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Supporting Hematology’s Future: The 2020 ASH Scholar Award

December 10, 2020

The ASH Scholar Award is the Society’s longest-standing award program and one of the most highly regarded. For almost three decades, ASH has supported hundreds of fellows and junior faculty in both basic and clinical/translational research by providing partial salary or other support during the critical period between completion of training and the establishment of one’s independent career. The awards, in the amount of $100,000 for fellows and $150,000 for junior faculty over a two- to three-year period, are made possible through grants from the corporate community, individual donors, foundations, and funds committed by the Society. (To learn more about the ASH Scholar Award program, please visit

Michalis Agathocleous, PhD

Dr. Agathocleous is an Assistant Professor at Children’s Medical Center Research Institute (CRI), UT Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW). He is originally from Cyprus, and recieved his BA and PhD degrees from the University of Cambridge, where he studied embryonic retinal development with Professor Bill Harris. He was a research fellow at Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge, where he showed that glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation change during retinal progenitor differentiation, and metabolism regulates progenitor function. He was an 1851 Research Fellow at CRI, with Professor Sean Morrison. Here he developed methods to measure the metabolome of rare cells isolated from tissues; showed that ascorbate levels are high in hematopoietic stem cells and decline with differentiation; and demonstrated that ascorbate depletion promotes stem cell function and myeloid leukemia development. In 2017, Dr. Agathocleous became a Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas Scholar and joined CRI as an assistant professor. His lab focuses on metabolic regulation of hematopoiesis during leukemia initiation and infection. The ASH Scholar Award will fund his work to develop new metabolomics methods to enable the identification of the nutrients used by different hematopoietic cells and to trace their contribution to intracellular metabolites.

Hanny Al-Samkari, MD

Dr. Hanny Al-Samkari is an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and clinical investigator in the Massachusetts General Hospital Division of Hematology. He received his medical degree from Washington University in St. Louis, completed his residency in internal medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (where he also served as Chief Medical Resident) and completed his fellowship in hematology and medical oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute–Massachusetts General Hospital combined program. His clinical and research interests are in hemostasis and thrombosis, with a focus on hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia, immune thrombocytopenia, hereditary pyruvate kinase deficiency, and novel indications for the thrombopoietin receptor agonists. He currently serves as principal investigator for several clinical trials in these areas. Dr. Al-Samkari is the Associate Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia Center of Excellence and has a dedicated weekly hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT) clinic. In recognition of his scholarly contributions to the management of HHT, he was named a member of the 2019 International Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia Guidelines Committee. Dr. Al-Samkari is honored to have been selected for the ASH Scholar Award and will use this opportunity to further investigate the effectiveness and safety of antiangiogenic therapies to manage chronic bleeding and other complications of HHT.

David Bartlett, PhD

Dr. Bartlett is an assistant professor in the Duke Cancer Institute (DCI) where his research focuses on understanding the mechanisms by which exercise training can improve immune function in adults with cancer. In 2014, he obtained his PhD in immunity and infection, and postdoctoral training in Cancer Metabolism at the University of Birmingham in England. In 2016 he completed an EU Marie Curie Research Fellowship at Duke University investigating the effects of exercise training on relationships between immune function and disease activity in older adults with chronic diseases. In collaboration with Drs. Danielle Brander, Brice Weinberg, and Andrea Sitlinger from Duke Hematologic Malignancies, he has found that aerobic and functional fitness is associated with distinct immune cell characteristics and exosomal miRNA signatures in adults with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). For his ASH Scholar Award project, Dr. Bartlett will investigate the effects of 12 weeks of exercise training on immune function, microRNA interactions, and clinical markers in CLL. Dr. Bartlett is honored to be chosen for the ASH Scholar Award, which will provide crucial new insights into the role of exercise training on the immune system and health of adults with CLL.

Benjamin Barwick, PhD

Dr. Barwick is a postdoctoral fellow at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University where he studies genomic and epigenomic alterations in multiple myeloma. He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering and a Master of Science degree in bioinformatics at Georgia Institute of Technology before completing his PhD studies in genetics and molecular biology at Emory University. During this time, Dr. Barwick gained extensive experience in computational biology and studied the epigenetic regulation of the adaptive immune system, which led to several impactful publications. As a postdoctoral fellow, he has helped to identify multiple myeloma translocations of the immunoglobulin λ (IGL) light chain as a marker of poor outcome in multiple myeloma potentially due to immunomodulatory drug resistance. To this end, as part of his ASH Scholar Award, he is investigating how immunomodulatory drugs affect IGL-translocated myeloma through mechanistic studies of the IGL enhancer, which drives oncogene expression in this subtype of myeloma. His work is aided by the strong translational environment of Winship Cancer Institute and a group of outstanding clinical and basic science colleagues.

