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Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance Awards $3.6 Million to Six Emerging Pioneers in Cancer Research


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The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance has announced the winners of the 2021 Pershing Square Sohn Prize for Young Investigators in Cancer Research, awarded annually to cancer research scientists and physician-scientists based in the greater New York City area. The prize, totaling $3.6 million, empowers investigators early in their independent careers to pursue research projects at a critical stage. Recipients receive $200,000 per year for 3 years. Over the past 8 years, the Alliance has awarded more than $30 million to 52 scientists. With this funding, the recipients have contributed to New York’s growing biomedical research hub.

The winners of the 2021 Pershing Square Sohn Prize follow:

Sidi Chen, PhD, Yale School of Medicine: Dr. Chen and colleagues work to create more effective cell-based immunotherapy against cancer. They have developed novel platforms for highly efficient and parallel engineering of therapeutic cell candidates. The goal of the project is to build transformative platforms for next-generation cell therapy.

Christine Iok In Chio, PhD, Columbia University Irving Medical Center: Dr. Chio’s project will employ genetic and chemical proteomic approaches to ascertain how reversible methionine oxidation regulates the signaling pathways that promote pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. These insights will then be exploited to develop novel therapeutic strategies to combat this aggressive type of pancreatic cancer.

Marcin Imielinski, MD, PhD, Weill Cornell Medicine: Using innovative methods to characterize structural changes in whole-genome sequences, Dr. Imielinski hopes to explain why certain acral melanomas and other similar cancers with few small mutations respond to immunotherapy by examining a novel class of genetic alterations called tyfonas. This study may transform the basic understanding of cancer evolution and provide evidence for a whole-genome sequencing immunotherapy biomarker to help navigate the best course of treatment.

Lilian Kabeche, PhD, Yale School of Medicine: Dr. Kabeche’s goal is to understand how the diverse roles of a protein called ATR protects cells from chromosomal instability throughout the whole cell cycle. In particular, she is focusing on pancreatic cells, which have high rates of instability. By targeting the process leading to chromosomal instability, her work may lead to the creation of a novel therapy that selectively and effectively treats cancers that exhibit continuous chromosome missegregation.

Elena Piskounova, PhD, Weill Cornell Medicine: Using a combination of cutting-edge technologies, Dr. Piskounova’s laboratory will characterize how transfer RNA modifications enable adaptation and survival of metastasizing cancer cells under a variety of stresses throughout the metastatic cascade. This will ultimately allow the identification of the stress-response proteome as a driver of metastatic disease.

Xuebing Wu, PhD, Columbia University Irving Medical Center: Dr. Wu is working to develop a platform for precise elimination of tumor cells by directly targeting tumor mutations using a new CRISPR genome engineering system and advanced machine learning. If successful, this platform will accelerate the development of precision therapies for many types of cancer. 


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