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. (Learn more about the ASH Scholar Award program.)
Each year ASH News Daily profiles the prestigious group of newly minted award winners, and this year, we invited current and past awardees to do a deeper dive with us and share some insight into what it is like to receive a Scholar Award, plus some sage advice from them to future applicants. First up is Esther Obeng, MD, PhD, from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Dr. Obeng is an assistant member in the Division of Molecular Oncology at St. Jude and an attending physician on the Bone Marrow Transplant Service. She received her BS in biology and her PhD in microbiology and immunology (dissertation supervisor, Lawrence Boise, PhD) from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. She received her MD from the University of Miami School of Medicine and completed a pediatrics residency at Boston Children’s Hospital/Boston Medical Center, and a pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Boston Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Obeng conducted her postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Benjamin Ebert, MD, PhD, investigating the role of splicing factor mutations in the pathogenesis of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). She developed and characterized the first in vivo model of mutations in the splicing factor SF3B1, the most commonly mutated gene in MDS. She demonstrated that SF3B1 mutations were sufficient to cause MDS, that mutant SF3B1 had novel aberrant splicing activity, and that SF3B1-mutant cells were selectively sensitive to the spliceosome modulator E7107. The Obeng laboratory is focused on determining how SF3B1 mutations transform normal stem cells into preleukemic cells and on identifying novel synthetic lethal pathways in SF3B1-mutant cells.
Tell us a bit about how the Scholar Awards will help further your work.
Although mutations in genes involved in RNA splicing are the most common genetic abnormalities identified in individuals with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a more complete understanding of the mechanisms by which these mutations lead to myeloid diseases is critical for the development of better therapies for MDS. SF3B1 is the most commonly mutated splicing factor in MDS. Support from an ASH Scholar Award will help me to establish a platform to evaluate the role of SF3B1 mutations in MDS pathogenesis using patient samples, human cell lines, and animal models. Specifically, this award will help support personnel in my laboratory, next-generation sequencing, and functional genomics experiments. We will use these tools to develop and test novel therapeutic strategies and increase our knowledge of the role of SF3B1 in normal and malignant hematopoiesis.
What is one area of current hematologic research that excites you most at this time?
I’m most excited about the translational opportunities in hematology research at this time. Now more than ever, we are able to take basic findings and translate them into novel therapies and develop a greater understanding of disease biology. Less than 10 years ago, unbiased sequencing studies led to the identification of RNA splicing factor mutations as an early, and common event in MDS pathogenesis. Animal models were developed to specifically evaluate the effect of these mutations on hematopoiesis and for preclinical studies examining the therapeutic efficacy of agents that interfere with normal spliceosome function in MDS and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). These studies led to a phase I clinical trial of one of these spliceosome modulators, H3B-8800, that opened in 2016.
If one of your peers was considering applying for the ASH Scholar Award but was on the fence, what would you say to encourage them?
One of my ASH Scholar mentors is fond of saying “you lose out on 100% of the grants you don’t apply for.” I would remind my colleague that losing out on an ASH Scholar Award is more than simply missing out on a funding opportunity. Scholar Awards help support high-risk projects from junior investigators who are just launching their careers. Mentorship and involvement with the ASH organization are also valued and fostered by this award. From funding to attend the ASH annual meeting to regular meetings with your Scholar Award mentors, this award will help support the recipient and their career far more than the initial project they proposed.
Inhye Ahn, MD
Dr. Ahn is an assistant research clinician at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), specializing in the care of patients with B-cell malignancies, particularly chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). She earned her medical degree from Catholic University of Korea and completed residency at The Methodist Hospital, combined with laboratory research training at MD Anderson Cancer Center and a hematology and medical oncology fellowship at NIH. Dr. Ahn recognizes that despite significant advances made in the field, patients with CLL continue to have heterogeneous outcomes and frequently develop drug resistance against targeted agents. Her research focuses on genomic analysis to improve identification of high-risk CLL and development of novel treatment strategies to overcome drug resistance. Dr. Ahn’s main project during fellowship demonstrated clonal heterogeneity of ibrutinib-resistant CLL. With the ASH Scholar Award, she envisions building on her prior work by correlating genomic biomarkers of ibrutinib resistance to clinical outcomes. She was also participant of the 2015 ASH Clinical Research Training Institute, where her first clinical trial for high-risk CLL patients was designed. Dr. Ahn is honored to receive the ASH Scholar Award and grateful for the support and friendships ASH has facilitated throughout her career.