Wendy Béguelin, PhD

Dr. Wendy Béguelin is a basic and translational research scientist working in the field of lymphoma epigenetics. She obtained her degree in biology at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. During that period, she researched the molecular mechanisms of breast cancer and received extensive scientific training in the investigation of cell biology and signal transduction, with studies on gene regulation and transcription factor binding. As a postdoctoral scientist at Weill Cornell Medical College, under the supervision and mentorship of Dr. Ari Melnick, she has identified novel epigenetic and transcriptional mechanisms that contribute to B-cell differentiation and lymphomagenesis. She has studied the biological and transcriptional mechanisms of action of Polycomb proteins in germinal center B cells and lymphomas. Dr. Béguelin is currently an Assistant Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine, New York. She is committed to a career in basic and translational cancer research. The ASH Junior Faculty Scholar Award will enable her to continue contributing to the field of epigenetic control of lymphomagenesis and making discoveries that can be translated from the diagnostic and therapeutic standpoints.

Theodore Braun, MD, PhD

Dr. Braun is an instructor at Oregon Health & Science University, specializing in the care of patients with myeloid malignancies. He completed undergraduate studies at Claremont McKenna College and earned his MD and PhD from OHSU. He completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of Washington Medical Center and returned to complete hematology and oncology fellowship training at OHSU. During his fellowship, he investigated the impact of mutation order on the behavior of acute myeloid leukemia. He demonstrated that founding mutations in the transcription factor CEBPA reprogram the epigenetic landscape changing the transcriptional manifestation of second hit mutations. For his Scholar Award, Dr. Braun will continue this line of investigation, defining the roles of key transcription factors in driving oncogenic changes to the epigenetic landscape, with the ultimate goal of identifying new therapeutic targets. Dr. Braun is honored to have been chosen to receive an ASH Scholar Award, which will provide support for his research group as he transitions to independence.

Stephen Chung, MD

Dr. Chung is an assistant professor at UTSW, where he specializes in the care of patients with myelodysplastic syndromes. He earned his medical degree at Washington University School of Medicine and completed a residency in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, followed by a medical oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where he remained as faculty on the leukemia service for six years before starting his lab at UTSW in 2018. As a postdoctoral fellow with Christopher Park and Ross Levine, Dr. Chung’s work led to the identification of the cell of origin for hairy cell leukemia, as well as the discovery of CD99 as a disease stem cell marker and therapeutic target in myeloid malignancies. He is grateful to have previously received an ASH Fellow Scholar Award, which provided critical support for studies that now form the basis of his Junior Faculty Scholar Award, which will support studies to understand the mechanisms by which CD99 promotes leukemia stem cell (LSC) function. His work has identified a role for CD99 in the regulation of translation, and his project will explore how this can be used to develop novel therapies targeting LSCs.

Shannon Elf, PhD

Dr. Elf completed her PhD at Emory University in the Molecular & Systems Pharmacology Program under the supervision of Jing Chen. Her doctoral thesis focused on identifying novel targets for the treatment of leukemia, with a particular focus on leukemogenic tyrosine kinase signaling and leukemia cell metabolism. In 2013, she joined the laboratory of Ann Mullally at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School, where her work focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying mutant calreticulin (CALR) –driven myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs). Dr. Elf’s postdoctoral work revealed that mutant CALR binds to the extracellular domain of the thrombopoietin receptor MPL via its lectin binding sites to activate pathogenic JAK-STAT signaling and drive hematopoietic transformation. For this work, she was awarded a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Career Development Award, a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Career Achievement Award, and National Institutes of Health K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award, which supported her transition to assistant professor in the Ben May Department for Cancer Research at the University of Chicago. Currently, her lab focuses on dissecting the molecular mechanisms underlying activation of the unfolded protein response in MPN and acute myeloid leukemia, and using that information to design rationally targeted therapies against the unfolded protein response for use in preclinical models of these diseases. Dr. Elf is honored to have this work supported by the ASH Junior Faculty Scholar Award.

Hongxia Fu, PhD

Dr.  Fu obtained her PhD at the National University of Singapore, where she studied DNA/protein interactions and their effects on biological functions using single-molecule biophysics tools and computational models. She trained as a postdoctoral fellow in biophysics and mechanobiology at the National University of Singapore and Harvard Medical School, where her research focused on developing and applying tools combining single-molecule fluorescence imaging and force manipulation techniques, microfluidics, and cell biology to study protein functions under force. In Dr. Timothy Springer’s laboratory at Harvard, she studied mechano-regulation of the blood protein, von Willebrand factor (vWF), in thrombus formation. A hallmark of this work has been to reveal how force activates individual vWF molecules through a two-step conformational transition to bind with platelet membrane protein GPIbα. Currently, Dr. Fu is an assistant professor in the Division of Hematology, Department of Medicine, Department of Bioengineering, and Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine and Bloodworks Northwest Research Institute in Seattle, Washington. Her research focuses on understanding the mechanisms of mechanosensory proteins in blood clotting; studying related blood diseases such as thrombosis and bleeding disorders, based on vascular, cellular, and single-molecule models of health and disease; and seeking new methodologies for therapeutics testing and treatment of blood and circulatory system disorders. Dr. Fu is grateful for the opportunity provided by the ASH Scholar Award, which will support her research to explore the role of vWF at the endothelial cell surface in thrombus formation.

