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Faculty and Staff News

Published: Aug 30, 2016

Gustavo Aguirre, VMD, PhD, was awarded the 2017 Proctor Medal for his research in ophthalmology from the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO). He is the first veterinarian to be granted the Medal in its 67-year history. The Proctor Medal honors excellence in the basic or clinical sciences as applied to ophthalmology. The award will be presented at the 2017 ARVO meeting, where Aguirre also will deliver the Proctor Lecture. Aguirre’s research area is the molecular basis of inherited blindness. His team uses dog models to study the genetic mechanisms behind vision impairment. His research spans several vision disorders, including Leber’s congenital amaurosis, Best disease, and retinitis pigmentosa. Aguirre’s approach to developing genetic therapies for dogs with Leber’s congenital amaurosis has paved the way to clinical trials in humans, currently underway.

Dr. Tracy Bale Receives NIH Merit Award

Tracy Bale, PhD, Professor of Neuroscience and Director of Penn Vet’s Neuroscience Center, received a MERIT (Method to Extend Research in Time) Award for her recently funded R01 MHI08286 on Paternal Stress Epigenetics. The award converts a five-year grant into a ten-year grant. MERIT awardees cannot apply for the award; they are nominated by the funding NIH institute from a large pool of competing award recipients and then endorsed by an advisory council. Less than five percent of NIH-funded investigators are selected to receive MERIT Awards, which are designed to give productive and creative scientists long-term support, without the burden of constantly devoting time and staff resources to applying for new grants to fund their research. NIH created the MERIT Award program in 1986, to support investigators whose research skills and productivity are “distinctly superior” and who are highly likely to continue to perform in an outstanding manner.

William Beltran, DVM, PhD, received a 2016 Pfizer Ophthalmics Carl Camras Translational Research Award from the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO).

Rumela Chakrabarti, PhD, was an invited speaker at the Stem Cell Niche and Cancer Microenvironment meeting at Cedars- Sinai Medical Center, University of California, Los Angeles, last November. In April, she spoke at the 7th International p63/p73 Workshop in Boston.

Raimon Duran-Struuck, DVM, PhD, was awarded the Premi Extraordinari de Doctorat en Inmunologia Avançada in April from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. The award is given to the best PhD thesis within each specific academic discipline. Duran was the recipient of the advanced immunology award based on his long-term work focused in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and immunological tolerance.

Amy Durham, VMD, was invited to give a four-hour lecture series in June at the University of Perugia, Italy, on the WHO classification system for hematopoietic neoplasms and subtyping lymphomas in dogs, cats, and horses. Durham was also the invited keynote speaker at the Australian Society of Veterinary Pathology Annual Meeting, which took place from July 15 to 17 in the city of Townsville in Queensland, Australia. She spoke on multiple topics in hematopoietic pathology.

Karina Guziewicz, PhD, delivered a talk on AAV-mediated Therapy for Best Vitelliform Macular Dystrophy in March at the Translational Research Acceleration Program Meeting in Baltimore.

Mark Haskins, VMD, PhD, gave two talks in April at “The Brain and MPS: Today and Tomorrow” event in Stockholm, Sweden. His topics were What can we learn from animal models and Gene therapy. He published the following [vet students’ names in bold]: Peck, SH, O’Donnell, P, Kang, JL, Malhotra, NR, Dodge, GR, Pacifici, M, Shore, EM, Haskins, ME, Smith, LJ (2015) Pinpointing the Earliest Manifestations of Bone Disease in Mucopolysaccharidosis VII Dogs. J Mol Genet Metab. 2015 Nov;116(3):195-203. doi: 10.1016/j.ymgme.2015.09.008. Epub 2015 Sep 26. He also published: Flanagan-Steet H, Aarnio M, Kwa, B, Guihard P, Petrey A, Haskins M, Steet R (2016) Cathepsin-mediated alterations in TGF-related signaling underlie disrupted cartilage and bone maturation associated with impaired lysosomal targeting. J Bone Miner Res. 2016 Mar;31(3):535-48. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.2722. Epub 2015 Oct 13. Additionally, he published: Gurda, BL, De Guilhem De Lataillade, A, Bell, A, Wang, P, Ponder, KP, Bagel, J, Hinderer, C, Yox, AD, Steet, RA, Louboutin, J-P Casal, M, Wilson, JW, and Haskins, ME (2016) Evaluation of AAV-mediated gene therapy for canine mucopolysaccharidosis VII. Molec Therapy Oct 8. doi: 10.1038/mt.2015.189. [Epub ahead of print]. He also published: Pang, B, Yee, KK, Lischak, FW, Rawson, NE, Haskins, ME, Wysocki, CJ, Craven, BA, Van Valkenburgh, B (2016) The influence of nasal airflow on respiratory and olfactory epithelial distribution in the domestic cat (Felis catus) and bobcat (Lynx rufus). J Exp Biol. 2016 Apr 4. pii: jeb.131482. [Epub ahead of print].