Joseph Aslan, PhD
Dr. Aslan is an assistant professor in the Knight Cardiovascular Institute and Division of Cardiology in the School of Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). Dr. Aslan began his research career at UC Berkeley, where he completed a BA in biochemistry and Molecular Biology and also worked as a research associate in labs studying mechanisms of exocytosis and ion channel regulation. As a neurobiology graduate student under the mentorship of Gary Thomas, PhD, in the Vollum Institute at OHSU, Dr. Aslan described in his PhD thesis how PI3K/Akt-mediated phosphorylation of the PACS-2 protein regulates cell death; this was also detailed in a publication in Molecular Cell. As a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Owen McCarty, PhD, in the OHSU Department of Biomedical Engineering, Dr. Aslan determined how several more novel signaling pathways regulate platelet function, and this was included in two studies published in Blood. Now, Dr. Aslan’s research group uses imaging, proteomics, and computational tools to detail how intracellular signaling systems determine platelet phenotype and function in health and several disease contexts. As an ASH Scholar, Dr. Aslan will develop studies around how therapeutic kinase inhibitors (i.e., ibrutinib) systematically perturb signaling events to alter the function of platelets and other physiologically relevant cell types.
Pavan Bachireddy, MD
Dr. Bachireddy is an instructor at Harvard Medical School and the Division of Hematologic Malignancies at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where his research focuses on studying mechanisms of coevolution between lymphoma and immune cells. He completed his undergraduate studies at Harvard University and earned his MD from the Stanford University School of Medicine. He trained in internal medicine at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital and completed his fellowship in hematology/oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. His postdoctoral work, conducted in the laboratory of Catherine J. Wu, MD, has identified genetic signatures predicting primary resistance to CTLA-4 blockade in advanced melanoma, has highlighted the reversal of T-cell exhaustion during antileukemic immune responses induced by donor lymphocyte infusions, and now seeks to investigate a novel immunotherapy in patients with aggressive indolent lymphomas. Specifically, he is leading clinical trials to investigate the safety and preliminary efficacy of combining personalized, neoantigen-targeted cancer vaccines with PD-1 blockade in untreated chronic lymphocytic leukemia and follicular lymphoma. These vaccines represent an exciting clinical application of innovative immunogenomic tools to directly impact patient care in lymphoma. Dr. Bachireddy is grateful for the opportunity provided by the ASH Scholar Award to establish his independence as a clinical investigator.
Tessa J. Barrett, PhD
Dr. Barrett is a research assistant professor at New York University School of Medicine. Her research focuses on understanding how different inflammatory disorders alter platelet activity and the platelet transcriptome. Dr. Barrett received her PhD from the University of Sydney and undertook a postdoctoral fellowship at NYU studying the contribution of myelopoiesis to diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Since 2016, she has worked with Jeffrey Berger, MD, at NYU to complement her training in preclinical models to encompass human translational studies and characterize the immune function of platelets. Her Scholar Award project will focus on understanding the genetic and molecular mechanisms that regulate platelet activity in healthy individuals, and how this is altered during disease. She will study these processes by platelet RNA-sequencing and by correlating the platelet transcriptome with platelet activity. Dr. Barrett is grateful to be the recipient of this award and anticipates that it will assist in the development of her future independent research career, and open new avenues for diagnostic and therapeutic platelet targets.
Kelly Bolton, MD, PhD
Dr. Bolton is an instructor in the Leukemia Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Bolton attended medical school at UCLA School of Medicine and completed a residency in internal medicine at Weill- Cornell Medical College-NYP. She received her MPhil in epidemiology and public health and her PhD in genetic epidemiology from the University of Cambridge. At Memorial Sloan Kettering, she is mentored by Elli Papaemmanuil, PhD. Dr. Bolton’s research focuses on the use of blood-based genomic screens for early detection of malignancies.
