Faculty and Staff Features for December 2017

Paul B. Fisher, Ph.D., professor and chair, Department of Human and Molecular Genetics, School of Medicine

Paul B. Fisher, Ph.D.
Paul B. Fisher, Ph.D.

Fisher has been elected as a member of the National Academy of Inventors and will be inducted as a NAI Fellow on April 5 in Washington, D.C. Election to NAI Fellow status is the highest professional honor bestowed solely to academic inventors. The NAI Fellows Selection Committee chose Fisher for induction because he “has demonstrated a highly prolific spirit of innovation in creating and facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society.”

Research led by Fisher has resulted in innovative approaches to identifying genes of relevance in the carcinogenic process. He has created effective gene-based therapies for cancer, which have translated into the clinic with promising early results. His laboratory has pioneered innovative genomic approaches to the identification of novel genes involved in cancer cell growth. He joins other high-impact scientists and entrepreneurs on the NAI.

Fisher is director of the VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine and Thelma Newmeyer Corman Chair in Cancer Research at VCU Massey Cancer Center. He has pioneered molecular approaches to identify genes involved in important physiological processes, including cancer, neurodegeneration and infectious diseases. His research has enhanced the scientific knowledge of cancer progression and metastasis. It has culminated in the development of viruses that selectively kill cancer cells, approaches to selectively deliver therapeutic viruses and proteins in a “stealth” manner in vivoin pre-clinical animal models of cancer using microbubbles and ultrasound, and innovative approaches for non-invasively imaging metastases in vivo using cancer-selective gene promoters.

Fisher has received continuous federal funding for his research for the past four decades. He has also been honored with numerous prestigious awards, including being named Virginia’s Outstanding Scientist by Gov. Terry McAuliffe in 2014. He has more than 55 issued U.S. patents and multiple foreign patents. His inventions resulted in the founding of multiple companies, including GenQuest, Cancer Targeting Systems, InVaMet Therapeutics and InterLeukin Combinatorial Therapies.



Joseph E. Coombs, Ph.D., associate professor of management and academic director for entrepreneurship programs, School of Business

Blakely Davis, assistant professor, Department of Management, School of Business

Joseph Coombs, Ph.D.
Joseph Coombs, Ph.D.

Coombs and Davis have been named the 2018 Summer Henry Ford Entrepreneurship Academy Research Fellows.

The HFEA Research Fellows program provides $10,000 in summer salary to management faculty conducting research in entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity or closely related domains. 

Coombs will investigate decision-making processes related to funding pitches, while Davis will conduct research related to crowdfunding.


The Henry Ford Entrepreneurship Academy (HFEA), a joint venture between the VCU School of Business and the Ford Fund — the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Co. — is a program designed to teach local entrepreneurs with varying backgrounds the skills, tools and entrepreneurial mindset to develop creative ideas and grow new ventures. HFEA represents a long-term regionwide commitment to promote entrepreneurship through workshops and exchanges, initially focused on the Middle East and Africa. Working with local entrepreneurs and faculty from partner institutions, VCU Department of Management faculty have delivered workshops in Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Richmond. In fall 2017, HFEA offered its first programming in the United Arab Emirates in a partnership with the Higher Colleges of Technology, the UAE’s largest applied higher education institution.



Saad Guliwala, Veronica Lopez, Haneen Sabbagh, Samuel Slocum, Separtment of Management, School of Business

Guliwala, Lopez, Sabbagh and Slocum have been selected as the 2017-2018 Henry Ford Entrepreneurship Academy Scholars.

The HFEA Scholars Program is designed to give entrepreneurially minded students firsthand experience working with startups and early stage businesses in the Richmond area. Each student will receive $3,000 and earn academic credit. HFEA Scholars will share their learning through a professional report summarizing their insights, recommendations, and impact they made during the internship, and will also represent VCU at various networking events during the semester.

The Henry Ford Entrepreneurship Academy, a joint venture between the VCU School of Business and the Ford Fund — the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Co. — is a program designed to teach local entrepreneurs with varying backgrounds the skills, tools and entrepreneurial mindset to develop creative ideas and grow new ventures. HFEA represents a long-term regionwide commitment to promote entrepreneurship through workshops and exchanges, initially focused on the Middle East and Africa. 



Barbara D. Boyan, Ph.D., Alice T. and William H. Goodwin Chair, dean, School of Engineering

Barbara D. Boyan, Ph.D.
Barbara D. Boyan, Ph.D.

Boyan has received Rice University’s Distinguished Bioengineering Alumna Award for 2017.

The award recognizes Rice alumni whose scholarship, mentorship and innovations have made significant contributions to their professions and communities.