Haskins also published the following: Ruane, T, Haskins, M, Cheng, A, Aguirre, G, Knox, VW, Qi, Y, Tompkins, T, O’Neill, CA (2016) Pharmacodynamics, Pharmacokinetics and Biodistribution of Recombinant Human N-Acetylgalactosamine 4-Sulfatase after 6 Months of Therapy in Cats using Different IV Infusion Durations. Molecular Genetics and Metabolism 117 (2016) 157–163. Additionally, he published: Callan, MB, Askins, ME, Wang, P, Zhou, S, High, KA, Arruda, VR (2016) Successful phenotype improvement following gene therapy for severe hemophilia A in privately owned dogs. PLoS One. 2016 Mar 24;11(3):e0151800. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0151800. Lastly, he published the following: Simonaro, CM, Tomatsu, S, Sikora, T, Frohbergh, M, Guevara Morales, JM, Wang, RY, Vera, M, Smith, L, Kang, J, Schuchman, EH, Haskins, ME, (2016) Pentosan Polysulfate: Oral Versus Subcutaneous Injection in Mucopolysaccharidosis Type I Dogs. PLoS One. 2016 Apr 11;11(4):e0153136. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0153136.

Christopher Lengner, PhD, provided invited seminars at the Center for Regenerative Medicine, Dongguk University, Seoul Korea; Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine Black Family Stem Cell Institute; Wistar Institute; and the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Stem Cell Meeting. He published the following [lab members’ names in bold]: Park H, Kim HW, Yoo JS, Lee J, Choi H, Baek S, Lee CJ, Lengner CJ, Sung JS, and Kim J. “Homogenous generation of iDA neurons with high similarity to bona fide DA neurons using a drug-inducible system” Biomaterials 2015 Dec;72:152-62. doi: 10.1016/j. biomaterials.2015.09.002. Epub 2015 Sep 6. He also published: Li N, Yousefi M, Nakauka-Ddamba A, Li F, Vandivier L, Parada K, Woo DH, Wang S, Naqvi AS, Rao S, Tobias J, Cedeno R, Minuesa G, Katz Y, Barlowe TS, Valvezan AJ, Shankar S, Deering RP, Klein PS, Jensen S, Kharas MG, Gregory BD, Yu Z, Lengner CJ. “The Msi family of RNA binding proteins function redundantly as intestinal oncoproteins” Cell Reports, 2015 Dec 22;13(11):2440- 55. doi: 10.1016 PMCID in process. In addition, he published: Katlinskaya YV, Katlinski KV, Lasri A, Li N, Beiting DP, Durham AC, Yang T, Pikarsky E, Lengner CJ, Johnson FB, Ben-Neriah Y, Fuchs SY. “Type I interferons control proliferation and function of the intestinal epithelium” Mol Cell Biol. 2016 Jan 25;36(7):1124-35. doi: 10.1128/MCB.00988-15.