Federico Gaiti, PhD

Dr. Gaiti is a postdoctoral fellow at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York Genome Center in New York, where he studies the epigenetic determinants of cancer evolution using novel single-cell experimental and computational approaches. He obtained his PhD in evolutionary biology and genomics from the University of Queensland (Australia), where he focused on understanding the evolutionary origin of two major players in human gene regulation: long noncoding RNAs and chromatin marks. Through these studies, he became fascinated with the efforts to decipher how a normal cell can become tumoral by the accumulation of genetic and nongenetic events. This motivated him to pursue a career in biomedical research, to specifically understand the underpinnings of evolutionary plasticity of cancer. After receiving his PhD, he therefore joined Dr. Dan Landau’s lab at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York Genome Center. As a postdoctoral scientist, he focused on the development of new methods and conceptual frameworks to integrate DNA methylation, histone modifications, genomics, and transcriptomics in the study of blood cancer development, unraveling intratumoral epigenetic heterogeneity as a major driver of leukemia evolution. Dr. Gaiti is committed to a career in basic/translational cancer research, making discoveries that would offer improved therapeutic options to directly address cancer evolutionary plasticity. The Scholar Award, together with an interdisciplinary mentorship team with expertise in cancer genomics, epigenomics, and lymphoma biology (Drs. Dan Landau, Omar Abdel-Wahab, and Ari Melnick), will enable him to make crucial new insights into the epigenetic mechanisms that allow leukemic cells to evolve and transform to aggressive lymphoma, ultimately informing the design of epigenetic therapy clinical trials.

Oluwabukola Gbotosho, PhD

Dr. Gbotosho received her PhD in physiology from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, where she studied red blood cell membrane transport properties in sickle cell disease (SCD) and how this contributes to complications of the disease. In 2015, she joined the laboratory of Dr. Gregory Kato at the Vascular Medicine Institute at the University of Pittsburgh as a postdoctoral research associate. Her research work in Dr. Gregory Kato’s group focused on elucidating the molecular pathways of heme entry and response to heme-induced expression of placental growth factor (PlGF) in bone marrow cells, and how PlGF mediates pathophysiology of cardiopulmonary complications in SCD. Dr. Gbotosho is currently a research associate in the laboratory of Dr. Punam Malik at the Division of Experimental Hematology and Cancer Biology, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Currently, she is investigating the role of macrophages in the dysregulated immune system response and mechanisms underlying cardiac fibrosis in SCD. Dr. Gbotosho is committed to a career in basic/translational cardiopulmonary and inflammatory complications in hemolytic disorders. The ASH Scholar Award provides critical support to receive extended training needed to become an independent investigator, with the potential for identifying unique targets for biologic or pharmacologic therapy for SCD.

Annamaria Gullà, MD

Dr. Gullà is a postdoctoral fellow at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) in Boston. She earned her MD in 2011 from the Magna Graecia University of Catanzaro in Italy and completed a clinical/research fellowship in Medical Oncology at the same University. During her fellowship, she gained expertise in molecular biology and experimental therapeutics of myeloma. She primarily focused on the role of noncoding RNA and epigenetic factors in myeloma, aiming at the identification of novel therapeutic targets. She joined Dr. Ken Anderson’s lab at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in 2017 as a postdoctoral fellow. Since then, she has focused her research to characterize the effects of antimyeloma agents on the immune system. Her findings are showing that the clinical efficacy of bortezomib, the mainstay of myeloma therapy, fundamentally relies on the activation of the immune system against tumor. This award will enable her to identify the mechanistic insights of the immunogenic consequence of bortezomib that will inform its therapeutic use, alone and in novel combination immune therapies. She found in the Anderson lab the perfect environment to pursue her interests, and the ASH Scholar Award will provide a significant boost to the rapid clinical translation of her findings to improve outcomes for myeloma patients.

Siddhartha Jaiswal, MD, PhD

Dr. Jaiswal is an investigator at Stanford University in the Department of Pathology, where his lab focuses on understanding the biology of the aging hematopoietic system. As a postdoctoral fellow, he identified a common, premalignant state for blood cancers by reanalysis of large sequencing datasets. This condition, termed “clonal hematopoiesis,” is characterized by the presence of stem cell clones harboring certain somatic mutations, primarily in genes involved in epigenetic regulation of hematopoiesis. Clonal hematopoiesis is prevalent in the aging population and increases the risk of not only blood cancer, but also cardiovascular disease and overall mortality. Understanding the biology of these mutations and how they contribute to the development of cancer and other age-related diseases is the current focus of work in his lab. Dr. Jaiswal and colleagues’ studies use genetic and clinical information from large population-based cohorts to understand the impact of clonal hematopoiesis in humans. They also study the effect of the mutations causing clonal hematopoiesis in human and mouse tissues through a combination of genomic profiling, functional assays, and mouse models of disease.

