NYSCF Announces 2018 Class of NYSCF – Robertson Investigators

NEW YORK, NY (October 23, 2018) – The New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) announced the 2018 class of NYSCF – Robertson Investigators, welcoming six of the most talented stem cell researchers and neuroscientists into the NYSCF Investigator Program.

The NYSCF Investigator Program fosters and encourages promising early career scientists whose cutting-edge research holds the potential to accelerate treatments and cures, and provides support for the NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Awards and the NYSCF – Robertson Neuroscience Investigator Awards.

The awards provide critical seed funding – $1.5 million over five years – to outstanding young scientists as they move beyond their postdoctoral training to establish their own, independent laboratories. This year, three scientists joined the ninth class of NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigators and three others joined the eighth class of NYSCF – Robertson Neuroscience Investigators.

“The NYSCF – Robertson Investigators are made up of leaders in the stem cell and neuroscience fields,” said Susan L. Solomon, CEO and Co-founder of NYSCF. “The award allows this dynamic community of innovators to pursue high-risk, high-reward research that traditional funding does not support, pushing the limits of what we believe is possible.”

To date, the NYSCF global community includes 53 NYSCF – Robertson Investigators and Alumni at 36 institutions throughout the world.

“The NYSCF – Robertson Investigator Program selects supremely creative people and pairs them with the resources that allow them to do their work at the absolute highest level,” stated Leslie Vosshall, PhD, Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Robin Chemers Neustein Professor in the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior at The Rockefeller University and NYSCF – Robertson Neuroscience Awards jury member. “It is rare for young scientists to have the financial and intellectual freedom to pursue their biggest and most promising ideas so early in their careers, and the results have been extraordinary.”

Catherine Dulac, PhD, Harvard University, chaired the NYSCF – Robertson Neuroscience Investigator Awards selection committee and was joined on the jury by Jonathan Flint, MD, Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics and the University of California, Los Angeles; Ricardo Dolmetsch, PhD, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research; and Dr. Vosshall.

The NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Awards selection committee included recipient of the Inaugural 2011 NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Prize Pete Coffey, DPhil, University College London and the University of California, Santa Barbara;  2015 MacArthur Fellow Lorenz Studer, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Center for Stem Cell Biology; NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Alumnus Ravi Majeti, MD, PhD, Stanford University; and 2013 NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Prize recipient Amy Wagers, PhD, Harvard University.

“Being a recipient of the NYSCF – Robertson Investigator Award had a profound impact on my early career. This award allowed me to pursue innovative, high-risk avenues of research that I would not have otherwise been able to explore,” Dr. Majeti. “I was honored to be asked to serve on the selection jury for the 2018 awards and was impressed by the quality of the applicants and their approaches to solve challenging problems in biomedicine.”

The 2018 NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigators:

 

  • Vikram Khurana, MD, PhD, Chief of the Movement Disorders Division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Assistant Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, is using patient stem cells to model and observe the misfolded forms of alpha-synuclein, a protein that becomes toxic in Parkinson’s patients, with the goal of developing patient-specific therapies.

 

  • Vijay G. Sankaran, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital, uses human genetics to better understand hematopoiesis and how it goes awry in human disease. In particular, he seeks to gain molecular insight into how hematopoiesis varies in humans both in health and disease, and to develop improved therapies for a variety of blood disorders.

 

  • Kevin C. Wang, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Stanford University School of Medicine, focuses on how various dynamic epigenetic changes in chromatin structure impact gene expression during stem cell pluripotency, cellular differentiation, and reprogramming, and how novel growth factors participate in this process. His long-term goal is to translate the understanding of these complex mechanisms to study and treat human diseases.

 

The 2018 NYSCF – Robertson Neuroscience Investigators:

 

  • Dmitriy Aronov, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Columbia University, is seeking to overcome the major challenges to hippocampal research by using a unique model system: the black-capped chickadee. He aims to study food-caching in chickadees – a process of hiding thousands of food items in scattered, hidden locations, and finding them up to a month later – to obtain general insight into how neural networks store and recall episodic memories in other animals, including humans.

 

  • Elaine Y. Hsiao, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology & Physiology at University of California, Los Angeles, is studying the gut microbiota, examining the microbiome as an interface between gene-environment interactions in neurological diseases. She aims to dissect biological circuits for communication between the gut microbiota and nervous system toward understanding fundamental biological pathways that influence brain and behavior.

 

  • Carolyn (Lindy) McBride, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, studies the recognition of human odor by disease vector mosquitos and, more generally, how olfactory systems have evolved to process biologically relevant odor blends. This work will inform efforts to curb the spread of mosquito-borne disease, such as dengue, Zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever.

 

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About The New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute

The New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) Research Institute is an independent organization accelerating cures and better treatments for patients through stem cell research. The NYSCF global community includes over 140 researchers at leading institutions worldwide, including the NYSCF – Druckenmiller Fellows, the NYSCF – Robertson Investigators, the NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Prize Recipients, and NYSCF Research Institute scientists and engineers. The NYSCF Research Institute employs over 45 researchers in New York, and is an acknowledged world leader in stem cell research and in developing pioneering stem cell technologies, including the NYSCF Global Stem Cell ArrayTM. NYSCF focuses on translational research in a model designed to overcome the barriers that slow discovery and replace silos with collaboration. For more information, visit www.nyscf.org