Lengner also published: Taggart J, Ho TC, Amin E, Xu H, Barlowe TS, Perez AR, Durham BH, Tivnan P, Okabe R, Chow A, Vu L, Park SM, Prieto C, Famulare C, Patel M, Lengner CJ, Verma A, Roboz G, Guzman M, Klimek VM, Abdel-Wahab O, Leslie C, Nimer SD, Kharas MG. “MSI2 is required for maintaining activated myelodysplastic syndrome stem cells” Nature Communications 2016 Feb 22;7:10739. doi: 10.1038/ ncomms10739. PMCID in process. In addition, he published: Cieply B, Park JW, Nakauka-Ddamba A, Bebee TW, Guo Y, Shang X, Lengner CJ, Xing Y, Carstens RP. “Multiphasic and dynamic changes in alternative splicing during induction of pluripotency are coordinated by numerous RNA-binding proteins” Cell Reports 2016 Apr 12;15(2):247-55. doi: 10.1016/j. celrep.2016.03.025. Epub 2016 Mar 31. Lastly, he published: Li N, Nakauka-Ddamba A, Tobias J, Jensen ST, Lengner CJ. “Mouse Label-Retaining Cells are Molecularly and Functionally Distinct from Reserve Intestinal Stem Cells” Gastroenterology, 2016 May 26. pii: S0016-5085(16)34493-6. doi: 10.1053/j. gastro.2016.04.049. [Epub ahead of print].

Meryl Littman, VMD, Chair of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) Small Animal Lyme Consensus Update, presented the group’s findings at the ACVIM National Forum in Denver, Colorado, in June.

Nicola Mason, BVetMed, PhD, published the following: Immunotherapy with a HER2 targeted Listeria induces HER2- specific immunity and demonstrates potential therapeutic effects in a phase I trial in canine osteosarcoma. CCR 2016 Clin Cancer Res. 2016 Mar 18. Mason N, Gnanandarajah J, Engiles J, Gray F, Laughlin D, Gaurnier-Hausser A, Wallecha A, Huebner M, Paterson Y.

Erin McGowan, VMD, was selected for the grand prize in BlackwellKing’s Resident of the Year contest, out of more than 100 residents across the United States and Canada.

Keiko Miyadera, DVM, PhD, published the following: Canine genome assembly correction facilitates identification of a MAP9 deletion as a potential age of onset modifier for RPGRIP1- associated canine retinal degeneration in the journal Mamm Genome. 2016 Mar 26. The authors were Oliver P. Forman, Rebekkah J. Hitti, Mike Boursnell, Keiko Miyadera, David Sargan, and Cathryn Mellersh.

Cynthia Otto, DVM, PhD, has recently spoken at events for the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC), the Israel Companion Animal Veterinary Association, and the Working Dog Organizations of Israel (police, Army, Air Force, prison, and sport). She also testified before the Senate Homeland Security Committee. In addition, the Penn Vet Working Dog Center K9 Performance Medicine service—Dr. Otto and Tracy Darling, RVT, VTS—is providing conditioning and rehabilitation services for police, working, and performance dogs.

Alexander Reiter, Dr med vet, Dipl. Tzt., gave invited presentations during the Annual Meeting of the Edwin and Fannie Gray Hall Center for Human Appearance (CHA) in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, last November; an Oral and Maxillofacial Trauma Surgery Course in Halmstad, Sweden in February; the Congress of the Austrian Society of Veterinary Dentistry (OEGTZ) in Innsbruck, Austria in February; the Vetmadrid-Propet Congress in Madrid, Spain in March; the Penn Multi-Disciplinary Consortium (Personalized Dental, Oral and Craniofacial Tissue Regeneration) Research Retreat in Philadelphia in March; the European Congress of Veterinary Dentistry in Dublin, Ireland in May; and the Eurocongress of the Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations (FECAVA) in Vienna, Austria, in June.

Lila K. Sierra, CVT, VTS (ECC), will be stepping down after 16 years serving as the assistant nursing supervisor of ICU to become the first newly appointed Nursing Coordinator of Penn Vet Cardiology.

