Irving Institute Announces New Awardees, Scholars and Trainees

Over $1 million in seed funding awarded

January 11, 2018

The Irving Institute recognizes and celebrates the pilot awardees, fellows, scholars, and trainees that were selected during 2017. By the numbers, the Irving Institute selected:

  • 9 KL2 Scholars
  • 8 pre-doctoral TL1 Trainees
  • 6 post-doctoral TL1 Fellows
  • 2 Precision Medicine Fellows
  • 38 pilot projects across 9 programs receiving over $1 million in seed funding

2017 KL2 Scholars

The TRANSFORM KL2 Scholars Mentored Career Development program serves as a "bridge" by which young junior faculty (Assistant Professors) can achieve research independence. The 2017 KL2 scholars are:

  • Marwah Abdalla, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Medicine,"Obstructive sleep apnea and masked hypertension"
  • Melissa Accordino, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine,"SWOG 1703CD: Randomized multicenter trial comparing tumor marker directed disease monitoring versus usual care in the monitoring of metastatic hormone receptor positive breast cancer patients"
  • Natalie Bello, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Medicine, "Relaxin and subsequent hypertension risk in women with a history of pregnancy induced hypertension"
  • Bernard Chang, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Medicine,"Test of an alternative emergency department management strategy for TIA and minor stroke patients; an explanatory and guideline-relevant RCT to reduce PTSD after TIA and minor stroke"
  • Lauren Chernick, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics,"A personalized interactive text message intervention to improve the reproductive health of young adolescents"
  • Arthur Garan, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, "Optimizing function of cardiac rhythm devices in patients supported by left ventricular assist device"
  • Minjae Kim, MD, MS, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology,"Improving risk prediction of perioperative morbidity and mortality: Role of intraoperative variables"
  • Sheng-fu (Larry) Lo, MD, MHS, Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery,"Development of patient-derived xenograft models of chordomas in humanized mice to investigate in vivo effect of immunotherapy: A step toward precision medicine in chordoma treatment"

2017 TL1 Trainees

The TRANSFORM TL1 Training Programs are intended to provide doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows with additional research training to prepare for a research career that can contribute in some meaningful way to understanding risk of disease, improving diagnosis and prevention, and tailoring treatment based on an individual’s variation in genes, environment, and/or lifestyle. 

The 2017 TL1 doctoral trainees are:

  • Nicole Blumenfeld, Predoctoral Fellow, Biomedical Engineering, "Next-generation sequencing on a chip"
  • Anne Bozack, Predoctoral Fellow, Environmental Health Sciences,"Epigenetic effects of arsenic exposure and effect modification by nutritional status"
  • Eric Bryant, Predoctoral Fellow, Biological Sciences,"A rapid and cost-efficient strategy to develop a precision therapy for cancers overexpressing HLTF"
  • Sarah Dugger, Predoctoral Fellow, Genetics and Development,"Hitting the bullseye: Identifying targeted treatments for Hnrnpu-related epilepsy using in vivo and in vitro disease models"
  • Alexander Hsieh, Predoctoral Fellow, Biomedical Informatics,"Investigating the functional consequence of noncoding variants in the context of human tissue and disease"
  • Dantong Huang, Predoctoral Fellow, Biomedical Engineering,"Development of patient-specific hepatocyte spheroids for disease modeling and drug screening"
  • Brahma Kumar, Predoctoral Fellow, Cellular, Molecular and Biophysical Studies,"Mechanisms of memory T cell retention to the lung in humans"
  • William Raab, Predoctoral Fellow, Pathobiology and Molecular Medicine,"RNF43 mutations as a diagnostic biomarker of CDX2 negative colon carcinomas and a predictive biomarker of colon cancer response to anti-EGFR monoclonal antibodies"

The 2017 TL1 postdoctoral trainees are:

  • Robyn Gartrell, MD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Pediatrics/Oncology,"Defining critical features of the immune microenvironment in neuroblastoma"
  • Kimberly Komatsubara, MD, Postdoctoral Clinical Fellow, Hematology and Oncology, "Personalized medicine in the adult experimental therapeutics cancer clinic at Columbia University Medical Center"
  • Trevor Fidler, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Medicine,"Mechanisms of increased cardiovascular disease in patients with clonal hematopoiesis"
  • Allison Norful, MSN, MPhil, RN, ANP-BC, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Nursing, "The development and psychometric testing of the precision co-management index: A pilot project to investigate the impact of shared decision making on chronic disease management and patient center outcomes"
  • Neha Raghavan, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Neurology and Genomic Medicine, "Identification of novel Alzheimer’s disease associated genes in a multi-ethnic cohort"
  • Jeremy Worley, PhD, Associate Research Scientist, Systems Biology, "Identification of master regulators in breast cancer tumor subpopulations using a novel single-cell analysis pipeline, and the prediction of optimal therapy"

2017 Precision Medicine Fellows

The Irving Institute Precision Medicine postdoctoral fellowships provide $200,000 over two years to train the next generation of leaders in the development and application of Precision Medicine science and methods to improve public health. The 2017 Precision Medicine Fellows are:

  • Anthony Romer, PhD, Associate Research Scientist, Pediatrics/Molecular Genetics, "Functional screening for novel diabetes risk variants that impair the differentiation, function and/or fitness of insulin-producing beta cells"
  • Ira Surolia, MD, Instructor in Medicine at CUMC,"Investigating shifts in chromatin accessibility in human cutaneous T-cell lymphomas"

CaMPR Phase I Planning Grant and Phase II Pilot Award Winners

The Collaborative and Multidisciplinary Pilot Research (CaMPR) program is a two-phase funding process that provides $15,000 planning grants and $75,000 pilot awards to support the formation of newly-configured investigative teams with the aim of addressing a significant health problem at the cellular, individual or community level. 

The 2016-17 Phase II pilot awardees are:

  • David Kalfa, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Surgery,"Development of a smart ventricular support mesh to treat heart failure in adults and children"
  • Bret Rutherford, MD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at CUIMC, "Sensation and Psychiatry: Linking Age-Related Hearing Loss to Late-Life Depression and Cognitive Decline"

The 2017-18 Phase I planning grant recipients are:

  • Nora Vanegas-Arroyave, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology at CUIMC, "Effectiveness of spinal cord stimulation for the management of freezing of gait and locomotion in Parkinson’s disease"
  • Yvonne M. Saenger, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at CUIMC, "Comprehending the Immune Microenvironment: Spatiophenotypic profiling of molecular and cellular correlates of disease in transplantation and cancer"
  • Zoran Kostic, PhD, Associate Professor of Professional Practice in the Department of Electrical Engineering, "Optimizing artificial neural networks to characterize phenotypes of peripheral edema"
  • Sharon Akabas, PhD, Associate Professor of Nutrition (in Pediatrics and in the Institute of Human Nutrition) at CUIMC, "Use of Narrative Medicine to Reveal Weight Bias Across the Health Professions: Toward Improved Care for the Patient with Obesity"

2016-17 CaMPR-BASIC Pilot Awardees

The CaMPR-BASIC pilot program takes the next step towards the development of multidisciplinary teams by offering one-year $40,000 pilot awards for collaborations between researchers from basic science departments and clinical/translational investigators. The 2016-17 CaMPR-BASIC pilot awardees are:

  • "Modeling Tuberous Sclerosis with Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells", Edmund Au, PhD (PI), Assistant Professor of Pathology and Cell Biology and Jennifer Bain, MD, PhD (Co-PI), Assistant Professor of Neurology
  • "Deep Machine Learning for Computer Aided Identification of Breast Cancer Margins within Optical Images", Christine Hendon, PhD (PI), Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Richard Ha, MD, (Co-PI), Assistant Professor of Radiology at CUMC

Starting in 2017-18, this pilot program is now called "Bench to Bedside".

