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Lasker Clinical Research Scholars
Hans Ackerman, M.D., D.Phil., M.Sc.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar; National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease
Hans Ackerman became a Lasker Scholar in 2014. He is studying sickle-cell disease and malaria, which share an evolutionary link and many of the same disease-causing mechanisms that underlie vascular dysfunction. He is also studying how naturally occurring genetic differences change nitric-oxide signaling and vasodilation responses in blood-vessel walls. He hopes his work will contribute to the development of drugs that could prevent or treat the vascular complications of sickle-cell disease or malaria. He received his M.D. degree from Harvard Medical School (Boston), and his D.Phil. in human genetics and M.Sc. in biological anthropology from the University of Oxford in England. He completed a residency in internal medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston); a fellowship in critical-care medicine at the NIH Clinical Center; and a research fellowship at the Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He and his wife enjoy raising their three boys.
Sean Agbor-Enoh, M.D., Ph.D.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, Laboratory of Applied Precision Omics, National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute
Sean Agbor-Enoh, who became a Lasker Scholar in 2019, is developing genomic methods for the early detection and treatment of lung-transplant rejection. His method—which can detect rejection two to three months earlier than the current invasive process of taking a lung-tissue biopsy after rejection has begun—involves a simple blood test that measures cell-free DNA in the bloodstream. “My hope is to bring innovative and cutting-edge approaches to improve survival after lung transplantation,” he said. He received his M.D. from the University of Yaoundé (Yaoundé, Cameroon) and a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.). He did a postdoctoral fellowship at Georgetown University Medical Center; a residency and chief residency in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center (Baltimore); a fellowship in critical care medicine at the NIH Clinical Center; and a fellowship in pulmonary medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital (Baltimore). Outside of work he loves to explore nature’s treasures with his wife and four children, who range in age from 2 to 17.
Christine Campo Alewine M.D., PH.D.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute
Christine Campo Alewine became a Lasker Scholar in 2016. She is conducting clinical trials to test the effectiveness of a recombinant immunotoxin in combination with standard-of-care chemotherapy in patients who have advanced pancreatic cancer. Recombinant immunotoxins are antibody-based anticancer therapeutics that deliver a potent bacterial toxin to cancer cells; the toxin halts protein synthesis in those cells. Her study may lead to advances in our understanding of whether immunotoxins can be used to treat pancreatic cancer and provide insight into technical aspects of this therapeutic strategy. Alewine received her Ph.D., in physiology, and M.D. from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (Baltimore). She completed a residency in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital (Baltimore) and a clinical fellowship in medical oncology at NCI’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology. Her outside activities include tennis, hiking, quilting, being a Girl Scout troop leader, and spending time with her husband and their two daughters.
Alison Boyce, M.D.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, Metabolic Bone Disorders Unit, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
Alison Boyce, who became a Lasker Scholar in 2020, is searching for treatments for fibrous dysplasia/McCune-Albright syndrome (FD/MAS), a rare and debilitating skeletal disease that can cause bone fractures, deformity, pain, and loss of ambulation, vision, and hearing. Emerging evidence suggests that the receptor activator of a protein called RANKL, which regulates bone resorption, plays a role in FD pathogenesis. Boyce is investigating whether inhibiting RANKL would serve as a novel therapeutic strategy to treat patients. She received her M.D. from Eastern Virginia Medical School (Norfolk, Virginia); did a residency in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters (Norfolk, Virginia); and completed a fellowship in pediatric endocrinology at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Outside of work, she likes to spend time with her husband, son, and daughter.
