NYSCF Announces 2020 Class of NYSCF – Robertson Investigators

News Press Release

Top row: Drs. Raffaella Di Micco, Samantha Morris, José Ordovás-Montañés. Bottom row: Drs. Jiami Guo, David Schneider, John Tuthill

New York, NY (October 20, 2020) – The New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) today announced the 2020 class of NYSCF – Robertson Investigators, welcoming six outstanding 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 –  for scientists who have established their own, independent laboratories within the last five years. This year, three scientists joined the eleventh class of NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigators and three others joined the tenth class of NYSCF – Robertson Neuroscience Investigators. The tenth anniversary of this program is being commemorated at the annual NYSCF Conference, currently underway.

“The NYSCF – Robertson Investigator Program is such an integral part of our mission to accelerate treatments and cures for the major diseases of our time,” remarked NYSCF CEO Susan L. Solomon, JD. “The unrestricted nature of these awards allows scientists to pursue the most cutting-edge research, ultimately bringing exciting discoveries out of the lab and into the clinic.”

To date, the NYSCF global community includes 65 NYSCF – Robertson Investigators and Alumni at 43 institutions throughout the world. This community also includes 74 NYSCF – Druckenmiller fellows and Alumni as well as scientists and engineers conducting research at the NYSCF Research Institute.

“The 2020 NYSCF – Robertson Investigators are outstanding scientists whose work will no doubt transform their respective fields,” 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 HHMI Investigator Leslie Vosshall, PhD (The Rockefeller University), Kelly Bales, PhD (Voyager Therapeutics), NYSCF – Robertson Neuroscience Investigator Alumnus Michael Long, PhD (the New York University School of Medicine), and Dr. Flint.

The NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Awards selection committee included Robert Blelloch, MD, PhD (University of California, San Francisco), recipient of the Inaugural 2011 NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Prize Pete Coffey, DPhil (University College London, University of California, Santa Barbara), NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Alumna Valentina Greco, PhD (Yale University), 2015 MacArthur Fellow Lorenz Studer, MD (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center), and 2013 NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Prize recipient Amy Wagers, PhD (Harvard University).

“As a longtime member of the NYSCF community and former recipient of this award, I know the profound impact it has on early-career investigators aiming to explore big ideas, especially through the incredible community of inspiring scientists that NYSCF connects you to,” noted Dr. Greco. “I was honored to be part of the selection process, and I look forward to seeing what this talented group of scientists accomplishes over the next five years.”

The 2020 NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigators:


  • Raffaella Di Micco, PhD, is a Group Leader at the San Raffaele Telethon Institute for Gene Therapy, Italy, where she is working to optimize gene therapies that use hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) – stem cells that generate blood cells. Her work focuses on the biological impact of gene editing procedures on HSPCs for gene therapy applications and regenerative medicine, aiming for sustainable, safe, and clinically broad HSPC-based treatments. She received her PhD from the European School of Molecular Medicine, Italy and completed her postdoctoral studies at the IFOM Foundation, Italy, and New York University.
  • Samantha Morris, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at Washington University in St. Louis who is interested in a method called ‘direct conversion’: transforming one adult cell type directly into another adult cell type. She is leveraging genomic technologies to map the molecular changes involved in direct conversion and ultimately develop therapies to regenerate the small intestine in gastrointestinal disease. She received her PhD from the University of Cambridge, UK and completed her postdoctoral studies at the University of Cambridge, UK and Boston Children’s Hospital.
  • José Ordovás-Montañés, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at Boston Children’s Hospital, where he is studying how stem cells cooperate during health, become dysregulated in chronic inflammatory diseases, and can ‘remember’ inflammation. He and his lab are working to establish how ‘inflammatory memory’ is stored in cells to drive these diseases, and how it can be targeted therapeutically. He received his PhD from Harvard Medical School and completed his postdoctoral studies at Boston Children’s Hospital.


The 2020 NYSCF – Robertson Neuroscience Investigators:


  • Jiami Guo, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at the University of Calgary, Canada. Her research is focused on primary cilia – hair-like, signaling antennas on virtually all cells used to gather information about their environment. Cells in the brain are particularly vulnerable to primary cilia impairment, which can be associated with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorder. Dr. Guo aims to investigate how primary cilia contribute to the brain’s functional wiring and related disorders. She received her PhD from Kent State University and completed her postdoctoral studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 
  • David Schneider, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at New York University, where he leverages the mouse model to understand how the brain stores and recalls memories to make and use predictions about the future. His research focuses on studying the interaction of auditory and motor systems during sound-generating behaviors to anticipate the sounds our movements make. This work aims to fundamentally shift how neuroscientists think about sensory processing. He received his PhD from Columbia University and completed his postdoctoral studies at Duke University.
  • John Tuthill, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington, where he is researching the “sixth sense” known as proprioception, the sense of where the body is in space. He aims to answer how and where motor circuits integrate proprioceptive information and why people without proprioception can execute some movements but not others. Utilizing the fruit fly, Dr. Tuthill is aiming to discover the fundamental principles of the nervous system and help treat patients without proprioception and those with chronic pain. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago and completed his postdoctoral studies at Harvard University.


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 200 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 the development of pioneering stem cell technologies, including the NYSCF Global Stem Cell Array®, which is used to create cell lines for laboratories 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.