2017 Health Practice Research Pilot Awardees

In collaboration with the Department of Biomedical Informatics (DBMI) the Health Practice Research pilot awards provide funds of $25,000 for one year to support operational interventions such as information technology, operations research, and simulation to improve health care practice. The 2017 Health Practice Research pilot awardees are:

  • David Kessler, MD, MSc, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at CUIMC, "Real-time Dashboard for Emergency Department Overcrowding"
  • Philip Zachariah, MD, MS, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at CUIMC, "Improve Decision Support for Antibiotic Prescribing Using Infectious Disease Syndrome-Specific Antibiograms"

2017 Imaging Pilot Awardees

The Imaging pilot awards provide $5,000 – 10,000 in support to early career investigators using imaging modalities such as magnetic resonance imaging, optical imaging, PET, single photon emission computed tomography/computed tomography, and ultrasound. The 2017 Imaging pilot awardees are:

  • Joshua Kantrowitz, MD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry,"Reduced Predictive Coding as a Biomarker of Response to tDCS for Auditory Hallucinations"
  • Amit Lazarov, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Psychiatry,"Neural Correlates of Visual Attention Bias in PTSD"
  • Jasnit Makkar, MD, Assistant Professor of Radiology at CUIMC,"MR Elastography of the Pancreas: Assessment of Pancreatic Fibrosis in Chronic Pancreatitis and Pancreatic Cancer"
  • Benjamin Suarez-Jimenez, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Psychiatry,"Neural Correlates of Location-Specific Threat Memory in Trauma"
  • Xi Zhu, PhD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurobiology (in Psychiatry),"Improved Individualized Diagnosis of PTSD Using Data-Driven Multimodal MRI Approach"

2017 Integrating Special Populations Pilot Awardees

The Integrating Special Populations pilot award program provides $40,000 in seed funds to projects focused on four special populations: Pediatrics, Geriatrics, Rare Diseases and HIV, in support of newly-configured investigative teams aimed at studying diseases across the lifespan and utilizing rare diseases as tools to study more common ones, at CUMC and within the community. The 2017 Integrating Special Populations pilot awardees are:

  • Mady Hornig, MD, MA (PI), Associate Professor of Epidemiology, "Examining Inflammation as a Stroke Risk Factor in Pediatric Sickle Cell Disease"
  • Alice Prince, MD (PI), John M. Driscoll Jr., MD and Yvonne Driscoll, MD Professor of Pediatrics, "PTEN-CFTR Interactions Regulate Pulmonary Inflammation in Cystic Fibrosis - A Potential Target for Therapy"
  • Ashwini Rao, OTR, EdD (PI), Associate Professor of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine, "Factors Underlying Higher Energy Expenditure and Weight Loss in Huntington's Disease"
  • Simone Sanna-Cherchi, MD (PI), Florence Irving Professor of Medicine, "Rapid Genome Sequencing to Guide Clinical Management of Children with Nephrotic Syndrome"

2017 Irving Institute/Clinical Trials Office Pilot Awardees

The Irving Institute/Clinical Trials Office (CTO) pilot awards provide junior faculty with $50,000 to conduct pilot studies needed to attract future independent funding. The 2017 Irving Institute/CTO pilot awards are:

  • Juan Arriaga, PhD, Associate Research Scientist, Medicine,"Defining Molecular Drivers and Therapeutic Strategies for Bone Metastasis by Using CRISPR/Cas9-based Functional Screening and Preclinical Assays of Drug Response"
  • Amer Assal, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, "Engraftment Syndrome and Acute Kidney Injury in Patients with Light Chain Amyloidosis following High Dose Chemotherapy and Autologous Stem Cell Transplantation"
  • Estibaliz Castillero, PhD, Associate Research Scientist, Surgery - Cardiothoracic Division, "Bone Morphogenic protein-1 (BMP1) Proteinase in the Regulation of Cardiac Fibrosis After ischemia"
  • Deepa Kumaraiah, MD, MBA, Assistant Professor of Medicine, "inSensor: Novel device for reducing pulmonary complications in hospitalized patients by improving compliance with incentive spirometer use"
  • Martin Lan, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, "Neuroinflammation as a Novel Target to Treat Bipolar Depression: A Pilot PET Study with [11C]PBR-28 and N-acetyl Cysteine Antidepressant Treatment"
  • Benjamin Lebwohl, MD, MS, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, "A Pilot Study to Test the Feasibility and Acceptability of Using Gluten Sensor Devices & Social Video-Based Discussion Tools to Promote a Gluten-Free Diet in Patients with Celiac Disease"
  • Matthew Lewis, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Medicine, "A Precision Medicine Based Approach to Biomarker Discovery in Fontan Associated Liver Disease"
  • David Roh, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, "The role of Rotational Thromboelastometry (ROTEM) in identifying intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) patients at risk for hematoma expansion (HE)"
  • Ira Surolia, MD, MPH, Instructor in Medicine at CUIMC, "Investigating the genetic and epigenetic basis for anticipation in neuroendocrine tumors"
  • Runsheng Wang, MD, MHS, Instructor in Medicine, "N-of-1 trials of Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs in Spondyloarthritis with adaptive design"

