As a scientist, June Wencel-Drake has over 32 years of experience in the field of hematology and blood platelet research. In particular, she researched the regulation of cell-cell and cell-substratum interactions, which is important in a variety of biologic processes including organogenesis, phagocytosis, immune response, hemostasis and thrombosis. Wencel-Drake found the molecular basis of these events in platelets, including three adhesive glycoproteins (fibrinogen, fibronectin and von Willebrand factor) which interact with a shared platelet receptor via Arg-Gly-Asp sequences present in each of these molecules.
Wencel-Drake’s research focused on the distribution, activation and cycling of these adhesive proteins and receptors in human blood platelets. The receptor contains a two-subunit membrane protein termed GPIIb/IIIa. This receptor shares an Arg-Gly-Asp recognition function with adhesive receptors from many cell types, and these receptors share gross structural features. Study of the genetic commonality of these adhesive protein receptors established the existence of a new superfamily of genes, now referred to as the “integrin” family of cellular receptors/genes. Today, antibodies and peptides from functionally significant sites within these receptors represent a novel class of anti-thrombotic drugs.
Drawing on her background in physiology and pharmacology, Wencel-Drake now teaches the course in pathophysiology and medical terminology in the Health Information Management curriculum.
In addition to her research background, Wencel-Drake has over 16 years of administrative experience in the department and college in a variety of roles, including Director of Graduate Studies, Department Head, Acting Dean and most recently as Executive Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research.