Robert Lee, PhD

Dr. Lee is a research assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Under the guidance of Dr. Guillermo Vazquez, he completed his PhD at the University of Toledo, where he studied macrophage signaling in atherogenesis. In 2015 he joined the lab of Dr. Wolfgang Bergmeier (UNC-CH) as a postdoctoral fellow. During his five years as a postdoc, Dr. Lee’s work encompassed various aspects of platelet function, including platelet signaling during development and inflammatory hemostasis, signaling pathways regulating integrin activation, and collaborative projects investigating platelet function–enhancing nanoparticles. Recently, he demonstrated the detrimental impact of endogenous dysfunctional platelets on the function of healthy transfused platelets in mouse models of platelet disorders. His current project will expand on these findings to investigate the utility of platelet transfusion in the setting of antiplatelet therapy (APT), and whether thrombocytopenia exacerbates bleeding risk with APT. His goal is to increase the translational impact of his work, including utilizing a new model of human platelet transfusion into immunocompromised recipient mice developed in the Bergmeier lab. The Scholar Award provides critical support and resources to establish an independent career focused on mechanistic aspects of platelet transfusion.

Hojun Li, MD, PhD

Dr. Li is an instructor in pediatric hematology/oncology at the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, and he recently started an independent laboratory as the Charles W. and Jennifer C. Johnson Clinical Investigator at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Maryland and then completed his MD/PhD training at the University of Pennsylvania. With his thesis advisor, Dr. Katherine High, he established the field of in vivo genome editing. He then completed his pediatrics residency at Boston Children’s Hospital, followed by hematology/oncology fellowship at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He performed postdoctoral research with Dr. Harvey Lodish at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, where he identified the effect of glucocorticoids on erythropoietic development using single-cell RNA sequencing, and demonstrated that the uncoupling rate of lineage differentiation from cell cycle progression may be a key therapeutic paradigm in treating bone marrow failure syndromes. His independent laboratory is now working on identifying the erythropoietic molecular gene targets activated by glucocorticoid receptor signaling, with a goal of developing novel therapeutic targets to mimic glucocorticoid signaling in red cell development, while avoiding systemic glucocorticoid toxicities.

Stephanie Luff, PhD

Dr. Luff is a postdoctoral fellow at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai under the direction of Dr. Christopher Sturgeon, where she studies the molecular regulators of embryonic hematopoiesis. Prior this this, she obtained her PhD at the University of Delaware, supervised by Dr. Eleftherios T. Papoutsakis, examining the roles of p53 and AP-1 during megakaryopoiesis. Following her degree, she joined the Sturgeon laboratory, previously located at the Washington University in St. Louis, and continued her passion for hematology using the directed differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) to model embryonic hematopoietic development. During her fellowship thus far, she has identified a novel precursor that gives rise to a retinoic acid-dependent hematopoietic program, mimicking what is observed within an early embryo. This discovery is a crucial step toward specifying hematopoietic stem cells from hPSCs. Her ASH Scholar Award further supports the progress toward this goal in that Dr. Luff aims to identify signaling regulators critical for the specification of hematopoietic progenitors from this novel precursor.

Kellie Machlus, PhD

Dr. Machlus is an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dr. Machlus’ laboratory focuses on understanding the signals that control megakaryocyte differentiation and maturation under physiological and pathological states. Dr. Machlus completed her PhD in 2006 with Dr. Alisa Wolberg at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she investigated relationships between procoagulant plasma proteins, platelet activity, and thrombus formation. Dr. Machlus then did her postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Joseph Italiano at Harvard; the major focus of her research was to identify cell biological pathways leading to platelet formation from megakaryocytes. Currently, Dr. Machlus’ laboratory is interested in revealing how different disease states alter megakaryocytes, and how these changes are ultimately manifested in their platelet progeny. Specifically, the Machlus lab investigates how mediators of inflammation, such as the cytokine CCL5 and extracellular vesicles, alter hematopoietic stem cell differentiation, megakaryocyte maturation, and ultimately, platelet production and phenotype. These studies can lead to novel approaches to treat thrombocytopenia through manipulation of platelet number and function by targeting their precursor cells, megakaryocytes.

Rossella Marullo, MD, PhD

Dr. Marullo is a physician-scientist investigating how perturbations in mRNA transcription, processing and export promote cancer cells ability to tolerate oncogenic stress. She is instructor in medicine in the Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. Dr. Marullo received her Medical Degree and Clinical Oncology training at the University of Messina, Italy. As an oncologist, Dr. Marullo developed an interest in translational research and enrolled into a PhD program during which she gained expertise in the field of genomic instability under the mentorship of Dr. Paul Doetsch at Emory University in Atlanta. Dr. Marullo joined Weill Cornell Medicine as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Leandro Cerchietti where she investigated mechanism(s) of genotoxic stress tolerance in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. A major finding of her postdoctoral research is the role played by HSF-BCL6-TOX axis in establishing a stress-tolerant transcriptional phenotype in normal B cells and cancer cells. With the support of the ASH Scholar Award, she will investigate whether and how TOX-mediated transcriptional regulation prevents B-cell lymphomagenesis. Dr. Marullo is honored to receive the ASH Scholar Award to support this research, which she hopes will lead to the identification of potential therapeutic targets for DLBCLs harboring TOX mutations.