Boyan is a world-renowned researcher and entrepreneur in the development of implant technologies for bone and cartilage repair.

Her work has led to the development of novel dental and orthopedic biomaterials. Recent developments include new technologies for controlling nanotexture on metal and polymer surfaces to study cell responses, as well as use of hydrogels to deliver cells and pharmaceuticals for regenerating tissues following injury.

Boyan’s passion for biomedical research began with studies to understand the underlying mechanisms of mineralized tissue formation. Under Rice Professor James Campbell’s direction, she completed her B.A. in biology in 1970, M.A. in 1974 and Ph.D. in comparative biochemistry and physiology in 1975. She was a postdoctoral fellow through grants from the National Institutes of Health at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

Prior to her appointment at VCU, Boyan was associate dean for research and innovation at the College of Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and deputy director at the Georgia Tech/Emory Center for Engineering of Living Tissues.

Boyan is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a member of the National Academy of Inventors. She is the author of more than 460 journal publications and the inventor on 22 U.S. patents and multiple international patents. She is co-founder of SpherIngenics Inc., Orthonics Inc., OsteoBiologics Inc. and the Biomedical Development Corp. She has served on the boards of directors for five additional public and private companies in addition to nonprofit agencies.

Richard P. Wenzel, M.D., professor emeritus and former chairman, Department of Internal Medicine

Richard P. Wenzel, M.D.
Richard P. Wenzel, M.D.
On Nov. 21, Wenzel published his second novel, “Dreams of Troy.” The novel is the second in Wenzel’s “Terror Trifecta” trilogy, which is a series of medical thrillers drawing on the physician’s expertise in epidemiology.

Set in Barcelona, the plot of “Dreams of Troy” follows a British Security Service agent, an infectious disease specialist and a microbiologist in the aftermath of a cyber terror attack that threatens to bring down Spain’s medical infrastructure and possibly its government. The book is available in paperback via Amazon.com.




Antonio Abbate, M.D., James C. Roberts, Esq., Professor in Cardiology, VCU Health Pauley Heart Center

Antonio Abbate, M.D., Ph.D.
Antonio Abbate, M.D., Ph.D.

Abbate, vice-chair of the Cardiology Division in the Department of Internal Medicine, has been named to Forbes’ “Physician Honor Roll,” which highlights exemplary physicians in the field of cardiology. The Forbes list was generated via a partnership with Grand Rounds, whose mission is to connect patients with the highest quality care available. Abbate is one of only 27 doctors on Forbes’ list.

“It is humbling to have been selected to accompany other physicians who work to provide health care that is both compassionate and top-notch,” Abbate said. “I look forward to continuing to make a difference in the field of cardiology and in my patients’ lives.”

Like Abbate, many individuals on the list have served in top roles at multiple hospitals, have contributed a wealth of clinical research to advance the practice, and serve on community boards and national organizations.

In recent years, Abbate has partnered with other VCU Health physicians to study numerous basic science and clinical trials sponsored by the American Heart Association, National Institutes of Health and the pharmaceutical industry that explore the link between inflammation and heart disease. In 2016, he was given the Distinguished Mentor Award at the 18th annual VCU School of Medicine Excellence Awards. The distinction recognizes noteworthy contributions to the career development of others through mentorship to fellow faculty members, junior faculty, residents, fellows, graduate students, post-docs and medical students.


Jay Albanese, Ph.D., professor and chair, criminal justice, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

Jay Albanese, Ph.D.
Jay Albanese, Ph.D.

Albanese has been honored with the Distinguished Scholar Award from the International Association for the Study of Organized Crime for lifetime contributions to the field.

The contributions include research, books, articles, lectures, mentoring, and his work at the National Institute of Justice and United Nations. Albanese received the award at the IASOC ceremony held during the November 2017 meetings of the American Society of Criminology in Philadelphia.

“It is wonderful to be recognized by your peers in the field,” Albanese said. “Scholarship today is built internationally, and it is a privilege to be a contributor in expanding the body of knowledge about organized crime.”

Founded in 1984, IASOC is a professional association of criminologists, researchers, working professionals, instructors, and graduate students. IASOC works to promote greater understanding and research about organized crime in all its manifestations.

The organization sponsors a journal, “Trends in Organized Crime,” holds annual meetings in conjunction with the ASC, and host panels at other professional meetings to share the latest knowledge and research about organized crime.

“Jay Albanese is an internationally recognized expert on transnational crime and organized crime and corruption who has made significant contributions to the study of criminal justice,” said John Accordino, Ph.D., FAICP, dean of the Wilder School. “We are fortunate to have him on our faculty and sharing his extensive knowledge with our students."