Sheng F. Cai, MD, PhD
Dr. Cai is an instructor of medicine on the Leukemia Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), specializing in the care of patients with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). He completed undergraduate studies at Duke University and earned MD and PhD degrees from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, where he performed his doctoral thesis work under the mentorship of Timothy Ley, MD. He completed an internal medicine residency at New York Presbyterian– Weill Cornell Medicine, followed by a medical oncology fellowship at MSKCC. During his fellowship, he studied resistance mechanisms of novel targeted epigenetic therapies with Scott Armstrong, MD, PhD, and Ross Levine, MD. His work in credentialing LSD1 inhibitors in AML mouse models revealed that cell-of-origin of leukemia initiation influences sensitivity to these agents by altering their intrinsic apoptotic priming properties. For his ASH Scholar Award project, Dr. Cai will investigate the role of p53 activity in modulating cell-of-origin–specific therapeutic responses to both chemotherapy and LSD1 inhibitors and test rational combination therapies to overcome these resistance mechanisms. Dr. Cai is honored to receive the ASH Scholar Award and is grateful to the mentors who have generously supported his career development.
Ryan Corces, PhD
Dr. Corces is an instructor at Stanford University in the Department of Pathology. He graduated from Princeton University in 2008 with a degree in molecular biology. He began his PhD in cancer biology at Stanford University in 2009, focusing on the genomic evolution of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) under the mentorship of Ravindra Majeti, MD, PhD. His doctoral work led to the identification of preleukemic hematopoietic stem cells, which serve as the reservoir for mutation acquisition in AML. He and others have demonstrated that these preleukemic hematopoietic stem cells are the evolutionary ancestors to AML, that they persist during remission, and that they may represent a novel avenue for the development of relapsed disease. Relevant to his postdoctoral work, Dr. Corces also identified stereotyped patterns of mutation acquisition in AML, whereby mutations that occur during the preleukemic phase of the disease affect genes that regulate the epigenome such as DNMT3A and TET2. For his Scholar Award project, Dr. Corces will use paired single-cell epigenomics and transcriptomics to study the alterations that accompany the acquisition of these earliest mutations in primary patient cells. Identification of these changes could hold the key to preventing the onset of AML even before it starts.
Nirav Dhanesha, PhD
Dr. Dhanesha is a research assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Iowa, where he studies the role of extracellular matrix proteins (the fibronectin extra domain A [Fn-EDA]) and integrins in the pathophysiology of stroke and thrombosis. He obtained his PhD from the Gujarat University, India, and worked as an associate research scientist at the Zydus Research Centre. During his employment at the Zydus, he received extensive training in the preclinical pharmacology and new drug discovery process. In 2014, he joined the lab of Anil Chauhan, PhD, at the University of Iowa. As a postdoctoral researcher, he became more interested in understanding how metabolic dysregulations affects hemostasis, thrombosis, and inflammation. His finding revealed that plasma Fn-EDA and mediates TLR4-dependent stroke exacerbation and thromboinflammation. He also demonstrated that endothelial cell–derived von Willebrand factor (vWF) is the major determinant that mediates vWF-dependent ischemic stroke. Currently, he is examining various mechanisms responsible for deep-vein thrombosis. His long-term professional goal is to establish and lead a research laboratory in the academic setting, with specific focus on understanding the mechanisms that contribute to the pathophysiology of thrombosis and stroke. Receipt of the ASH Scholar Award will provide protected time, training, and resources to study pathophysiology of venous thrombosis and prepare him for a successful career as an independent scientist.
Sergei Doulatov, PhD
Dr. Doulatov is an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, Hematology, and an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington. He received his BS from the University of California, Los Angeles, under the mentorship of Jeff F. Miller, PhD, and Peggy Cotter, PhD, and his PhD from the University of Toronto under the mentorship of John E. Dick, PhD, where he established the “roadmap” of human hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell populations enabling their purification and molecular characterization. He then joined the lab of George Q. Daley, MD, at the Harvard Medical School as a Helen Hay Whitney Foundation fellow, where he developed strategies to generate hematopoietic stem cells from pluripotent stem cells. His lab at the University of Washington studies human hematopoiesis in health and disease by leveraging primary human and pluripotent stem cell models. He led recent work demonstrating that reprogramming can inform clonal evolution in myeloid malignancies. The ASH Scholar Award will advance his studies on induced pluripotent stem cell models of myelodysplastic syndromes with ring sideroblasts. He is also the recipient of the prestigious National Institutes of Health K99 and New Innovator awards.