Rebecca J. Brown, M.D., M.H.Sc.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Obesity Branch, National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases
Rebecca Brown, who became a Lasker Scholar in 2015, is studying the physiologic mechanisms by which the adipokine leptin alters insulin resistance and energy metabolism both dependent on and independent of its effects on food intake. She focuses on patients with rare, often monogenic disorders of extreme insulin resistance such as lipodystrophy or mutations of the insulin receptor. She applies what she learns toward the development of therapeutics for these rare diseases and is elucidating pathways that may serve as drug targets for more common disorders of insulin resistance. She received her M.D. degree from Mayo Medical School (Rochester, Minnesota) and her M.H.Sc. in clinical research from Duke University (Durham, North Carolina). She was a medical student in the Laboratory of Brain and Cognition, National Institute of Mental Health; did a residency in pediatrics at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital (Cleveland); was a clinical fellow in pediatric endocrinology at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; and a senior fellow in clinical research in NIDDK. Before becoming a Lasker Scholar she was an assistant clinical investigator in NIDDK. Having recently become a mother, she spends a lot of time enjoying the ups and downs of parenthood and family life.
Stephanie T. Chung, M.B.B.S.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, Diabetes, Endocrinology and Obesity Branch, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Stephanie Chung, who became a Lasker Scholar in 2020, established a joint NIDDK/Children’s National Hospital metabolic research program that focuses on diabetes disparities in youth and young adults with type 2 diabetes (T2DM). Young adults with T2DM are at high risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD); up to 50% of them have poor long-term glycemic control. Chung’s program examines reasons for metformin-treatment failure and evaluates innovative therapies for T2DM. She aims to clarify the mechanisms linking severe insulin resistance, remnant lipoproteins, and diabetes with increased risk of ASCVD, and to determine the effectiveness and safety of statin therapy in youth. She received her M.B.B.S. degree from the University of the West Indies at Mona (Kingston, Jamaica) and completed residencies in medicine and pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (Galveston, Texas) and in pediatric endocrinology at Baylor College of Medicine (Houston). Her outside activities include running, hiking, and baking with her three children.
Catherine Ann Cukras, M.D., Ph.D.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications, Clinical Trials Branch, National Eye Institute
Catherine Ann Cukras, who became a Lasker Scholar in 2018, is excited that her research is furthering progress on the treatment and prevention of blindness. In particular, she uses multidisciplinary approaches to understand the patterns of photoreceptor dysfunction and degeneration in retinal degenerative disease and to design and implement interventional clinical trials. After receiving her M.D.-Ph.D. from Washington University (St. Louis, Missouri), she did an internship at Presbyterian Hospital (Philadelphia), a residency in ophthalmology at the Scheie Eye Institute, University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), and a Medical Retina Clinical Fellowship at the National Eye Institute. “The NIH is like family,” she said. “I am lucky to be able to be part of an environment that fulfills me and enriches me as a person.” Outside of work, she loves spending time with her husband, three children, and a puppy.
John P. Dekker, M.D., Ph.D.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, Chief, Bacterial Pathogenesis and Antimicrobial Resistance Unit, Laboratory of Clinical Immunology and Microbiology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Director, Genomics Section, Microbiology Service, Department of Laboratory Medicine, NIH Clinical Center
John Dekker, who became a Lasker Scholar in 2018, focuses on the evolution of bacterial pathogens, their mechanisms of antibiotic resistance, and host-pathogen interactions. He addresses these questions using a variety of computational biology approaches—such as genomic sequencing, transcriptional profiling, proteomic studies with mass spectrometry, and in vitro adaptive-evolution experiments. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University (Boston) and M.D. from Harvard Medical School (Boston) and did a residency in pathology and a fellowship in medical microbiology at Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston). When he’s not working, he enjoys reading, visiting museums, eating, and spending time with his wife and their horse.
Freddy E. Escorcia, M.D., Ph.D.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar: Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute
Freddy E. Escorcia, who became a Lasker Scholar in 2021, is dedicated to improving the diagnosis and treatment for patients with gastrointestinal and hepatobiliary cancers. He is designing, engineering, and testing new tumor-directed radiopharmaceuticals for imaging and therapy that he hopes will help improve the quality of life and survival of patients with these malignancies. He earned his M.D. and Ph.D. in molecular pharmacology from the Tri-institutional MD-PhD Program of Weill Cornell Medical College, The Rockefeller University, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) in New York. He completed a residency in radiation oncology and a postdoctoral fellowship at MSK as an American Board of Radiology B. Leonard Holman fellow. Before becoming a Lasker Scholar, he was an attending radiation oncologist and a Physician-Scientist Early Investigator in NCI. Outside of work, he enjoys weight training, playing basketball, reading, and spending time with his wife and two daughters.