Francesco Maura, MD

Dr. Maura is an assistant attending and Co-Principal Investigator in Ora Landgren's lab at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Their work focuses on the genomic and phenotypic determinants of resistance to immunotherapies in multiple myeloma, the landscape and chronological reconstruction of driver events in multiple myeloma and its precursor disease, and deciphering the impact of melphalan on therapy-related myeloid neoplasms in multiple myeloma.

Patrick McGann, MD

Patrick T. McGann, MD, MS, is an associate professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. He obtained his MD from Tufts University School of Medicine and completed his pediatrics residency at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, and his pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine. In addition to his clinical training, he is completing a PhD in Molecular, Cellular, and Biochemical Pharmacology from the University, anticipated in 2021. His research is focused on improving the diagnosis and outcomes for children with sickle cell disease in the United States and across the world. Primarily, he has focused on optimizing dosing of hydroxyurea through precision medicine. His ASH Scholar Award will focus on expanding what has been learned in the pediatric population to the adult sickle cell population in order to optimize benefits and minimize toxicity of hydroxyurea through personalized, PK-guided dosing approaches. In addition to the ASH Scholar Award, Dr. MCGann’s research has been supported through a K23 Award from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and a Sickle Cell/Advancing Cures Award from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Anjali Mishra, PhD

Dr. Mishra’s focus is to study critical oncogenic pathways operational in the blood cancers of T- and natural killer (NK) –cell origin. The lab projects are focused on understanding the relationship between cytokine signaling in normal and malignant hematopoiesis. In addition to discovering the key determinant of T- and NK-cell leukemia/lymphoma pathogenesis, the work of Dr. Mishra’s lab investigates identifying new targets for blood cancer prevention and treatment.

Rakhi Naik, MD

Dr. Naik graduated from Duke University with a degree in biomedical and electrical engineering and received her MD from Cornell Medical School. She also holds a master’s degree in health sciences from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Naik has been at Johns Hopkins throughout her medical training, serving as house staff, hematology fellow, and Chief Resident prior to being recruited to faculty in the Division of Hematology. Dr. Naik additionally serves as the associate director for the Hematology Fellowship Track at Johns Hopkins and is a member of the ASH Committee on Training, through which she leads education initiatives to promote retention in nonmalignant hematology. Dr. Naik’s primary research involves the study of sickle hemoglobin disorders, with the goal of informing counseling, screening, and treatment guidelines. Dr. Naik has previously successfully received K award funding to study the genetic epidemiology of sickle cell trait. Her studies have defined sickle cell trait as an overlooked risk factor for chronic and end-stage renal disease in Black Americans. With the support of the ASH Scholar Award, Dr. Naik will extend her studies to identify modifying factors and potential treatment options for individuals with sickle cell trait–related nephropathy.

Satish Nandakumar, PhD

Dr. Nandakumar is a postdoctoral fellow at the Boston Children’s Hospital, where he uses insights from genomewide association studies (GWAS) to investigate normal and disease hematopoiesis. He completed his PhD at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis under the mentorship of Dr. Derek Persons. During his graduate work, he studied how dysregulation of transcription factor GATA2 altered the lineage differentiation and leukemia initiation. During his postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Dr. Vijay Sankaran, he worked on the problem of connecting genetic variants from GWAS to hematopoietic function. Dr. Nandakumar has developed experimental approaches to follow-up GWAS variants on blood cell traits and identified enhancer elements and target genes critical for hematopoiesis. For his ASH Scholar Award project, Dr. Nandakumar will study the mechanisms underlying germline predisposition to myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) and clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential (CHIP). He will leverage GWAS on MPN and CHIP to prioritize genetic variants and study their impact on hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) function. He will also examine the interactions between germline variants and somatic driver mutations in these disorders. The ASH Scholar Award will enable Dr. Nandakumar to make crucial insights into the genetic basis of how blood cancers are acquired.

Karolyn Oetjen, MD, PhD

Dr. Karolyn Oetjen is an instructor in medicine at Washington University in St Louis. She received her bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her MD and PhD degrees from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She completed clinical fellowship training in the combined National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute/National Cancer Institute fellowship at the National Institutes of Health and is board certified in hematology and medical oncology. Her current research with Dr. Daniel Link at Washington University in St Louis uses single-cell analysis techniques including imaging, RNA sequencing, and DNA sequencing to understand the recurrence of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). She is particularly interested in studying patients with acquired and inherited defects in DNA damage repair to understand the risk of therapy-related myeloid neoplasms and germline predisposition for hematologic malignancies.

Jacquelyn Powers, MD

Dr. Powers is an assistant professor of pediatrics in the Section of Hematology/Oncology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. She received her undergraduate degree from Rice University and her MD at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, and did her pediatric residency at UT Southwestern in Dallas. Under the mentorship of Dr. George Buchanan she also completed her hematology/oncology fellowship and received a Master of Science degree in Clinical Sciences at UTSW. In 2015 she participated in the ASH Clinical Research Training Institute. Within the Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, Dr. Powers serves as the Team Lead for General Hematology and is the Founding Director the Iron Disorders and Nutritional Anemias program. Her research focuses on children and adolescents with iron disorders, specifically iron deficiency anemia. The overall goal of her work is to identify the most successful treatment approach for children with iron deficiency anemia from both hematologic and comparative effectiveness perspectives. Her ASH Scholar Award will support the development of implementation strategies for IRONCHILD, a novel web-based intervention she developed to support families of children with iron deficiency anemia.