Charles Vite, DVM, PhD, was recognized this month as part of the 2016 Champions of Hope in Collaborations in Science and Technology. He was honored for his work with the SOAR-NPC Collaborative of parents and scientists, striving to find therapies for Niemann Pick type C disease. Each year, Global Genes—a leading global rare disease patient advocacy organization—asks for nominations for those deserving of recognition for their extraordinary efforts in rare disease; Vite was recognized at an awards ceremony and also at the annual Tribute to Champions of Hope Gala. In addition, he spoke in June at the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Conference on autophagy in Niemann-Pick type C disease, and at the ACVIM Forum in Denver, Colorado, on developing new therapies for globoid cell leukodystrophy. He published the following: Crowdsourcing reproducible seizure forecasting in human and canine epilepsy. Brinkmann BH, Wagenaar J, Abbot D, Adkins P, Bosshard SC, Chen M, Tieng QM, He J, Muñoz-Almaraz FJ, Botella-Rocamora P, Pardo J, Zamora-Martinez F, Hills M, Wu W, Korshunova I, Cukierski W, Vite C, Patterson EE, Litt B, Worrell GA. Brain. 2016 Jun;139:1713-22.

Jackie Watson, Research Specialist at New Bolton Center, received a Master of Science in Laboratory Animal Science from Drexel University in May.

Penn Vet Educators Honored

(Top) Dr. Mark Oyama receives the Zoetis Distinguished Teacher Award from SCAVMA president Talia Wong. (Middle) Dr. James "Sparky" Lok receives the Dean's Distinguished Service Award from Vet Dean Joan Hendricks. (Bottom) Dr. Nicole Scherrer receives the William B. Boucher Award from Dr. Ray Sweeney.This year’s Zoetis Distinguished Teacher Award was presented to Mark Oyama, DVM. The Zoetis Distinguished Teacher Award is the most prestigious teaching award in veterinary medicine. It is presented annually to a faculty member at each school of veterinary medicine in the United States. Its purpose is “to improve veterinary medicine education by recognizing outstanding instructors who, through their ability, dedication, character and leadership, contribute significantly to the advancement of the profession.” The entire Penn Vet student body votes on the recipient.

James “Sparky” Lok, DVM, PhD, received the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award. “The fundamental criterion for the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award, which Sparky meets and exceeds, is that he has contributed beyond our ability to thank him throughout his long career at Penn Vet. He is a creative, committed, and passionate researcher in important areas of global health,” said Penn Vet Dean Joan Hendricks. She added, “His impact is perhaps best captured by the response every student, faculty, or staff member had when I told them he was getting this award. They said, emphatically, ‘I love Sparky!’”

Nicole Scherrer, DVM, received the William B. Boucher Award, which honors a house officer at New Bolton Center for excellent teaching, as was exemplified by William Boucher over four decades at Penn Vet.


Victor Absalón-Medina, DVM, PhD, received a $1,749,448 grant from Li Animal Health for Evaluation and optimization of culture media for in vitro embryo purposes using mammalian eggs. The grant spans from January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2018.

Montserrat Anguera, PhD, received a two-year, $250,000 grant from Research Careers in Women’s Health for K12 BIRCHWH Scholars. The grant spans from January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2018.

Michael Atchison, PhD, received a $1,401,161 NIH/NIAID/R01 grant for Control of B Cell Development by YYI. The grant spans from December 1, 2015, to November 30, 2020.

William Beltran, DVM, PhD, received a $1,876,891 NIH-NEI grant for Translational Gene Therapy for Rhodopsin. The grant spans from March 2016 to February 2017. Collaborators include Drs. Cideciyan and Jacobson, Scheie Eye Institute, and Drs. Hauswirth and Lewin, University of Florida. Beltran also received a $1,113,049 grant from AGTC, Inc. for SRA Amended Canine GLP-like ocular toxicology and efficacy studies in dogs. The grant spans from January 2016 to September 2019, and he is collaborating with Gustavo Aguirre, VMD, PhD.

Ashley Boyle, DVM, received a one-year, $22,330 grant from Grayson Jockey Club for Validation of stall–side strangles diagnosis using LAMP. The grant spans from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017. She also received a one-year, $15,000 grant from Boehringer Ingelheim for Validation of a point-of-care self-heating, microfluidic cartridge for isothermal nucleic acid amplification of Streptococcus equi subsp equi. The grant spans from December 1, 2015, to November 30, 2016.

