NYSCF Announces 2019 Class of NYSCF – Robertson Investigators

News Press Release

New York, NY (October 22, 2019) – The New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) today announced the 2019 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 through 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 tenth class of NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigators and three others joined the ninth class of NYSCF – Robertson Neuroscience Investigators.

“The NYSCF – Robertson Investigators are some of the brightest minds in the stem cell and neuroscience fields,” remarked NYSCF CEO Susan L. Solomon, JD. “This award gives them the freedom to pursue new and inventive ideas that may not get funded through traditional sources, pushing research toward better treatments for patients.”

To date, the NYSCF global community includes 59 NYSCF – Robertson Investigators and Alumni at 38 institutions throughout the world. This community also includes 68 NYSCF – Druckenmiller fellows and Alumni as well as scientists and engineers conducting research at the NYSCF Research Institute.

“The class of 2019 are a group of incredibly impressive scientists — it was an honor to be involved in the selection of these individuals, and I have no doubt that their future accomplishments, thanks in part to NYSCF funding, will be stellar,” said Jonathan Flint, MD, Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Catherine Dulac, PhD,  Harvard University, (a member of NYSCF’s Initiative on Women in Science and Engineering) chaired the NYSCF – Robertson Neuroscience Investigator Awards selection committee and was joined on the jury by Leslie Vosshall, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, The Rockefeller University; Kelly Bales, PhD, Voyager Therapeutics; NYSCF – Robertson Neuroscience Investigator Alumnus Michael Long, PhD, New York University School of Medicine; and Dr. Flint.

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.

“It is extremely important to provide early career scientists with the resources they need to do high-impact, clinically relevant research,” said Dr. Studer. “The NYSCF – Robertson Investigator awards make this possible, and I look forward to seeing what these innovative researchers accomplish in the future.”


The 2019 NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigators:


  • Ya-Chieh Hsu, PhD, is the Alvin and Esta Star Associate Professor at the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard University. She is also a principal faculty member at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and an associate member of the Broad Institute. Her lab focuses on delineating the cell-to-cell, and system-to-cell interactions using skin as a model, with the goal of regenerating fully functional skin for severe injuries. Dr. Hsu is a 2011 NYSCF – Druckenmiller Fellow Alumna.
  • Evangelos Kiskinis, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. He earned his PhD from Imperial College London and trained as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University. His laboratory harnesses the power of human pluripotent stem cells to study neuronal development as well as how neuronal function is impaired by injury or disease. His overarching goal is to identify points for targeted and effective therapeutic intervention for ALS and pediatric forms of epilepsy. Dr. Kiskinis is a 2011 NYSCF – Druckenmiller Fellow Alumnus.
  • Florian Merkle, PhD, is a Senior Research Associate at the University of Cambridge, where his laboratory exploits the strengths of stem cells together with genomics, gene editing, high content screening, and animal models to model obesity. The aim of these studies is to reveal mechanistic processes that contribute to obesity and to identify new targets to treat obesity and neurodegeneration.


The 2019 NYSCF – Robertson Neuroscience Investigators:


  • Nicholas Bellono, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at Harvard University. His lab is interested in how organisms adapt to detect salient environmental signals based on their specific ecological or behavioral context. His group emphasizes a curiosity-based approach in which specialized, unconventional systems are explored to reveal fundamental mechanisms of signal transduction, ion channel biophysics, sensory biology, and evolution.
  • Lauren O’Connell, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at Stanford University. Her laboratory studies the neural circuits behind social decision-making using poison frogs and translucent social tadpoles. This work will reveal how nutrition during development influences brain organization and function early in life, which has implications for how brain-behavior relationships work in humans.
  • Yuki Oka, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the division of Biology and Biological Engineering at California Institute of Technology, where he focuses on the neural mechanisms of body fluid balance. His research group aims to understand how the brain and the body cooperate to regulate the internal body environment.



About The New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute

The New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) Research Institute is an independent non-profit organization accelerating cures and better treatments for patients through stem cell research. The NYSCF global community includes over 180 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 is an acknowledged world leader in stem cell research and in developing pioneering stem cell technologies, including the NYSCF Global Stem Cell Array® and in manufacturing stem cells for scientists around the globe. NYSCF focuses on translational research in an accelerator model designed to overcome barriers that slow discovery and replace silos with collaboration. For more information, visit www.nyscf.org.


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