Idit Sagiv-Barfi, PhD

Dr. Sagiv-Barfi is an instructor at Stanford University School of Medicine where she studies novel immunotherapeutic approaches. She obtained her degree in structural and molecular biochemistry under the supervision of Prof. Alexander Levitzki at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. During her time at the Hebrew University, Dr. Sagiv-Barfi received extensive training in organic chemistry, biochemistry and immunology where she synthesized novel tyrosine kinase inhibitors and studied their effect on cancer cells and the immune system. After receiving her PhD, she and joined the laboratory of Dr. Ronald Levy at Stanford University. As a postdoctoral scientist Dr. Sagiv-Barfi’s research focuses on the development of novel immunotherapeutic approaches with an emphasis on the modulation of the tumor microenvironment in aggressive cancers. She is using the in situ vaccination technique in which the immune stimulating agents are injected directly to one tumor site in the body stimulating T cells within the tumor and causing an immune response specific against tumor antigens throughout the body. Her preclinical studies lead to ongoing clinical trials studying various combinations. The Scholar Award will enable Dr. Sagiv-Barfi research to understand the mechanism underlying resistance to in situ vaccination in aggressive tumors and develop immunotherapeutic strategies to overcome this resistance.

Akshay Sharma, MBBS

Dr. Sharma is an instructor in the Department of Bone Marrow Transplantation and Cellular Therapy at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. He graduated from medical school at Kasturba Medical College in India and then pursued a postdoctoral fellowship in tumor immunology and graft engineering under the guidance of Dr. Edmund Waller at Emory University. He completed a pediatrics residency at University of Kentucky and a pediatric hematology oncology fellowship at St. Jude. During his fellowship, he studied the genetic regulation of fetal hemoglobin in the laboratory of Dr. Mitchell Weiss. He is currently developing novel transplant and gene therapy clinical trials for patients with sickle cell disease. Dr. Sharma is honored to have been chosen to receive the ASH Scholar Award, which will provide him with critical support to establish himself as an independent investigator. The goal of his research is to advance cellular therapeutics for children with hematologic disorders.

Deborah Siegal, MD, MSc, FRCPC

Dr. Siegal is an associate professor in the Department of Medicine within the Division of Hematology at the University of Ottawa. Dr. Siegal graduated from Queen’s University School of Medicine in 2009 and completed Internal Medicine and Hematology training at McMaster University. She holds Master of Science degrees in Pharmacology (University of Toronto) and Health Research Methodology (McMaster University). Dr. Siegal’s primary research interests include improving patient outcomes after anticoagulant-related bleeding, management of anticoagulants in patients who have acute bleeding complications or require urgent surgery, understanding the factors that influence patient and physician decision-making after anticoagulant-related bleeding, and reducing red blood cell transfusion by minimizing iatrogenic blood loss for laboratory testing. Dr. Siegal has expertise in the design and conduct of pragmatic cluster randomized trials, individual patient randomized trials, mixed-methods studies, observational studies and meta-analyses. She has received peer-reviewed grant support as principal investigator from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the American Society of Hematology, CanVECTOR/Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, Ontario AFP Innovation Fund, and Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation. She has published 70 peer-reviewed articles including several in high-impact journals such as The New England Journal of Medicine, Circulation, Blood, and Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis.

Abhishek Singh, PhD

Dr. Singh is a postdoctoral research fellow at Hoxworth Blood Center and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center (CCHMC), University of Cincinnati. During his doctoral training at Central Drug Research Institute, India he studied redox mediated molecular regulation of leukemia cell proliferation/apoptosis and the functional aspect of inducible nitric oxide synthase in neutrophil differentiation and phagocytosis, and earned his PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University, India.  In 2016, he joined the laboratory of Dr. Jose A. Cancelas at the University of Cincinnati/CCHMC and carried research to understand the biology of bone marrow (BM) hematopoiesis during steady state and stress conditions. Dr. Singh’s recent work has demonstrated that following total body irradiation and hematopoietic stem and progenitors (HSPC) transplantation, transplanted HSPC transfer part of their mitochondria to the irradiated host stromal cells, which in turn improves the metabolic recovery of recipient BM stromal cells and niche dependent hematopoietic reconstitution. This specialized mitochondrial transfer is cell contact dependent and depends on the expression of the gap junction protein, Connexin 43 on the hematopoietic progenitors. Currently, he is studying the role of Connexin 43 in mitochondrial dynamics and fate with the goal to preserve HSC activity in ex vivo gene therapy approaches. Dr. Singh is honored for the opportunity provided by ASH Scholar award to conduct a project that will illuminate the molecular mechanisms controlling mitochondrial dynamics in bone marrow regeneration.