Allison Bradbury, PhD, received a $226,800 grant from Legacy of Angels Foundation for Lentiviral-mediated Hematopoietic Stem Cell Gene Therapy for Canine Globoid Cell Leukodystrophy. The grant spans from November 1, 2015, to December 31, 2018.

Rumela Chakrabarti, PhD, received a three-year, $574,501 NCI-K22 award to explore the tumor suppressive role of Elf5 in different subtypes of breast cancer; identify genes and pathways in preneoplastic mammary gland and tumors affected by Elf5 loss; and evaluate the pathological role of loss of Elf5 in human patient derived xenograft (PDX) tumors.

David Galligan, VMD, MBA, received a three-year, $339,750 grant from Wharton China Center for the Penn Vet & Wharton Dairy Training Program. The grant spans from December 1, 2015, to November 30, 2018.

Urs Giger, Dr med vet, and Keijiro Mizukami, DVM, PhD, received a $106,000 grant from the AKC Canine Health Foundation for the study of the Genetic Predisposition to Avian Tuberculosis in Miniature Schnauzers. Mizukami also received a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship from the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Sciences to work in Giger’s Laboratory on this and other canine genetic conditions.

Manti Guha, PhD, received a $50,000 grant from University Research Foundation for Establishing the Contribution of mtDNA Depletion Towards Metastasis Using a Novel PDX Model. Guha also received a two-year, $125,000 grant from the Breast Cancer Alliance for Reduced mitochondrial DNA copy number is a determinant of breast cancer metastasis. The grant spans from February 1, 2016, to January 31, 2018.

Karina Guziewicz, PhD, received a $959,074 grant from the Foundation Fighting Blindness for AAV-Mediated Therapy for Best Vitelliform Macular Dystrophy. The grant spans from January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2017. Collaborators are Gustavo Aguirre, VMD, PhD, and William Beltran, DVM, PhD; Samuel Jacobson, MD, PhD, and Artur Cideciyan, PhD, Scheie Eye Institute at Penn Medicine; Drs. Hauswirth and Lewin, University of Florida; and Dr. Gamm, University of Wisconsin.

Erika Krick, VMD, received a one-year, $5,000 grant from Cytosorbents Corp. for Effects of hemoabdsorption on cytokine removal and quality of life in cats with cancer. The grant spans from September 15, 2015, to September 14, 2016.

Christopher Lengner, PhD, received a $1,448,252 NIDDK R01DK106309 grant for Control of intestinal regeneration by an Msi-mTorc1 signaling axis, spanning from May 15, 2016, to April 30, 2020. The grant investigates the molecular mechanisms governing intestinal stem cell activation with the goal of manipulating these mechanisms to address pathological conditions affecting intestinal regeneration, including ischemia-reperfusion injury and radiation enteropathy.

Nicola Mason, BVetMed, PhD, received a one-year, $186,219 grant from the Richard Lichter Charity for Dogs for Re-Directed T Cell Therapy in Dogs with B Cell Lymphoma. The grant spans from December 1, 2015, to November 30, 2016. She also received a one-year, $40,955 Animal Cancer Foundation Comparative Oncology Grant. She will be building on current work that has led to the first clinical trial evaluating the safety and therapeutic effect of CD20 targeted CAR T cell therapy in client-owned dogs with relapsed B cell lymphoma. Mason aims to investigate the use of alternative intracellular signaling domains that may lead to improved CAR T cell engraftment and persistence in vivo, factors that have contributed to the unprecedented success of this approach in human patients. The work continues a strong collaboration between the Schools of Veterinary Medicine and Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, where the use of CAR T cell technology has led to durable remissions and potential cures for human patients with B cell malignancies. Mason is affiliated with the laboratory of Carl June, MD, and she is collaborating with Avery Posey, PhD, both from Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine.

Sue McDonnell, PhD, received a $12,500 grant from Merck for a Merck 2015 IN Applicator Behavior Clinical Trial, from January 1, 2016, to June 30, 2016.

Keiko Miyadera, DVM, PhD, received a $50,000 grant from University Research Foundation for Molecular Characterization of a Multigenic Canine Model of Retinal Degeneration. The grant spans from May 1, 2016, to April 30, 2017. Miyadera also received a one-year, $69,934 grant from Burrows Enterprises for Clinical & Safety Evaluation of Burr-1 Drops for the Treatment of Dogs with Cataracts. The grant spans from November 9, 2015, to November 8, 2016.