Benjamin Durham, MD
Dr. Durham is an instructor in the Department of Pathology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), specializing in the molecular diagnostics of hematologic malignancies. He completed undergraduate studies in biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and earned an MD from the University of Alabama School of Medicine. He completed residencies in anatomic and clinical pathology; clinical fellowships in hematopathology and molecular genetic pathology; and a research fellowship in genomic pathology research. He holds American Board of Pathology certifications in anatomic pathology, clinical pathology, hematopathology, and molecular genetic pathology. His research at MSKCC in the laboratory of Omar Abdel-Wahab, MD, and in collaboration with Neal Rosen, MD, PhD, involves investigating the molecular pathogenesis and functional genomics of poorly characterized hematologic malignancies driven by MAP kinase and receptor tyrosine kinase signaling focused on histiocytic neoplasms and hairy cell leukemia. For his Scholar Award project, Dr. Durham will perform comprehensive genomic profiling of diverse histiocytic neoplasms and systematically define the biochemical, biologic, and therapeutic implications of novel CSF1R alterations in these disorders. Dr. Durham is honored to have received an ASH Scholar Award, which will provide him with critical support during his transition to becoming an independent investigator.
Ann-Kathrin Eisfeld, MD
Dr. Eisfeld is an instructor in the Physician-Scientist Training Program of The Ohio State University. Under the joint mentorship of Clara D. Bloomfield, MD, FASCO, Albert de la Chapelle, MD, PhD, and more recently, Elaine Mardis, PhD, her research focuses on genomic profiling of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). She has previously led comprehensive studies to reveal associations of cytogenetic aberrations and gene mutations, as well as identified and refined prognostic implications of molecular markers. As an ASH Junior Faculty Scholar Awardee, Dr. Eisfeld’s studies are dedicated to the identification and functional characterization of novel genes involved in leukemogenesis. Specifically, she is currently investigating the role of recurrent hotspot mutations in CCND2 and their potential role as “second hit” in t(8;21) AML, and also works on longitudinal genomic and transcriptomic studies for pathway identification in inv(16) AML. Dr. Eisfeld is honored to receive this award, which will enable the dissection of crucial aspects of core-binding factor leukemogenesis and will supprt her work as a young investigator.
Craig M. Forester, MD, PhD
Dr. Forester is an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. He completed undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin and received an MD-PhD from the University of Utah, working with David Virshup, MD, studying the role of protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) in regulating the mitotic checkpoint. Following medical school, he completed residency at the Boston Combined Residency Program where he became interested in pediatric marrow failure working with Inga Hofmann, MD, on a retrospective study of clonal hematopoiesis in pediatric aplastic anemia. During his fellowship in pediatric hematology/ oncology at University of California, San Francisco, he studied the role of translational control on early hematopoiesis with Davide Ruggero, PhD. This work demonstrated that eIF4E targets specific mRNA for translation in early erythroid phases by recognition of conserved CT-rich motifs encoded in their 5′UTR. He also developed OPP-ID with Al Burlingame as a tool to quantitatively identify nascent proteomic responses to cellular stimuli. His ASH Scholar Award work will focus on how RNA structural elements are recognized by translational machinery to guide gene expression in early hematopoiesis. Dr. Forester is honored by this award and the critical support it provides to further insight into how hematopoietic cells respond to their environment.