Amanda Smith, PhD

Dr. Smith is currently an instructor performing experiments with a focus on cancer predisposition syndromes and AML pathogenesis. She has a broad understanding of human bioscience obtained during her undergraduate program from the University of Newcastle, Australia. During her PhD and postdoctoral work, she has become focused on the mechanisms by which hematopoiesis becomes dysregulated during transformation to AML and the way initiating mutations create a pre-leukemic state. Her research also has a focus on cancer predisposition syndromes driven by germline mutations in known cancer genes including DNMT3A, DNMT1, and WAC. Dr. Smith utilizes cell lines, murine models, and patient samples to understand the mechanisms by which these genes drive transformation, particularly towards myeloid malignancies. To date, her research has led to seven peer reviewed publications and one book chapter. Dr. Smith is currently continuing training under the mentorship of Dr. Tim Ley at Washington University in St Louis and plans to pursue a transition to independence in the next two years. The receipt of the ASH Fellow to Faculty award will be instrumental in assisting Dr. Smith to generate data towards a publication as well as preliminary data to be included in an independence award application in the future.

Alexandra Soukup, PhD

Dr. Soukup is a postdoctoral research fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Emery Bresnick at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She obtained her BS in genetics and microbiology in 2008, followed by her PhD in 2014 under the supervision of Dr. Nancy Keller. Her graduate research focused on employing chromatin based regulatory mechanisms in the fungus Aspergillus in order to identify and purify known and previously undiscovered natural products. This mechanism was leveraged into early translational postdoctoral research with the goal of improving production of clinically or agriculturally relevant compounds. Her current research furthers these translational applications by modeling regulatory mechanisms governing developmental and regenerative hematopoiesis and earned her a Career Development Program Special Fellow award from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in 2019. She discovered introduction of a single-nucleotide human disease mutation within the conserved +9.5 enhancer of the gene encoding the transcription factor GATA2 disrupts an Ets motif and attenuates hematopoietic regeneration. She is currently leveraging this and other predisposition models to investigate triggers of bone marrow failure and leukemogenesis in systems poised for hematopoietic collapse. Dr. Soukup is delighted and honored to have been selected as a recipient of the ASH Scholar Award.

Erica Sparkenbaugh, PhD

Dr. Sparkenbaugh is an assistant professor at UNC Chapel Hill in the Blood Research Center, where she studies the role of coagulation in sickle cell disease (SCD). She obtained her doctoral degree in pharmacology and toxicology from Michigan State University, where she gained extensive training in evaluating mechanisms of cell death, inflammation, organ injury, and coagulation in animal models. In 2012, she joined the laboratory of Dr. Rafal Pawlinski at UNC for her postdoctoral research investigating the role of coagulation in SCD. Her studies revealed that tissue factor (TF), factor X (FX) and thrombin contribute to inflammation in mouse models of SCD. She has also been investigating the contact activation pathway in SCD, and recently discovered that high molecular weight kininogen contributes to inflammation, nephropathy, and early mortality in sickle mice. Most recently, Dr. Sparkenbaugh found that the TF-FXa-thrombin pathway contributes to microvascular stasis in sickle mice, likely via thrombin-dependent activation of protease activated receptor-1 (PAR-1). For her Scholar Award project, she will explore the effects of beneficial PAR-1 activation by activated protein C on the complications of SCD. Dr. Sparkenbaugh is grateful for the support provided by the ASH Scholar Award as she transitions to an independent research career.

Anastasia Tikhonova, PhD

Dr. Anastasia Tikhonova completed her dissertation research in the laboratory of Dr. Alfred Singer at the National Cancer Institute, as part of the National Institutes of Health–University of Pennsylvania Graduate Partnership in Immunology (2007-2011). There, she became interested in how microenvironmental factors dictate cell fate choices. Dr. Tikhonova continued her training in the laboratory of Dr. Iannis Aifantis (New York University Medical School), where she identified niche factors that govern hematopoietic stem cell differentiation and leukemia progression (2012-2019). In 2020 Dr. Tikhonova joined Princess Margaret Cancer Centre as a Scientist and is an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto.

Ly Vu, PhD

Dr. Vu, PhD is an assistant professor at the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Simon Fraser University as well as a Scientist at British Columbia Cancer Research Centre, Vancouver, Canada. Dr. Vu earned an bachelor’s degree from Vietnam National University. She received her PhD from Gerstner Sloan Kettering Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences as a Vietnam Education Foundation graduate fellow and underwent post-doctoral training at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Vu has led several studies uncovering critical roles of RNA binding proteins and RNA modifications in pathogenesis of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Her laboratory aims to understand the control of stem cells with the focus on novel mechanisms of post-transcriptional and translational regulation during normal and malignant hematopoiesis. In exploring these largely uncharted areas, the ultimate goal of her lab is to develop innovative therapeutic approaches to improve outcomes in AML patients. Dr. Vu received several prestigious awards from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, National Cancer Institute NIH Pathway to Independence Award K99, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, as well as generous funding from Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, John R. Evans Leaders Fund-Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Canada Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Julia Warren, MD, PhD

