Current Members


Mandë Holford, PhD, Principal Investigator

Mandë Holford is an Associate Professor in Chemistry at CUNY-Hunter College and Graduate Center, with scientific appointments at the American Museum of Natural History and Weill Cornell Medical College. Her appointments reflect her traditional training in synthetic peptide chemistry and her subsequent interest in evolution of venomous marine organisms and characterization of venom peptides. Dr. Holford’s research is at the forefront of Chemical and Biological Diversity – pioneering an evolutionarily integrated approach to the discovery of novel venom peptides for therapeutic development in pain and cancer. 


Prachi Anand, PhD, Post-Doctoral Fellow

Prachi Anand received her Doctorate degree in Biomedical Sciences in March 2010 and Masters in Biomedical Science in June 2004 from Dr. B.R Ambedkar Center for Biomedical Research, University of Delhi, Delhi, India. Her PhD studies were focused on therapeutics of diabetes from natural products. She has qualified for the combined National Eligibility Test (NET) conducted by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and University Grants Commission, Government of India in 2004 and received the CSIR-UGC Junior and Senior Research Fellowship.

Prachi joined Dr. Holford’s group in May 2010 as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Chemistry, CUNY-York College. In Dr. Holford’s lab she is working on the synthesis and characterization of novel teretoxins to identify specific ligands for ion channels and receptors. The other project she works on, is the delivery of therapeutic peptides across the blood brain barrier using viral nanocontainers. She is also studying the anticancer activity of novel teretoxins in various cell lines.


Patrick Kelly, Graduate Student

Patrick holds a BA from San Francisco State University and an MA from Columbia University, both in English literature. After working as a writer and editor, he trained for several years full-time in a Zen Buddhist monastery. He entered the CUNY Biochemistry Ph.D. program in 2013 and is currently investigating in vivo delivery mechanisms for small peptide therapeutics.


Tanya Napolitano, Graduate Student

Tanya received a BS in forensic toxicology in 2015 from John Jay College. She then worked as a research chemist for the Research Foundation of CUNY, synthesizing mitomycin interstrand cross-linked DNA adducts and studying their effects on cancer cells. Tanya entered the CUNY Biochemistry Ph.D. Program in Fall 2016 and joined the Holford lab in Spring 2017. Currently, she is working on developing a high-throughput method for screening purified Terebridae venom peptides. Using an integrated approach, a validated teretoxin functional activity pipeline will be made to identify potential therapeutic candidates. Teretoxins are an uncharted territory for drug development that can ultimately overcome molecular and pharmacokinetic obstacles. To develop this high-throughput method for screening purified Terebridae venom peptides, a variety of approaches will be used. These approaches include two peptide synthesis methods, both recombinant and synthetic, three instrument screening platforms for crude venom characterization, and three types of bioactive assays to test the functionality of venom peptides. 


Shakeela Jabeen, Graduate Student

Shakeela holds a BS in Chemistry from Brooklyn College. She joined the Holford Lab in Spring 2019. Currently, Shakeela is working on developing mechanisms for delivery of peptide therapeutics using viral nanocontainers.


William Deng, Undergraduate Researcher

William is currently an undergraduate junior majoring in Chemistry and minoring in Mathematics and Physics at Hunter College. He joined the Holford lab in January of 2018. His work at the lab involves the synthesis and purification of terebrid snail peptides by employing Fmoc solid phase peptide synthesis and liquid chromatography. He has also involved in modifying protocols experimentally so that they can be adapted in characterizing the more recently discovered terebrid venom peptides. After graduating, William hopes to pursue a doctoral degree in either Synthetic Organic Chemistry or Organometallic Chemistry. 


Sharmin Sultana, Undergraduate Researcher and Lab Manager

Sharmin is currently an undergraduate junior majoring in Biochemistry and minoring in Sociology at Hunter College. She joined the Holford lab in June of 2018. Her work at the lab involves developing a method to recombinantly express terebrid venom peptides found from next-generation sequencing of various species of Terebridae. This project will establish a recombinant expression protocol for successfully generating large quantities of Terebridae venom peptides for further functional analyses in hopes of identifying novel potential therapeutic candidates. The experimental design for recombinant expression in E. coli cells involves BL21 cell transformation, peptide expression, periplasmic export, oxidative folding, and purification of the target venom peptide peptides. After graduating, Sharmin hopes to pursue an MD/PhD degree.


Eleonora Achrak, Undergraduate Researcher

Eleonora is currently an undergraduate senior majoring in Biology at Hunter College. She joined the Holford lab in June of 2018. Her work in the lab involves computation programming and she is a part of bioinformatic team in the lab. Their project involves automating functional script to characterize venom peptides. She also was a part of the team that partnered up with American Museum of Natural History to work on the genomic project and help characterize a luciferase gene. After graduating, Eleonora hopes to pursue a MD or MD/PhD degree.


Safiyah Samad, Undergraduate Researcher

Safiyah Samad is currently an undergraduate senior majoring in Biological  Sciences and minoring in Arabic Studies at Hunter College. She joined the Holford Lab in September 2018. Her work in the lab currently involves establishing a method of recombinant expression in order  synthesize Terebrid venom peptides found via next generation sequencing of various Terebrid species. This protocol will establish a method for generating large amounts of terebrid peptides for further functional analyses. After graduating, Safiyah hopes to pursue an MD degree.

Former Members


PhD Graduate Students

Abba Leffler, PhD (Senior Scientist, Private Firm)

Elizabeth Mary Wright, PhD (Lecturer, Princeton University)

Giulia Fassio, PhD (Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Sapienza Università di Roma)

Aida Verdes, PhD (Assistant Professor, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)

Juliette Gorson, PhD (Science Communicator, Russo Partners, LLC)

Masters Graduate Students

Danny Simpson, MS (Bioinformatics Specialist, New York Genome Center)

Raj Musunuri, MS (Bioinformatics Specialist, New York Genome Center)

Emily Lin, MS (PhD candidate, CUNY Graduate Center)

R. S. Ramakrishnan, MS (Bioinformatics Specialist, Mount Sinai Hospital)

Undergraduate Students

Henry Yelkin (Medical School)

Marouf Hossain (Medical School, SUNY Downstate)

Manjeet Kaur (Masters candidate, CUNY Graduate Center)

Peter Filipenko (Bioinformatics Consultant)

Girish Ramrattan (Bioinformatics Facility Manager, Weill Cornell Medicine)

Michelle Yun (MS candidate in Pharmacology,  Boston University)

Magid Mohamed (MD/PhD candidate, UT South Western)

John Moon (Medical School, University of Chicago)

Michael Lyudmer (Medical School)

Nicolette Somogyi (Masters candidate, NYU)

Corina Grijuc, (Medical School)

Carolina Santamaria (Graduate School)

Emily Lau (Graduate School, UC Santa Barbara)

Jessica Kuppan (Graduate School, Washington University in St. Louis)

Laboratory Managers

Saama Salim (Nursing candidate)

Kelly Huang (Nursing candidate)

Justin Ho (Graduate School, Cornell University)