Jonathan Hoggatt, PhD
Dr. Hoggatt is assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and holds appointments at both the Center for Cancer Research and the Center for Transplantation Sciences of Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Hoggatt is also a principal faculty member of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and an affiliate faculty member of the Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology Department at Harvard University. He trained with Louis Pelus, PhD, at Indiana University School of Medicine, where his graduate thesis was awarded the Esther L. Kinsley Award, the highest honor bestowed by the University across all disciplines. His postdoctoral training was with David Scadden, MD, at Harvard University. Dr. Hoggatt’s research interests focus on translational science in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. These studies have led to several clinical trials in stem cell mobilization and bone marrow transplantation, licensed patents, and numerous publications in the field. In addition to being an ASH Scholar, Dr. Hoggatt was a former Contributing Editor for The Hematologist, was an inaugural member of the ASH Advocacy Leadership Institute, is an ASH spokesperson on gene therapy, and currently serves on the ASH Government Affairs and Communications Committees.
Christian Hurtz, PhD
Dr. Hurtz is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). His overall research goal is to characterize signaling abnormalities in high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that drive leukemogenesis and to identify molecules required for leukemia cell survival that can be targeted therapeutically. Dr. Hurtz obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Duesseldorf and his PhD from the University of Freiburg, Germany. During his graduate education, Dr. Hurtz worked under the mentorship of Markus Müschen, MD, PhD, at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and University of California, San Francisco, where he studied mechanisms of drug resistance and identified novel druggable targets in acute leukemias. He then joined the laboratory of Martin Carroll, MD, at UPenn and was comentored by Sarah Tasian, MD, at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. His ASH Scholar Award research project focuses on identifying mechanisms of signaling activation in Philadelphia chromosome–positive (Ph-like) ALL. His studies demonstrate that Ph-like ALL is remarkably adaptive to targeted pharmacologic inhibition and that genetic deletion of activated signaling pathways also results in rapid rewiring and cell survival. Results from Dr. Hurtz’s research will continue to inform development of novel treatment strategies for patients with high-risk ALL.
Meixiao Long, MD
Dr. Long is an assistant professor in hematology/oncology at The Ohio State University. His research focus has been on developing novel therapeutics that will boost the patient’s immune system to naturally fight disease. He received his clinical medical training at the China Medical University, followed by a doctorate in biomedical sciences from the University of Connecticut, where he studied the immune tolerance of T cells, under the direction of Adam Adler, PhD. Later he completed additional training in immunology at Yale and Columbia University with Sankar Ghosh, PhD, studying the regulation of NF-kB signaling pathway and regulatory T-cell development. He did his internal medicine residency at the University of Texas and fellowship training in hematology/oncology at The Ohio State University. Dr. Long has been involved in several long-term research projects, with the latest at Ohio State under the direction of John Byrd, MD. Their focus is the immune modulatory effects of small molecule kinase inhibitors and their potential for immunotherapy. Their initial work on ibrutinib’s immunomodulatory effect have been submitted to the Journal of Clinical Investigation. For leukemia and potentially other types of cancers, the greatest impact comes from integrating therapeutics targeting pathways of dependence with reversal of immune tolerance to facilitate long-term remissions or cures.
Silvia Marino, PhD
Dr. Marino is an assistant research professor in hematology/oncology at Indiana University School of Medicine, where she studies the molecular mechanisms responsible for multiple myeloma (MM) disease progression and osteoblast suppression. She obtained her degree in pharmacy at University of Turin. During her graduate studies in experimental medicine at the Universities of Turin and Edinburgh (UK) she gained a strong background in drug screening, bone biology, and cancer-associated bone diseases. To pursue her research interest in cancer/bone pharmacology she moved to the United States to join the laboratory directed by G. David Roodman MD, PhD, at Indiana University. She is currently investigating the role of p62 as druggable target for MM bone disease. Her preliminary findings indicate that targeting p62 as a modulator of tumor growth and osteoblast function may be valuable for developing therapeutics that decrease tumor burden, overcome drug resistance, and heal osteolytic lesions, which occur in 80 percent of patients with MM. The ASH Scholar Award will enable her to identify and develop novel mechanism–based therapeutic agents for the treatment of MM-associated bone disease. Moreover, as no drugs that safely or routinely repair bone in MM are currently approved, her findings will have a major impact on quality of life and survival for patients with MM.