Dr. Warren is a fellow in pediatric hematology/oncology at Washington University in St. Louis where her research focuses on understanding the genetics and molecular mechanisms of severe congenital neutropenia under the mentorship of Dr. Daniel Link. After completing undergraduate studies at the University of Chicago, Dr. Warren joined the MD/PhD (MSTP) program at Washington University where she completed her PhD in Immunology studying osteoclast cytokine receptor signaling with her thesis advisor Dr. Steven Teitelbaum. She then completed her internship and residency at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, pursuing the accelerated research pathway as part of the selective Oliver Langenberg Physician Scientist Training Program. Her work in the Link lab has focused on using exome sequencing to identify new genetic causes of SCN, and preliminary work has identified heterozygous variants in the mitochondrial protein caseinolytic peptidase B (CLPB). In cellular models using primary human cells and cell lines, Dr. Warren has demonstrated an increase in neutrophil progenitor cell apoptosis and evidence of mitochondrial dysfunction.  Future studies are aimed at identifying the mechanism underlying this mitochondrial dysfunction, and at understanding the relatively selective defect in granulopoiesis in contrast with patients who have extra-hematopoietic findings in the presence of biallelic CLPB variants.

Lena Winestone, MD

Dr. Winestone is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics in the Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Blood & Marrow Transplant at the 
of California San Francisco. She earned her MD from the Stanford University School of Medicine and went on to complete her residency in pediatrics at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. She then completed her fellowship in pediatric hematology/oncology at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  She also obtained a Master’s in Health Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. She carried out her postdoctoral research in the clinical epidemiology research group of Dr. Richard Aplenc and her work focused on disparities in initial presentation with pediatric acute myeloid leukemia. Dr. Winestone’s research agenda continues to focus understanding the mechanisms underlying racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in access and outcomes for pediatric oncology patients. Her work has been presented in several oral presentations at the ASH annual meetings. Dr. Winestone participated in the ASH Clinical Research Training Program in 2016. The research on access to care within pediatric leukemia that the ASH Scholar Award is supporting stemmed from the mentorship she received during CRTI. Her mixed methods approach involves interviewing patients’ families, gathering quantitative survey and geographic data related to barriers to care, and multilevel modeling of the contribution of SES to access to care. Her long-term goal is to ameliorate existing cancer disparities and promote health equity across the populations we care for.  In addition to her research endeavors, Dr. Winestone attends on the blood and marrow transplant service at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.

Andrew Yee, PhD

Dr. Yee is an assistant professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine.  He received his PhD in chemical engineering from Rice University where he studied endothelial responses to mechanical forces in the laboratory of Dr. Larry McIntire. He then joined the laboratory of Dr. David Ginsburg at the University of Michigan as a postdoctoral fellow where he investigated the relationship between von Willebrand factor (VWF) and coagulation factor VIII (FVIII). Dr. Yee and his colleagues identified a minimal VWF fragment that stabilized circulating FVIII in the setting of complete VWF deficiency and located the primary interface between VWF and FVIII with an initial structure of the complex. With the ASH Scholar award, Dr. Yee continues to investigate VWF biology using molecular approaches to determine the mechanisms by which intrinsic and extrinsic dysregulations of VWF may disrupt hemostasis.

Seongseok Yun, MD, PhD

Dr. Seongseok Yun, MD, PhD, is an assistant member in the Department of Malignant Hematology at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Florida. He earned his MD from Seoul National University, College of Medicine in South Korea and his PhD from Mayo Graduate School, College of Medicine in Minnesota under the mentorship of Dr. Scott Kaufmann. He completed clinical training in hematology and medical oncology at Moffitt. During his fellowship, he joined the lab of Dr. John Cleveland where he investigated the molecular circuits that contribute to the development and maintenance of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). His work involved characterizing the role of MYC-directed suppression of Transcription Factor EB (TFEB), which he identified as a tumor suppressor in acute myeloid leukemia. Dr. Yun’s laboratory focuses on identifying the pathways that contribute to the development, maintenance, drug induced cytotoxicity, and resistance in acute leukemias. During his fellowship he has received several prestigious awards including ASH Research Training Award for Fellows and the National Institutes of Health K08 award.  Dr. Yun is honored to receive the ASH Scholar Award which will support his continued studies in acute leukemias.

Patricia Zerra, MD

Dr. Zerra is an assistant professor in Pathology at Emory University in Atlanta, where her research focuses on identifying the initiating immune events in the response to blood-borne antigens. She completed her undergraduate studies at Connecticut College and received her MD from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. After completing pediatrics residency at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital, Dr. Zerra went on to specialize in both pediatric hematology/oncology and transfusion medicine with these fellowships completed at Emory University/Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Dr. Zerra’s initial research, under the mentorship of Drs. Sean Stowell and Shannon Meeks, focused on the immune response to Factor VIII as well as red blood cell antigens in an effort to identify initiating immune events to serve as therapeutic targets for antibody prevention. Through this work, she has identified marginal zone B cells as a unique immune population necessary for antibody formation against these two blood-borne antigens. As she establishes herself as an independent physician-scientist with the help of the ASH Scholar Award, Dr. Zerra is excited to focus her studies on the role of inflammatory immune pathways and their influence on marginal zone B cells in Factor VIII inhibitor formation.

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