Courtney Fitzhugh, M.D.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, Sickle Cell Branch, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Courtney Fitzhugh, who became a Lasker Scholar in 2016, is seeking to improve—and develop new—treatment options to achieve a cure for sickle-cell disease (SCD). Although matched-sibling bone-marrow transplantation offers the best treatment for people with SCD, only 15 to 20 percent of these patients have a complete sibling match. More than 90 percent have at least a half-match such as a parent, child, or half-matched siblings. Fitzhugh is developing an alternative option that involves such haploidentical donors. Her goal is to develop a widely available, successful half-matched transplant regimen. She received her M.D. from the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine; did a combined residency in internal medicine and pediatrics at Duke University Medical Center (Durham, North Carolina); and a combined fellowship in adult hematology and pediatric hematology/oncology, at NIH and Johns Hopkins Hospital (Baltimore). In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, traveling, playing board games, and watching movies.
Suchitra Hourigan, M.D.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, NIH Distinguished Scholar, and Chief, Clinical Microbiome Unit, Laboratory of Host Immunity and Microbiome, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Before joining NIH and becoming a Lasker Scholar in 2021, pediatric gastroenterologist Suchitra Hourigan held faculty positions at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Baltimore), the University of Virginia School of Medicine (Charlottesville, Virginia), and George Washington University School of Medicine (Washington, D.C.), and served as vice chair of research at Inova L.J. Murphy Children’s Hospital (Falls Church, Virginia). At NIH, her clinical research focuses on microbiome interventions to mitigate chronic inflammatory diseases. She has an ongoing 600-subject randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial of the microbiome intervention, “vaginal seeding” (transferring the mother’s vaginal microbiome to the newborn), in babies born by cesarean section. Cesarean delivery is associated with a higher risk of a child developing chronic inflammatory conditions associated with the microbiome, including obesity, which she hopes to mitigate with vaginal seeding. Hourigan also leads studies investigating other microbiome interventions including fecal transplant and early-life antibiotics. She received her medical degree from the University of Oxford (Oxford, England) and completed a pediatric residency and pediatric gastroenterology fellowship at Johns Hopkins Hospital (Baltimore). Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband and their two sons.
Robert Hufnagel, M.D., Ph.D.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar; National Eye Institute
Rob Hufnagel, a 2021 Lasker Scholar, is dedicated to understanding mechanisms of human genome variation that cause blindness in children. He uses a translational approach combining clinical molecular approaches and developmental biology to improve diagnosis and establish gene:disease and genotype:phenotype relationships. In particular, he uses genomics, stem cell engineering, and gene editing to establish patient-centered disease models for translational and preclinical studies. After receiving his M.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, Ohio), he completed his Pediatrics and Clinical Genetics residency at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, followed by fellowships in Clinical Ophthalmic Genetics at the National Eye Institute (NEI/NIH) and Clinical Molecular Genetics and Genomics at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI/NIH). He loves spending time with his family and their dog, Helix.
Paule V. Joseph, Ph.D., R.N., F.N.P., M.S.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar and NIH Distinguished Scholar, Section of Sensory Science and Metabolism, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Division of Intramural Clinical and Biological Research (DICBR); joint appointment at the National Institute of Nursing Research
Paule V. Joseph, a 2019 Lasker Scholar, is conducting preclinical, clinical, and translational studies to improve the diagnosis, prevention, and management of chemosensory disorders and symptoms—in chronic conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes—by examining the role that smell and taste play in those conditions. She is also exploring how the neurological mechanisms underlying taste and smell might be different in individuals with alcohol and substance-use disorders. “The opportunities [at NIH]—especially as an underrepresented minority in science—are unparalleled,” she said. “For a junior scientist like me to be able to collaborate with people like Kevin Hall [a pioneer in metabolism research at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases], Nora Volkow [director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and world pioneer in neuroimaging in addiction], and Gary Gibbons [Director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and world-renowned expert in cardiovascular disease], it’s a dream come true.” After receiving her M.S. as a family nurse practitioner from Pace University (New York) and a Ph.D. in nursing and genomics from the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), Joseph did a postdoctoral fellowship in NINR. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her parents and her younger sister and doing humanitarian work around the world.
