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Clarke student presents HIV research

Collin Heer

Riley Taubert presented research on HIV at The Seven Rivers Undergraduate Research Symposium at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wis., on Nov. 9.

Taubert and Collin Heer, both juniors at Clarke University, have been working on this research since their freshmen year and the paper is entitled “Statistical Analysis of the Effects of Antiviral Treatments on HIV Patient RNA and CD4 Level.”

“We have been doing statistical analyses on patient records from the Clarke University Datamining Web Portal with the very helpful aid of George and Samira Towfic in the Computer Science Department,” said Taubert. “This portal includes the records of over 6,000 HIV patients in the Midwest. Their records
hold their CD4 counts (a way to measure health of the immune system) and their HIV RNA levels (the amount of virus in the body) after taking specific medications. From the effects of the patients' medications on their RNA and CD4 counts we can analyze how effective each medication is at increasing the health of the immune system and decreasing the amount of virus present in the body.

“We have been finding the usefulness of the top 10 medications from the database and want to make these analyses available to physicians so they can see analyses from actual patient records. Collin and I are currently working on including some more statistical analyses and analyzing medications more thoroughly, and then working to get our research published.”

Heer said it was a great opportunity to get involved with research so early in his undergraduate career.

“HIV is a huge topic now in drug development and being able to look at the big picture in terms of the response of thousands of patients to various antiretroviral medications was an amazing experience,” said Heer. “Professors George and Samira Towfic were great mentors and have done so much for the area of bioinformatics when it comes to HIV and drug development.”

Taubert said being able to give this presentation was a great opportunity to present what she and Collin have been working on for quite a while, and a great opportunity to get feedback on the research.

“I felt very confident giving this presentation because after working on the topic for so long I understand it very well and could really explain why this topic is so important,” said Taubert. “Since I am very interested in becoming a physician, the practical use of this research is very important to me and is something that I can continue with as I enter the medical field.”

George Towfic said Taubert’s presentation of their work was a proud moment for Clarke.

“Riley was an excellent Clarke University ambassador for the Viterbo Research Symposium,” said Towfic. “In addition to her hard work on this paper, she is now shadowing Dr. Laura Neal at the Obstetrics & Gynecology Department at Medical Associates. Both Reilly and Collin are extending their research to present it in a national medical conference and will help us with our next medical data mining project, in collaboration with Mercy Medical Center. It is great to have active and intelligent students like Riley and Collin, who work enthusiastically to explore recent developments in medical data analysis.”

Taubert and Heer are currently in the process of adding data from Mercy Medical Center in Dubuque to their database. 

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