JV Biolabs provides the development and utilization of human cell and organ culture, and pre-clinical models. Additionally, clients gain access to the years of research of experience resident in the founders, Kent J. Johnson, M.D. and James Varani, Ph.D. Both JV Biolabs founders also maintain active academic research programs in inflammation, fibrosis, wound repair, colon cancer, and renal disease. Drs. Varani and Johnson have had many successful research collaborations with multiple pharmaceutical companies supporting a variety of Discovery and mechanistic efficacy and safety programs.
James Varani, Ph.D
Chief Scientific Officer
Dr. Varani is an internationally recognized expert in human cell and tissue biology. His interests focus on the skin and the colon, with an emphasis on understanding how tissue homeostasis is maintained and how it is upset in cancer, aging / atrophy, and fibrotic disease.
Kent Johnson, M.D.
Dr. Johnson is an internationally recognized expert on inflammation and specifically diseases that are associated with inflammation and tissue injury. His research in this area has focused on the role of leukocytes in inflammation, their activation and the mediators produced by these cells.
Dr. Varani is an internationally recognized expert in human cell and tissue biology. His interests focus on the skin and the colon, with an emphasis on understanding how tissue homeostasis is maintained and how it is upset in cancer, aging / atrophy, and fibrotic disease. His laboratory has developed and utilized sophisticated human tissue models to study epithelial cell growth control in normal tissue, in pre-malignant diseases and in cancer. Extracellular matrix synthesis and breakdown in both the skin and the colon have also been extensively investigated in the same human tissue models. Utilizing a variety of in vitro and in vivo approaches, he has supported retinoid, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory research as well as anti-cancer drug and monoclonal antibody development. He has worked with a variety of biotechnology companies and large pharmaceutical companies, including Johnson and Johnson, Genentech, Pfizer and Amgen.
Epithelial cells in the colon and skin are similar. Dr. Varani’s research has provided insight into regulation of epithelial cell growth and differentiation in both tissue sites. In the colon, these studies are helping to understand how adenomatous polyps arise and how polyps can be prevented from going on to form invasive tumors. In the skin, such studies are directed toward understanding changes occurring in premalignant conditions such as actinic keratosis and in non-malignant hyperplastic diseases such as psoriasis.
The connective tissue in both sites is another focus. Understanding the cellular and molecular events that regulate connective tissue production is key to understanding both atrophy and fibrosis. Dr. Varani has developed unique tissue models to study connective tissue changes during aging / atrophy and during the development of fibrosis. His studies demonstrate that understanding how fibroblast proliferation is regulated is as critical to understanding these conditions as is the study of collagen production, per se. Signaling pathways controlling growth, extracellular matrix production, elaboration of matrix metalloproteinases and their inhibitors are being investigated.
In 2009 Dr. Varani founded JV Biolabs with his long-time collaborator and friend, Dr. Kent Johnson. Their expertise in the development and utilization of human cell and tissue models as well as expertise in a variety of animal models makes JV Biolabs uniquely positioned to provide insight into the pathophysiology of various disease processes. These same models provide a vehicle for pre-clinical assessment of therapeutic potential as well as toxicity. Additionally, clients gain access to the years of research of experience resident in the company’s founders. Both Drs. Varani and Johnson maintain active research programs in inflammatory skin disease, skin fibrosis, wound repair, colon cancer, and renal disease. They have had many successful research collaborations with multiple pharmaceutical companies in support of a variety of discovery and safety programs.
Many of the techniques offered by JV Biolabs originated out Dr. Varani’s research efforts and his extensive publications. His experience and expertise in cell culture, organ culture, and animal models of disease have been the basis of multiple NIH, SBIR, and STTR programs addressing diseases. This skill set also has been translated into support for numerous drug development programs.
Dr. Varani received his Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of North Dakota in 1974. After post-doctoral training in Inflammation Research with Dr. Peter Ward at the University of Connecticut, Dr. Varani moved to Michigan where he is a full professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of Michigan Medical School.
Dr. Johnson is an internationally recognized expert on inflammation and specifically diseases that are associated with inflammation and tissue injury. His research in this area has focused on the role of leukocytes in inflammation, their activation and the mediators produced by these cells. He has looked primarily at the inflammatory response in organs such as the lung, kidney and blood vessels. He has a long history of grant support in this area both in terms of NIH funding as well industry support from biotech and pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, Parke Davis, Genentech, Novartis, Benovus Bio and Medicis. He has over 200 peer review publications in this area.
Over the past few years Dr. Johnson has also concentrated on protein biomarker identification in the blood of patients with diseases such as kidney and vascular disease. Dr. Johnson has developed several animal models of lung, kidney and vascular injury and has identified several protein biomarkers that are present in the blood.
Clinically Dr. Johnson is a renal pathologist and in addition to clinical sign out activities works with the nephrologists and transplant surgeons in biomarker studies from patients with kidney disease and also in renal transplant patients. These studies have identified several proteins that are present in patients with kidney and vascular disease that can identify the type of disease process without having to do a tissue biopsy. These studies have resulted in several publications.
In addition Dr. Johnson has extensive collaborations with rheumatologists in the context of kidney injury in patients with autoimmune diseases such as lupus. Dr. Johnson works with these physicians in the protein biomarkers present in patients with vasculitis. These studies have been supported by many of the biotech and pharmaceutical companies listed above and have resulted in several publications including a recent publication of biomarkers present in a vasculitis consortium study.
Dr. Johnson has a long history of working as a consultant with biotech firms as well as drugs companies on preclinical drug development as well as in clinical studies. He has been on many drug development teams and also provides advice on clinical diseases such as kidney disease and vasculitis and has played a key role in the development and approval of many new drug candidates.
Dr. Johnson received his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Dakota in 1968. He received his M.D. from the University of Connecticut, School of Medicine, Farmington, CT in 1976. After a residency in Pathology (1977-1980) at the University of Connecticut, Dr. Johnson moved to the University of Michigan where he is a full professor in the Department of Pathology.