecular Biosciences, and collaborators at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington led to the development of the thermostabilized suicide enzyme used in the clinical studies described in this video.  Computational design, biochemical characterization, as well as in vitro and in vivo studies performed by Black and collaborators provided basic research used in this investigational new clinical therapy.  Video
  • WSU Regents Professor Mick Smerdon elected to state Academy of Sciences

    Professor Michael Smerdon, regents professor of biochemistry and biophysics with the School of Molecular Biosciences, has been elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences.  You can read more here.
  • Integrating knowledge - Biosciences lab delivers job-ready graduates

    For 16 years, Alberta (Bert) Brassfield, a WSU instructor, taught the immunology and virology lab to seniors, a course now known as Molecular Biosciences 430. The class was a favorite of many students because of its small size and lots of instructor-student interaction and individual attention. Alumni have described Bert’s class as pivotal in "putting it all together” and "clarifying my career path.”

    So when Phil Mixter took over the lab last fall, it was no small task...  Continue reading here.
  • BS (Genetics & Cell Biology) + PSM (BS + PSM Program)

    The School of Molecular Biosciences now offers a combined  BS+PSM program that will allow high achieving students to earn a Bachelor’s of Science (BS) in Genetics & Cell Biology and a Professional Science Master’s (PSM) in five years (in the BS + PSM program).  Students will apply to the Graduate School early in the Spring of year 3  and if successful will be admitted to the program in the Spring of year 4 (senior year).  Admission to the BS+PSM program will be determined based on the SMB PSM application, grade on a Competency Exam* and a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.2.  Students admitted to the BS+PSM program will graduate with the BS degree in the Fall semester of year 4  with 120 credits, and will graduate with the PSM degree after 3 more semesters of study (minimum of 33 credits).  The PSM courses can all be earned on the Pullman campus or online.  Please see here for more information or contact Norah McCabe at with questions.