Christopher G. Kanakry, M.D.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute
Christopher Kanakry, who became a Lasker Scholar in 2018, strives to improve outcomes for people in need of allogeneic hematopoietic-cell transplants to treat certain cancers or other severe diseases of the blood or bone marrow. In particular, he is trying to better understand the mechanisms by which the drug cyclophosphamide prevents graft-versus host disease (GVHD), a major complication of allogeneic hematopoietic-cell transplantation. He hopes to translate his work to allow the development of new strategies that will decrease the incidence and severity of GVHD and infectious complications, improve reconstitution of the immune system, and better prevent and treat malignancy relapse post-transplant. He received his M.D. from the Duke University School of Medicine (Durham, North Carolina) and trained at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Baltimore) doing a residency in internal medicine and fellowships in medical oncology and in hematology. His non-work activities include spending time with his wife and two young children, singing with the City Choir of Washington, swimming, and teaching Sunday School.
Yogen Kanthi, M.D.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, Translational Vascular Medicine Branch, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Before joining NIH in 2020 as a Lasker Scholar, Yogen Kanthi was an assistant professor and attending cardiologist at the University of Michigan Medical School ((UMMS) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. There, his team was the first to identify central roles for neutrophil signaling in the severity of COVID-19 and for interleukin 1-beta in venous thromboembolism (VTE) and venous inflammation. At NIH, he is examining how inflammatory diseases promote clot formation and will be conducting a clinical trial testing whether a targeted anti-inflammatory medication can reduce recurrent VTE. Kanthi received his M.D. from Ohio State University College of Medicine (Columbus, Ohio); completed an internal medicine residency and was chief medical resident at University Hospitals Case Medical Center (Cleveland, Ohio); did fellowships in clinical cardiology and clinical vascular medicine; and was a postdoctoral fellow in vascular biology at UM. He is a co-founding co-director of UM’s Vascular Medicine Fellowship Program, a position he still maintains. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and reading.
Joanna Klubo-Gwiezdzinska, M.D., Ph.D., M.H.Sc.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar and Acting Section Chief, Thyroid Tumors and Functional Thyroid Disorders, Metabolic Diseases Branch, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Joanna Klubo-Gwiezdzinska, who became a Lasker Scholar in 2019, focuses on clinical and translational studies to find optimal options for the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer. Her work includes identifying the genetic background of thyroid tumors, novel molecular targets for therapy of thyroid cancer, and a comprehensive analysis of cross-talk between cancer signaling pathways and metabolism. Her lab discovered the antidiabetes drug metformin can slow the growth of thyroid tumors and other cancers that express high amounts of a certain protein in the mitochondria. She received an M.H.Sc. from Duke University (Durham, North Carolina) and an M.D. and Ph.D. in endocrinology and thyroid cancer from Collegium Medicum, Nicolaus Copernicus University (Torun, Poland). She completed a residency in internal medicine and endocrinology at Nicolaus Copernicus University Hospital (Bydgoszcz, Poland); a postdoctoral fellowship in thyroid cancer at Georgetown University–Medstar Research Institute (Washington D.C.); a residency in internal medicine at Washington Hospital Center–Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.); and a clinical fellowship in endocrinology at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Outside of work, she enjoys going to the opera in New York and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; enjoying family time with her husband and son, particularly walking their dog together; and reading inspiring biographies.
