Primary Research Focus
The Weimer Lab focuses on understanding mechanisms of polarized signaling involved in development of the cerebral cortex. These processes are known to regulate the proliferation and placement of neurons, formation of axons in differentiating cells and long term maintenance and trafficking within these same processes.
The Weimer Lab draws on expertise in cell and molecular biology, genetics and behavioral neuroscience to answer questions that bridge from basic mechanisms to translational and clinical approaches to treat human disease. These questions answer how and why various scaffolding or “signaling complex” form in neurons, how disruption in these complexes can contribute to human disease and determine if these complexes may serve as druggable targets.
Specifically, the team explores a number of mechanisms involved in neural stem cell proliferation, neuronal polarity and axonal outgrowth and trafficking with the hope of advancing our knowledge of neurobiology and aiding in the future treatment of rare neural developmental disorders. This includes projects focused on neuropediatric disorders including Batten disease, cortical malformations and neurofibromatosis type I.
About the Weimer Lab
Lab Projects and News
Batten Disease and Gene Therapy
Jill Weimer, PhD, discussed gene therapy and its potential as a treatment for Batten disease with the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy. Watch the video to learn more.
Novel Mechanisms for Distal Transport in Developing and Mature Neurons
This study will expand our understanding of CLN6’s contribution to crucial cellular processes and start to unravel the biological significance of the CCK complex in developing and mature neurons, as well as its role and the role of intracellular trafficking in neurological disorders such as the NCLs.
The NF-1 Porcine Model Collaborative Research Program
This Synodos program (a multi-PI program grant) characterizes a newly developed porcine model of NF1, develops tools for identification of novel biomarkers and expands basic understanding into how mutations in NF1 lead to disease.
Searching for an Effective Treatment for CLN6-Batten Disease
This project brings together a team exploring small molecules/repurposed FDA approved drugs, gene therapy, cellular therapy and gene editing as possibly treatments for CLN6-Batten disease. The Weimer Lab serves as the central screening and phenotyping facility for all human patient cell line and mouse model studies.
Developmental Research Program for Medical Students
The DRPMS will provide trainees with the skills and mentorship to conduct high quality research leading to publications, understand how research supports and advances clinical care, compete for fellowships and to critically evaluate the literature.
Development of an scAAV9-CLN8 Gene Therapy for Treatment of Batten Disease
This program focuses on the preclinical efficacy studies for a novel AAV9-CLN8 gene therapy program for the treatment of CLN8-Batten disease patients.
Meet the Weimer Team
Jacob Cain, PhD
Dr. Jacob Cain joined the Weimer Lab in 2014 as a postdoctoral fellow. He works on testing the efficacy of AAV9 mediated gene therapies to treat mouse models of Batten disease.
Dr. Cain holds a Ph.D. in biology from the University of North Dakota.
Vicki Swier, PhD
Dr. Vicki Swier joined the Weimer lab in 2017. She holds a Ph.D. from Texas Tech University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Creighton University.
Clarissa Booth, MS
Clarissa Booth joined the Weimer Lab in 2018 to research the efficacy of various gene therapy treatments for different forms of Batten disease.
Booth holds a master’s degree in biology with a neuroscience specialization from the University of South Dakota.
Katie White, BS
Senior Research Specialist
Katie White joined the Weimer Lab in 2014 to assist the team in its research on Batten disease and neurofibromatosis type I. She studies how CLN6 and NF-1 interactions with CRMP2 may contribute to and exacerbate disease states.
White holds a bachelor’s degree in animal sciences from the University of Missouri.
Samantha Davis, BS
Samantha Davis joined the Weimer Lab in 2015 to assist the team in characterizing Cln3 conditional knock-out mouse lines using cell type specific Cre recombinase drivers.
Davis holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Northwestern.
Pedro Luis Negrão de Assis, BS
Pedro Luis Negrão de Assis joined the Weimer Lab in 2017 to investigate the therapeutic properties of mesenchymal stem cells derived from adipose tissue to treat concussions, rare diseases and cartilage damage.
Negrão de Assis holds a bachelor’s degree in science and technology from the Federal University of Alfenas in Brazil.
Cristina Swanson, BS
Cristina Swanson joined the Weimer Lab in 2017, where she tests the efficacy of various gene therapy treatments for several forms of Batten disease through neurobehavioral testing on mouse models, cell culture and qPCR.
Swanson holds a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology from the University of Parma in Italy.
Brandon Meyerink, BS
Senior Research Specialist
Brandon Meyerink joined the Weimer Lab in 2017. He studies efficacy screening of gene therapy in mouse models of Batten disease and works on in vivo screening of small molecule therapies for lysosomal storage disorder.
Meyerink holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Dakota.
Melissa Pratt, BS
Melissa Pratt joined the Weimer Lab in 2019, where she works on in vivo small molecule drug studies for Cln3 and Cln6 Batten disease.
Pratt holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of South Dakota.
Kaylie Timm, BS
Associate Research Specialist
Kaylie Timm joined the Weimer Lab in 2018 to provide experimental support to several of the team’s projects.
Timm holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of South Dakota.
Undergraduate Research Intern
McKayla Poppens joined the Weimer Lab in 2017 as an undergraduate research intern.
Poppens is currently an undergraduate at Augustana University majoring in biology.
Tyler Johnson, PhD
Dr. Tyler Johnson joined the Weimer team as a postdoctoral fellow in September 2016 after completing his Ph.D. at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Dr. Johnson works on preclinical therapeutic development for the multiple subtypes of Batten disease, characterizing our porcine models of CLN3 and CLN2 Batten disease and investigating/developing comprehensive Batten disease biomarker panels for tracking disease state and progression.
Steven Ortmeier, MS
Dr. Ortmeier is a part-time laboratory technician and full-time biology teacher at Lincoln High School in Sioux Falls. He graduated from Concordia College (Moorhead) with a Bachelor of Arts in biology and German. He received a Bachelor of Science in biology from St. Cloud State University and a Master of Science in biology from South Dakota State University. His thesis was on flood tolerance mechanisms of two soybean lines. Before joining the Weimer lab, Dr. Ortmeier worked on numerous projects at Sanford Research, including post-myocardial infarction revascularization, lipid metabolism and omega-3 fatty acids, atherosclerosis and the immune response and membrane trafficking and endocytic mechanisms. His current focus in the Weimer lab is histology and image analysis to further the short-term drug studies and gene therapy treatments of the Cln6 mouse model.