Angelica Ortiz, PhD, received a two-year, $110,412 NIH/NCI F32-CA-206431 grant for IFNARI downregulation in melanoma cells and stromal cells promotes melanoma progression and pulmonary metastasis. The grant spans from September 1, 2016, to August 31, 2018.

Cynthia Otto, DVM, PhD, received a one-year, $11,340 grant from AKC-CHF for Medical Surveillance of Dogs Deployed to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon 2015-Completion. The grant spans from December 1, 2015, to November 30, 2016.

Dipti Pitta, PhD, received a $300,000 grant from Purina Animal Health for the Honey Bee Gut Microbiome Project. The grant spans from March 1, 2016, through February 28, 2019.

Shelley Rankin, PhD, received a one-year, $16,500 grant from the American College of Veterinary Dermatology for A Molecular Bead-Based Assay for Molecular Detection of Cutaneous Infectious Organisms. Stephen Cole, VMD, is a project collaborator.

Thomas Schaer, VMD, received a $49,800 grant from the Orthopaedic Association for Evaluation of Local Tissue Concentrations and Bioactivity of Vancomycin Eluted from PMMA Implants in an Ovine Fracture Healing Model. The grant spans from January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2017.

Dieter Schifferli, PhD, Dr med vet, received a $275,000 NIH R21-AI-112713 grant for Genetic determinants of systemic hostadapted Salmonella. The grant spans from February 15, 2016, to January 31, 2018.

Phillip Scott, PhD, received a $1,166,248 U01 AI088650 grant for The role of innate cells in the pathogenesis of Leishmania braziliensis infection. The grant spans from January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2019.

James Serpell, PhD, received a $20,356 grant from Tufts University for the Animal Ownership Interaction Study, from January 1, 2016, to October 31, 2017.

Karin Sorenmo, DVM, and Susan Volk, VMD, PhD, received a $28,235 grant from the Greater Good Foundation for The role of collagen in directing canine mammary tumor progression. The grant spans from January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2016.

Oriol Sunyer, PhD, received a three-year, $500,000 USDA NIFA award for Collaborative Immune Reagent Network: Aquacultured Species to generate antibody reagents. The award spans from May 1, 2016, to April 30, 2019. Sunyer also received a $420,665 NSF IOS-1457282 grant for Evolution of Mucosal B Cell Immunity: Novel Roles of IgT+ B Cells in the Control of Host-pathogen Interactions. The grant spans from August 15, 2015, to July 31, 2018.

Charles Vite, DVM, PhD, received a five-year, $2,747,191 NIH – NINDS grant. The R01 grant focuses on the development of new therapies for globoid cell leukodystrophy, which occurs in both dogs and human patients. He also received a one-year, $45,000 grant from the Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics for the ITMAT Pilot Program in Comparative Animal Biology, cell-based therapy for seizures by transplantation of human stem cell-derived inhibitory interneurons modified for rapid maturation-study in dogs. The grant spans from February 1, 2016, to January 31, 2017. In addition, he received a one-year, $8,000 grant from the University of Pittsburgh (Legacy of Angels Foundation flowdown) for Treatment of Krabbe Disease Using Intravenous Adeno-Associated Virus Gene Therapy. The grant spans from December 1, 2015, to November 30, 2016. He also received a $53,500 grant and a $50,500 grant from the Million Dollar Bike Ride Program for Targeted AAV gene therapy for vertical supranuclear gase palsy and dysphagia and Natural history study and biomarker development in the large animal model of mucolipidosis II, respectively. The grants span from January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2016.

Jeremy Wang, PhD, MD, received a $2,797,601 NIH MIRA R35GM118052 grant for Regulation of meiosis in mice. The grant spans from May 2016 through April 2021.

Brittany Watson, VMD, PhD, received a one-year, $206,422 grant from PetSmart Charities for the Penn Vet Shelter Medicine Surgical Program. The grant spans from December 1, 2015, to November 30, 2016.