Jung-Min Lee, M.D.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, Women’s Malignancies Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute
Jung-Min Lee, who became a Lasker Scholar in 2016, is conducting clinical and translational research to study the clinical activity and biomarkers of new immune-based DNA injury combination therapies in women who have recurrent ovarian cancer. Her research is focused on cancers that share similar molecular abnormalities: BRCA mutation-associated breast or ovarian cancer, high-grade epithelial ovarian cancer, and triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). Lee’s clinical trial is the first to test the modulation of immune-checkpoint activity by increasing the antigenic microenvironment with active targeted therapy. The project may have a profound impact on the near- and long-term outcomes of women with recurrent ovarian cancer. Lee earned her M.D. from Yonsei University Wonju College of Medicine (Wonju City, South Korea). She did a residency in internal medicine at Holy Family Hospital, Catholic University Medical College (Seoul, South Korea); a research fellowship in pathology and cell biology at Thomas Jefferson University (Philadelphia); a residency in internal medicine at the Albert Einstein Medical College (New York); a clinical research fellowship on breast-cancer functional imaging at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (New York); and a medical oncology/hematology fellowship in NCI’s Medical Oncology Branch. Outside of work, she loves going to museums, traveling, swimming, and meditating.
Frank I. Lin, M.D.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar and Chief, Targeted Radionuclide Therapy Section, Molecular Imaging Program, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute
Frank Lin, who joined the Lasker Scholars program in 2016, is using targeted radionuclide therapy (tRNT) to treat cancer. Unlike conventional external-beam radiation therapy, tRNT can target and treat cancer cells throughout the entire body and has the potential to deliver lethal radiation doses to even micro-metastases. He works with pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma, mesothelioma, and prostate cancer, but tRNT can be used to treat other malignancies, too. Lin hopes to demonstrate that tRNT can be used to treat a variety of malignancies including cancers that are highly resistant to other forms of therapy. He received his M.S. in medical informatics from the University of Utah (Salt Lake City) and his M.D. from the Medical College of Wisconsin (Milwaukee). He did an internal medicine residency at Kaiser Permanente (San Francisco) a nuclear-medicine residency at the University of California, Davis (Sacramento, California); and was a PET/CT fellow at Stanford University (Stanford, California). Lin is also training to become a board-certified medical oncologist through NCI’s Medical Oncology Fellowship Program. His outside interests include going to museums, parks, nature centers, and playgrounds with his wife and their two daughters.
Falk Lohoff, M.D.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar; Chief, Section on Clinical Genomics and Experimental Therapeutics, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Falk Lohoff, one of the 2014 Lasker Scholars, conducts pre-clinical and translational clinical studies with a focus on genomics and epigenetics related to the pathophysiology and treatment of alcohol-use disorders and addictions. In his pre-clinical work, which involves identifying molecular mechanisms involved in addictions, he uses methods such as human population genetics, genome-wide genotyping approaches, next-generation DNA and RNA sequencing, and epigenetic/proteomic profiling. For his clinical studies, he uses molecular biomarker, pharmacogenetic, epigenetic and functional imaging genetic approaches to translate his findings. He is leading early phase 1 and phase 2 proof-of-concept clinical trials using experimental novel therapeutics guided by molecular biomarker profiling. He received his medical degree from the Humboldt University of Berlin (Berlin) and completed residency training in psychiatry and a fellowship in neuropsychopharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia). Before coming to NIH, he was an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. His outside interests include music, the arts, fencing, and working out.
Jonathan J. Lyons, M.D.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar and Chief, Translational Allergic Immunopathology Unit, Laboratory of Allergic Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Jonathan Lyons became a Lasker Scholar in 2018 and has helped in the discovery of many single-gene disorders that lead to severe allergic diseases or reactions. He is using human immunogenetics to gain a better understanding of the immunopathogenesis of allergic reactions and is exploring novel interventional approaches for the treatment and prevention of severe allergic reactivity and anaphylaxis. He received his M.D. from the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles; did a residency in internal medicine (and served as chief resident) at the University of California at San Diego; and was a clinical fellow in allergy and immunology at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Outside of work, he likes to spend time with his family, go grocery shopping with his three-year-old son, plan meals, and cook.