2017 Irving Institute/Data Sciences Institute Pilot Awardees

In Spring 2017, the Irving Institute co-hosted the first and highly-successful interdisciplinary workshop “Hypertension as a Complex Trait” in collaboration with the Data Sciences Institute (DSI). In response to the workshop, a seed funding program was offered on data science of complex traits. The 2017 Irving Institute/DSI pilot awardees are:

  • Lynn Petukhova, PhD (PI), Assistant Professor of Dermatology, “Developing GWAS SNP modules to identify clinically relevant disease mechanisms in patients with immune-mediated disorders”
  • Samuel K. Sia, PhD (PI), Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Daichi Shimbo, MD (Co-PI), Associate Professor of Medicine, “High-quality Data Acquisition for Cuffless and Calibration-free Blood Pressure Measurement”

2017 Precision Medicine Pilot Awardees

The Precision Medicine pilot awards provide $100,000 one-year seed funds to projects focused on tailoring medical care (prevention, diagnosis, and/or treatment) to the individual patient. The 2017 Precision Medicine pilot awardees are:

  • Jonathan Barasch, MD, PhD (PI), Samuel W. Lambert Professor of Medicine and Pathology and Cell Biology, "Definition of Acute Kidney Injury at Single Cell Resolution"
  • Barry Fine, MD, PhD (PI), Assistant Professor of Medicine, "Modeling and Prediction of Primary Graft Dysfunction After Heart Transplant"
  • Arnold Han, MD, PhD (PI), Robert F. Loeb Assistant Professor of Medicine and Microbiology and Immunology, "Precision T-Cell Receptor-Based Cancer Therapies"
  • Vivek Iyer, MD (PI), Assistant Professor of Medicine at CUIMC, "Patient-Specific Computational Models to Guide Atrial Fibrilation Therapy"
  • Mercedes Martinez, MD (PI), Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at CUIMC, "A TCR Sequencing Approach to Understanding Graft Dysfunction Following Transplantation for Autoimmune Liver Disease"

2016-2017 Translational Therapeutics Accelerator (TRx) Pilot Awardees

The Translational Therapeutics Accelerator pilot awards program provides one-year, $75,000 pilot awards to clinician-basic scientist teams to support development of novel therapies with the goal of improving patient lives. The recipients 2017 Translational Therapeutics Accelerator pilot awardees are:

  • "Using Anti-Sense Oligonucleotides as New Therapeutic Modality for Psychiatric and Cognitive Disorders", Joseph Gogos, MD, PhD, Professor of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics and Neuroscience and Sander Markx, MD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry
  • "Direct Application of Antibody Impregnated Bioengineered Patch to Improve Wound Healing in Diabetes", Lynne Johnson, MD, Professor of Medicine at CUIMC and Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, PhD, University Professor
  • "Suppression of Oncogene Transcription by PNAs as Cancer Therapy", Jeffrey Rothman, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at CUIMC and Gary Schwartz, MD, Clyde '56 and Helen Wu Professor of Oncology (in Medicine)
  • "Regulation of Appetite by the Skeleton", Mishaela Rubin, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine at the Columbia University Medical Center and Stavroula Kousteni, PhD, Associate Professor of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics

Visit the People section to see the full study teams and past receipients.


Campus News, Research, Pilot Awards, Scholars, Trainees, Precision Medicine