Victoria L. Mascetti, PhD
Dr. Mascetti is a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford University, where she specializes in stem cell and developmental biology. Dr. Mascetti completed her PhD at University of Cambridge, UK as a British Heart Foundation scholar. Her graduate research explored the molecular regulation of human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC) maintenance and differentiation, with a focus on the generation of clinically relevant progenitors in the mesodermal lineage. Her PhD studies culminated in the pivotal report of human-mouse interspecies chimera formation using donor hPSCs. Dr. Mascetti received prestigious Young Investigator Awards from the International Academy of Cardiovascular Science (2015), the British Society for Cardiovascular Research (2016), and the International Society for Heart Research (2016). In 2016, she joined the laboratory of Irving Weissman, MD, at Stanford University to pursue studies on the origin and biology of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) as they undergo critical transitions during embryonic development. These studies address gaps in the understanding of the maturation steps in HSC development and will have direct implications on hematologists’ ability to produce functional HSCs from hPSCs. Dr. Mascetti is honored to have received the ASH Scholar Award, which will enable her to characterize the HSC biology underpinning the development of improved HSC-based therapies.
Julia Maxson, PhD
Dr. Maxson is an assistant professor at the Knight Cancer Institute, where she studies the genomics and cell biology of myeloid malignancies. As an undergraduate at Scripps College, she identified a novel histone deacetylase in Tetrahymena. She completed her PhD in cell biology, with a focus on the intracellular trafficking and cleavage of hemochromatosis-associated proteins. As a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratories of Jeff Tyner, PhD, and Brian Druker, MD, she integrated genomic and functional screening data to identify novel therapeutic targets. Notably, she identified mutations in CSF3R in the vast majority of patients with chronic neutrophilic leukemia (CNL). She discovered that these mutations confer sensitivity to JAK inhibitors, which resulted in an ongoing clinical trial for patients with CNL. Dr. Maxson then transitioned to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to complete the mentored portion of her K99, and then returned to the Knight Cancer Institute to start her own laboratory in 2016. Her goal is to understand how genomic changes manifest at the cellular level to promote cancer formation and progression. Her ASH Scholar Award proposal focuses on understanding the way in which co-occuring mutations in epigenetic regulatory proteins modulate the biology and therapeutic vulnerability of CSF3R-driven CNL.
Ryan Morin, PhD, BSc, MSc
Dr. Morin is an associate professor at Simon Fraser University (SFU) and a senior scientist at BC Cancer. For more than a decade, he has been using genomic methods to research the genetic nature of lymphoid cancers. During his doctoral training at the University of British Columbia (and BC Cancer), he pioneered the use of transcriptome and whole-genome sequencing to identify driver mutations in non-Hodgkin lymphomas. In the course of his training, he published a series of articles describing some of the most common genetic features of diffuse large B-cell (DLBCL) and follicular lymphomas including EZH2, KMT2D, CREBBP, and MEF2B. Following his transition to an independent position at SFU, Dr. Morin has continued to identify genetic features of these and other aggressive lymphomas, including noncoding (silent) regulatory drivers of cancer. His team continues to explore the genetics of relapsed and refractory DLBCL, with the ultimate goal of identifying novel biomarkers that predict treatment failure on specific therapies. This work has helped to refine hematologists’ understanding of genetic and gene expression differences that predict poor outcome in DLBCL. Research funds provided by the ASH Scholar Award will facilitate further genetic and functional characterization of two novel biomarkers he has identified thus far.
Russell Ryan, MD
Dr. Ryan is an assistant professor of pathology at the University of Michigan Medical School, specializing in the clinical diagnosis and classification of hematologic malignancies. He obtained his MD at the Yale University School of Medicine before training in anatomic pathology and hematopathology at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). He then completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in the laboratory of Bradley Bernstein, MD, PhD, at MGH and the Broad Institute. Dr. Ryan’s work in the Bernstein Lab focused on mechanisms of enhancer-dependent transcriptional regulation in B-cell malignancies, showing that distal enhancer activity in the loci of major oncogenes such as MYC are highly divergent between different subtypes of mature B-cell lymphoma. He identified aberrant Notch signaling as a direct activator of essential MYC enhancers in mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) and defined a set of direct Notch-regulated target genes in MCL and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Ongoing work in Dr. Ryan’s laboratory at the University of Michigan utilizes high-throughput CRISPR-based methods to identify essential elements within complex enhancer regions. A major goal is to link these elements to therapeutically targetable regulatory factors. Dr. Ryan is grateful for the support of the ASH Scholar Award program.