Jacqueline W. Mays, D.D.S., Ph.D., M.S.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, Oral Immunobiology Unit, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
Jacqueline Mays, a 2020 Lasker Scholar, is unravelling the underlying immune processes of chronic graft-versus-host disease (cGVHD) that develops in tissues, including the salivary glands, of people who’ve had hematopoietic cell transplants to treat certain cancers, blood disorders, and primary immunodeficiencies. Her research will deepen the understanding of the initial causes of cGVHD and how the immune system functions in autoinflammatory oral disease. Mays received her D.D.S. degree and a Ph.D. in oral biology from The Ohio State University, College of Dentistry (Columbus, Ohio) and an M.S. degree in clinical and translational research from Duke University School of Medicine (Durham, North Carolina). She did a postdoctoral fellowship in viral immunology at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and a fellowship in clinical research at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Outside of work, she enjoys biking, nature, traveling and keeping up with her two young daughters.
Ian A. Myles, M.D., M.P.H.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, Laboratory of Clinical Immunology and Microbiology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Ian Myles became a Lasker Scholar in 2020. He focuses on how human health is affected by skin microbiome, with a particular emphasis on eczema (also called atopic dermatitis or AD), an inflammatory skin disease associated with reduced quality-of-life and high risk of developing asthma, allergic rhinitis, and food allergies. His recent studies have demonstrated that a topical spray containing a type of live healthy bacteria called Roseomonas mucosa can produce clinical benefit in adults and children. His research will provide a deeper understanding of how bacteria influence skin health. He obtained an M.D. from the University of Colorado School of Medicine (Aurora, Colorado); completed an internal medicine residency at Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio); did fellowship training in allergy and clinical immunology at NIAID; and received an M.P.H. from George Washington University (Washington, D.C.).
Derek Narendra, M.D., Ph.D.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar and Chief, Inherited Movement Disorders Unit, Neurogenetics Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Neurologist and cell biologist Derek Narendra is a 2020 Lasker Scholar whose research focuses on the genetics of movement disorders. He is especially interested in understanding the genetics and molecular pathogenesis of Early Onset Parkinson Disease (EOPD). His research is expected to enhance the understanding of mitochondrial contributors to PD pathogenesis and enable novel targeted therapies for both the genetic and sporadic forms of PD. Narendra received his M.D. from the University of Michigan Medical School (Ann Arbor, Michigan) and his Ph.D. in medical science from the University of Cambridge (Cambridge, England). He completed the Mass General Brigham Neurology Residency at Harvard Medical School (Boston), and a fellowship in movement disorders at the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia). In his spare time, he enjoys running, skiing, and hiking with his wife and daughter.
Samuel Y. Ng, M.D., Ph.D.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, Lymphoid Malignancies Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute
Samuel Ng joined NCI as a Lasker Scholar in 2022. He is studying the molecular mechanisms that underlie mature T-cell malignancies in order to improve the treatment of T-cell Non-Hodgkin lymphomas. This work includes identifying features of normal or malignant T cells that could be targeted by existing or novel therapies used to treat patients afflicted by these diseases.
Ng received a Ph.D. in immunology and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School (Boston). He completed his clinical training with a residency in internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston) followed by a fellowship with the Dana-Farber/Partners Cancer Center program in Hematology and Oncology (Boston). He subsequently practiced as an attending physician with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Center for Lymphoma and completed postdoctoral basic and translational research training at Dana-Farber before joining NCI. Outside of work, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two children, gardening, and following Boston sports.
Sonja W. Scholz, M.D., Ph.D.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar and Chief, Neurodegenerative Diseases Research Unit, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Sonja Scholz became a Lasker Scholar in 2018 and is helping to unravel the genetic causes of complex neurodegenerative diseases such as Lewy body dementia, multiple-system atrophy, and related Parkinsonism syndromes. She hopes to advance the understanding of these conditions, improve diagnostic accuracy and targeted treatments, and incorporate genetic knowledge into routine clinical assessments. She received her M.D. from the Medical University of Innsbruck (Innsbruck, Austria) and her Ph.D. in neurogenetics from the University College London, Queen Square Institute of Neurology (London). She completed a residency in adult neurology at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center (Baltimore); did a postdoctoral fellowship in neurogenetics at the National Institute of Aging; and a postdoctoral fellowship in neuroscience at Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.). In her spare time, she likes to relax with a good book in the company of her two cats, Bill and Hillary.
