HORSHAM -- Rising Hatboro-Horsham seniors Sarah Shegogue and Allyson Suman were not sure if the Bridges Internship would work out due to COVID-19. The internship is offered to enrichment students during their junior year as an opportunity to explore potential future jobs or fields of study. Their teacher Kimberly English-Murphy sent their resumes to Atrin Pharmaceuticals and they completed most of the internship over Zoom. Despite not being there in person, Shegogue and Suman were successful in their endeavors and their research will be used by Atrin Pharmaceuticals in the future.
Shegogue and Suman worked on research regarding Wee-1, a kinase or enzyme that is involved in DNA damage repair and very active in cancer cells. “When Wee-1 is inhibited, cells are forced into mitosis before they can repair their DNA damage, and therefore die,” explained Suman. “Because Wee-1 is more active in cancer cells than regular cells, inhibiting can be a form of targeted cancer therapy. This way, cancer cells will die, and healthy cells will be unaffected.”
For their research, Shegogue and Suman worked with Yasmine Azzi, who runs Atrin’s internship program. A Hatboro-Horsham 2017 alumna, Azzi was also in the Bridges Internship program, and has worked at Atrin since graduating while also attending McGille University. They also worked with Hatboro-Horsham 2017 alumnus Ethan Matthews who is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh and Maddie, a junior at Washington University in St. Louis.
The group conducted research by reviewing countless papers, learning what worked and what did not work from competitors’ experiments and clinical trials. “Our research revealed Wee-1 inhibition showed significant potential as a future cancer therapy,” said Shegogue. “Hopefully, our research can be used to further educate people on Wee-1 and help Atrin as they move forward in their development of the Wee-1 inhibitor.”
They presented their research on August 5, 2020, at the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center of Bucks County. For social distancing purposes, they gave two presentations, which were given to some of Atrin’s management team, Board of Directors, their parents and other interns.
“We learned a lot through the internship about how cancer develops and how drugs can target cancer cells,” said Shegogue. “Knowing that our research can help Atrin and cancer patients made the experience even more incredible.”
The project also gave Shegogue and Suman a greater interest in drug development. “Before this internship I had no idea what went into the biological side of developing a drug, but now I know it is something that interests me,” said Suman.
Shegogue and Suman are both in the process of applying to colleges and have interest in the biology field. Additionally, Atrin’s President and CEO Oren Gilad invited them back to Atrin’s internship program next summer. “We are both glad that the internship worked out despite COVID-19 and are thankful to have had the opportunity to learn from and work with such amazing people,” said Shegogue.