Sarah Sartain, MD
Dr. Sartain is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, specializing in the treatment of pediatric bleeding and clotting disorders. She obtained a BS from Emory University and an MD from Tulane University School of Medicine. She completed her pediatric residency at the Boston Combined Residency Program, followed by a pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine. During fellowship, she studied the role of the alternative complement pathway (AP) in the pathogenesis of thrombotic microangiopathy under the mentorship of Joel L. Moake, MD. She found that the inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor regulates essential AP components in microvascular endothelial cells, providing an explanation for the occurrences of clinical episodes of thrombotic microangiopathy during inflammation. She continues to have an interest in the interactions between the AP, von Willebrand factor, and inflammation in the pathophysiology of endothelial dysfunction in thrombotic microangiopathy. For her ASH Scholar Award project, Dr. Sartain will study the mechanisms of endothelial injury and investigate therapeutic modalities in her mouse model of complement-mediated thrombotic microangiopathy. Dr. Sartain is honored to receive this award, which will provide her financial and mentorship support to guide her in establishing an independent research career.
Sol Schulman, MD, PhD
Dr. Schulman is an instructor in the Divisions of Hemostasis/Thrombosis and Hematology/Oncology at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Harvard Medical School. After receiving BS and MS degrees in biochemistry from Brandeis University, he earned his MD and PhD in the joint Harvard/ MIT training program. Dr. Schulman’s thesis research in the laboratory of Tom Rapoport, PhD, provided important new insights into human vitamin K metabolism and the mechanisms of warfarin resistance, convincing him to pursue a career in hematology. He subsequently completed internal medicine residency training at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, prior to fellowship training in hematology/oncology at BIDMC, where he benefitted from the committed research mentorship of Bruce Furie, MD and Dr. Robert Flaumenhaft, MD, PhD. Dr. Schulman’s clinical practice and research are focused on disorders of hemostasis and thrombosis. His research integrates human genetics, functional genomics, and protein biochemistry to identify new mechanisms regulating tissue factor–dependent initiation of blood coagulation. Dr. Schulman is humbled and honored to be selected for the ASH Scholar Award, which will give him the freedom and support required to establish an innovative independent research program.
Nicholas Short, MD
Dr. Short is an assistant professor in the Department of Leukemia at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He earned his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine and then completed an internal medicine residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, followed by hematology/oncology fellowship at MD Anderson. Dr. Short is a clinical and translational investigator in adult leukemias, with a research emphasis on developing new tools to detect measurable residual disease and designing phase I and II clinical trials of novel agents and combinations in acute myeloid leukemia and acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Dr. Short is first author on more than 25 peer-reviewed manuscripts and has received numerous prestigious awards and grants to support his leukemia research, including the ASCO Young Investigator Award, the Leukemia SPORE Career Enhancement Award, and the K12 Paul Calabresi Career Development Award. The ASH Scholar Award will support his work on a phase I/II clinical trial of the combination of azacitidine, venetoclax, and the first-in-class protein neddylation inhibitor pevonedistat in adults with newly diagnosed secondary- or therapy-related acute myeloid leukemia who are unfit for intensive chemotherapy.
Moritz Stolla, MD
Dr. Stolla’s background encompasses platelet biology, transfusion medicine, and thrombosis/hemostasis. He completed his medical school training at the University of Munich in Germany and finished his doctoral thesis magna cum laude in the Department of Experimental Cardiology at the Technical University in Munich. After an internship in internal medicine at the Klinikum Rechts der Isar, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Wolfgang Bergmeier, PhD, at the Cardeza Foundation at Jefferson University in Philadelphia. He then started his residency in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Rochester, followed by a fellowship in the Harvard Joint Program for Transfusion Medicine in Boston. Since September 2006 he has run an independent research program and is an assistant member at the Bloodworks Northwest Research Institute, director of the Platelet Transfusion Research Laboratory, and associate medical director at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. His academic appointment is in the Department of Medicine/Hematology at the University of Washington. One of his areas of interest is to improve storage of cold (4ºC) platelets to maintain viability and function.