Nirali N. Shah, M.D., M.H.Sc.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, Pediatric Oncology Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute
Nirali N. Shah, who is a 2019 Lasker Scholar, is testing novel immunotherapeutic approaches to treat high-risk hematologic malignancies in children, adolescents, and young adults. Her research focuses on chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell-based strategies and other antibody-based therapies. She leads clinical trials to treat relapsed and refractory pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia; serves as an associate investigator on several transplant trials with patients who have primary immunodeficiency; and, in collaboration with investigators in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is leading an effort on transplantation for children with DOCK8 immunodeficiency syndrome. She received her M.H.Sc. in clinical research from Duke University (Durham, North Carolina)–National Institutes of Health and her M.D. from the University of Illinois, College of Medicine (Chicago). She did an internal medicine residency at Harvard Combined Internal Medicine–Pediatrics Residency Program (Boston); was a fellow in pediatric hematology-oncology at the joint National Cancer Institute–Johns Hopkins Hospital (Baltimore) training program; and served as clinical fellow and staff clinician in NCI’s Pediatric Oncology Branch. Outside of work, she is kept busy with three children ages 4 to 11—balancing work, homework, after-school activities, and “having a bossy baby make us all sing Frozen songs.”
Natalie D. Shaw, M.D. M.M.Sc. (2015)
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, Clinical Research Branch/Pediatric Neuroendocrinology Group, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
A 2015 Lasker Scholar, Natalie Shaw is interested in determining the physiologic and pathophysiologic underpinnings of irregular menstrual cycles among adolescent girls. Although irregular menstrual cycles are a common part of female development, a subset of teens never make the critical transition to normal menstrual cycles. By investigating the mechanisms underlying irregular cycles after the first menses, including potential genetic and environmental contributors (such as body weight and sleep structure and duration), she hopes to identify girls at high risk for future hormonal and metabolic complications who deserve early treatment. Shaw received her M.D. from the University at Buffalo State University of New York Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (Buffalo, New York) and her M.M.Sc. from Harvard Medical School (Boston). She then did a residency in pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh); a clinical fellowship in pediatric endocrinology at Children’s Hospital Boston (Boston); and a research fellowship in reproductive endocrinology at Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston). Before coming to the NIH, she was an assistant professor in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and an attending physician in pediatric endocrinology at Children’s Hospital Boston. Outside of work, Shaw considers herself a fitness buff (running, playing soccer, cycling, practicing yoga, and enjoying Zumba), and she loves to travel and spend time with her husband and their 2-year-old daughter.
John (Jack) Frederick Shern, M.D.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, Pediatric Oncology Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute
Jack Shern, who became a Lasker Scholar in 2018, is defining the biology, genetics, and epigenetics of pediatric sarcomas, namely rhabdomyosarcoma and malignant peripheral nerve–sheath tumors. He hopes to develop novel therapies and sequencing assays that can be incorporated into diagnostic and prognostic clinical care; determine the genetic mechanisms of tumor resistance; and be able to therapeutically target epigenetic vulnerabilities in pediatric sarcomas. He received his M.D. from the Medical College of Georgia (Augusta, Georgia) and did a residency in pediatrics, University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital (Chicago). He also completed a combined fellowship in the pediatric hematology and oncology training program at Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore) and the National Cancer Institute. Outside of work, he loves spending time with his wife, four-year-old daughter, and friends; and also enjoys gardening, biking, and traveling.
