Our Team

Madan Kwatra, DirectorMadan Kwatra

Dr. Kwatra is an associate professor of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology, and Psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center. He has a PhD in medicinal chemistry followed by several years of training in receptor biochemistry and pharmacology. This included training with 2012 Nobel laureate Dr. Robert Lefkowitz. Dr. Kwatra has been funded by the NIH to study the function of substance P/neurokinin-1 receptor (NK1R) and effect of age on cardiac GPCRs. He also led an interdisciplinary team consisting of anesthesiologists, biostatisticians, psychiatrists, and surgeons in a 2.5 million dollar, NIH-funded study to understand the molecular basis of postoperative delirium in the elderly. In 2009, Dr. Kwatra discovered a constitutively active form of NK1R in glioblastoma (GBM). Since then he has been focusing on GBM biology. Recently, he found that patient-derived GBM xenografts retain the phosphoproteomic profile of parent tumors and plans to use a panel of such xenografts and stem cells for personalized glioblastoma drug discovery. Because of his expertise in medicinal chemistry, receptor pharmacology, cell signaling, and clinical trials, Dr. Kwatra is in a unique position to develop an effective therapy against GBM.

Allison James

Allison is an undergraduate research assistant pursuing a major in Chemistry with a concentration in Pharmacology, and a Global Health minor. She will graduate in 2020, and focuses on cell culture and a project assessing the effect of Olig2 knockout of the efficacy of EGFR inhibitors in the Kwatra Laboratory. Before working at the Kwatra laboratory, Allison worked as an undergraduate research assistant in the Tung laboratory at Duke University and in the Ramin Yadegari laboratory at the University of Arizona, where she used CRISPR to reveal the function of the MRP1 gene in maize. She also worked for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, where she worked closely with patients and families and conducted market research to organize fundraisers.


Ashley Khouri

Ashley Khouri is a junior at Duke University studying neurobiology, chemistry, and psychology.  She is from Erie, Pennsylvania, and plans to attend medical school in 2020.  She has been working in the Kwatra Lab since 2017, but also gained research experience this past summer at Careggi Hospital in Florence, Italy where she focused on preclinical work regarding cerebral ischemia. In Dr. Kwatra’s lab, she is currently studying the potential of targeting EGFR variant III as an effective means of therapeutics in newly-diagnosed glioblastoma patients. 


Leora Mazumdar

Leora Mazumdar is a senior at Duke University studying Biomedical Engineering. She is from El Dorado Hills, California. While in California, she gained some lab experience from taking genetic engineering classes at UC San Diego. However, this is her first time working in a research lab. In Dr. Kwatra’s lab, Leora works on data analysis and maintaining the lab website.


Maddie Frazier

Maddie is a sophomore at Duke University studying Neuroscience with a particular interest in neurological diseases. She aspires to attend medical school and continue research after undergrad. This is her first experience working in a research lab. Her main project in Dr. Kwatra’s lab focuses on correlating biomarkers with patient outcomes from tumor treating fields (TTfields). She also tests drug compounds on subcutaneous and intracranial models of glioblastoma.  


Sarah Nullmeyer

Sarah is a third year medical student at Duke. She is originally from Iowa and attended undergraduate at Wartburg College. She will be working on testing various FDA-approved drugs against the lab’s glioblastoma cell lines over the course of the year.



Our Advisors

Al Musella

musella@virtualtrials.comAl Musella

Al Musella is the president and founder of the Musella Foundation For Brain Tumor Research & Information, Inc, a 501(C)3 nonprofit public charity dedicated to helping brain tumor patients through emotional and financial support, education, advocacy and raising money for brain tumor research.  In 1992 his sister-in-law was diagnosed with GBM, sparking his interest in brain tumors. He soon realized there was no centralized online resource for brain tumor clinical trials.  Thus, shortly after, he began the first online support group dedicated to brain tumors and collected and published a database on all relevant clinical trials.  This site served as a model for the current NIH clinical trials website.  Next, Dr. Musella created an online patient registry to monitor the treatments used and the respective outcomes.  To date, he has provided grant funding for over 60 brain tumor research projects and emphasizes the value of nontraditional, unique approaches.   He serves on numerous boards as a patient advocate, helping to shape the direction of brain tumor research.  Dr. Musella was involved in the FDA approval process for Avastin and the Novocure System, and in the Medicare funding process for Gliadel, Temodar, Avastin and the Novocure system.  In 1999, Al also lost his father to GBM, but he has continued to make a profound impact on brain tumor research, awareness, and support.


Recent Lab Alumni

Cory Nanni

Madison Krischak

Kristine Brown

Gustavo Chagoya

Timothy Yen

Sarah Corin

Caroline Schanche

Bradley Cahn