Anthony Sung, MD
Dr. Sung is an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Hematologic Malignancies and Cellular Therapy, at Duke University School of Medicine, and an associate director of the Duke Microbiome Center. As a hematopoietic stem cell transplant physician, his translational research program focuses on reducing transplant-related complications such as graft-versushost disease, infectious complications, and gastrointestinal toxicity. At the confluence of these complications is the relationship between the immune system and the microbiota — the bacteria inhabiting the skin, gut, and other body surfaces. His studies on home-based transplantation evaluate the hypothesis that allowing patients to stay at home preserves the health of their microbiota, preventing the development of graftversus- host disease and other complications. While this clinical trial is funded by the National Cancer Institute, the ASH Scholar Award provides support to analyze stool and peripheral blood samples from patients cared for at home versus the hospital to evaluate the impact of the care environment on the microbiota, fecal bacterial metabolites and metabolomics, and systemic inflammation and immune function. Dr. Sung’s other research includes murine, phase I, and phase II clinical trials of prebiotics, medications, exercise, and mobile health applications to improve transplant outcomes, particularly in older adults.
Elisa ten Hacken, PhD
Dr. ten Hacken is an instructor in the laboratory of Catherine J. Wu, MD, at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, where she is involved in the development and characterization of novel mouse models of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dr. ten Hacken received her PhD in cancer biology from Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan in 2014, under the supervision of Federico Caligaris-Cappio, MD. Dr. ten Hacken performed the latter part of her PhD studies in the laboratory of Jan Burger, MD, PhD, at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and continued in the Burger Lab as a postdoctoral fellow for two years. Throughout her graduate and early postgraduate studies, Dr. ten Hacken’s work centered on CLL biology, with a focus on B-cell receptor signaling and microenvironmental interactions. In 2016, Elisa was selected to participate in the ASHEHA Translational Research Training in Hematology (TRTH) program, and soon thereafter, Dr. ten Hacken joined the laboratory of Catherine J. Wu, MD, for a second postdoctoral fellowship. She is now developing CRISPR-based disease models of CLL, recapitulating the genetic heterogeneity of human disease, with the aim of deciphering the functional relevance of putative disease drivers and their relative contribution to leukemia development in vivo. Dr. ten Hacken is honored to be a recipient of an ASH Scholar Award, which will provide her with critical support in her transition to an independent position.
Ji Zhang, PhD
Dr. Zhang is an assistant professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine. He completed his graduate research at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and then joined the lab of Craig Thompson, MD, at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to study tumor cell metabolism as a postdoc fellow. During his postdoc training, Dr. Zhang discovered a critical role of asparagine, a nonessential amino acid, in mediating tumor cell adaptation to glutamine starvation, a situation frequently observed in the tumor microenvironment under pathophysiological conditions. After starting his own lab at Indiana University in 2017, Dr. Zhang focused his research efforts on understanding the role of nonessential amino acid metabolism in lymphoid malignancies. His recent work, in collaboration with Dr. Thompson’s lab, demonstrated a critical role of maintaining intracellular asparagine as a means to adapt to glutamine limitation. As mammalian cells lose their capacity to catabolize asparagine during evolution, Dr. Zhang’s research rejuvenates the idea of restricting asparagine availability to treat blood cancers. During his ASH Scholar Award period, Dr. Zhang will explore the reciprocal regulation between nonessential amino acid metabolism and oncogenic signals in acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Dr. Zhang is grateful for this support as he establishes his career as an independent investigator.
Ze Zheng, MBBS, PhD
Dr. Zheng is an associate research scientist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. She received her MBBS in clinical medicine from Jiamusi University in China and her PhD in molecular biology and genetics of liver metabolism from Wayne State University in Detroit. Dr. Zheng studies the role of reduced hepatocyte- derived fibrinolytic activity in obesity-associated thrombosis. She serves on the ASH Trainee Council and speaks about both PhD trainee career development and research in hemostasis and thrombosis. She is interested in pursuing a career in thrombosis-related translational research.