David Takeda, M.D., Ph.D.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, Laboratory of Genitourinary Cancer Pathogenesis, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute
David Takeda, who became a Lasker Scholar in 2019, uses functional genomic approaches to advance the understanding of prostate cancer in order to provide new insights into potential therapies. He is interested in how prostate cancer becomes resistant to therapy. Using a combination of functional genome editing and epigenomic profiling, his lab recently described an enhancer of the androgen receptor that is activated and amplified in 80% of metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancers. He earned an M.M.Sc. in biomedical informatics, an M.D., and a Ph.D. in medicine and experimental pathology from Harvard Medical School (Boston). He did a residency in internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston) and a hematology-oncology fellowship at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (Boston). NIH is “one of the few places where they encourage and support you to come do high-risk, high-impact projects,” he said. “I think being able to invest in something like that really attracted me and the fact that the [NIH Clinical Center] is entirely dedicated to research.” Outside activities include following Boston sports (when he lived in Boston); now he’s on the lookout for new hobbies.
Anish Thomas, M.B.B.S., M.D.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, Developmental Therapeutics Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute
Anish Thomas, a medical oncologist with a focus on clinical and translational research of small-cell lung cancer (SCLC), became a Lasker Scholar in 2017. His goal is to systematically develop more effective therapies for patients with SCLC and similar chemotherapy-refractory tumors by targeting key pathways involved in DNA replication, repair, and chromatin remodeling. His current work builds on more than six years of experience in clinical research of thoracic cancers. Thomas received his M.B.B.S. and M.D. from St. John’s Medical College (Bangalore, India). He completed an internal medicine residency at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University (Syracuse, N.Y.); and did fellowships in medical oncology at the National Cancer Institute and in hematology at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Outside of work, he enjoys spending time with his wife and four children.
Jing Wu, M.D., Ph.D.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, Neuro-Oncology Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute
Jing Wu, who became a Lasker Scholar in 2018, finds it rewarding to know that her research into primary brain tumors may bring hope to patients and help relieve their suffering. In particular, she focuses on gliomas with mutations in the IDH gene, which is linked to longer survival regardless of the cancer’s stage at diagnosis. She has developed clinical trials to test combined therapies in recurrent glioblastomas, which are more aggressive than IDH-mutant gliomas. She received her M.D. from Capital Medical University (Beijing, China) and her Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Texas Medical Branch (Galveston, Texas). She did a residency in neurology (including as chief resident) at the University of Texas Health Science Center (Houston); a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience at the University of Texas Medical Branch; and a clinical neuro-oncology fellowship at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston). Outside of work, she likes to read and spend time with her family and her cats.
Marielle E. Yohe, M.D., Ph.D.
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, Laboratory of Cell and Developmental Signaling, and Adjunct Investigator, Pediatric Oncology Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute
Marielle Yohe, who became a Lasker Scholar in 2021, studies the RAS/MAPK pathway, which is frequently dysregulated in several pediatric solid tumors (such as rhabdomyosarcoma and neuroblastoma) and RASopathies (such as Costello Syndrome). RASopathies are caused by genetic mutations that encode components or regulators of the Ras/mitogen-activated protein kinase (RAS/MAPK) pathway. People with a RASopathy may have developmental issues, cognitive disabilities, poor growth, birth defects, and an increased risk for developing cancer. She is involved with clinical trials to investigate the safety and efficacy of RAS/MAPK-targeting agents in pediatric patients. She received her Ph.D. in pharmacology and M.D. at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), completed a residency in pediatrics at the University of Connecticut Medical Center (Hartford, Connecticut), and did a clinical fellowship at the combined Johns Hopkins University/National Cancer Institute Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Program. Outside of work, she enjoys reading, baking, and spending time with her twin daughters.
For more information on the Lasker Clinical Research Scholars Program
- The NIH Catalyst article on the 2019 Lasker Scholars
- The NIH Catalyst article on the 2018 Lasker Scholars
- The NIH Catalyst article on the 2017 Lasker Scholars
- The NIH Catalyst article on the 2016 Lasker Scholars
- The NIH Catalyst article on the 2015 Lasker Scholars
- The NIH Catalyst article on the 2014 Lasker Scholars
- The NIH Catalyst article on the 2012 Lasker Scholars
- Application details and general information
This page last reviewed on March 22, 2023