2023 News

Andrea Califano, Dr, the Clyde and Helen Wu Professor of Chemical and Systems Biology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, will lead the new Chan Zuckerberg Biohub New York in its mission to harness and engineer immune cells for the early detection and eradication of human disease.

The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub New York (CZ Biohub NY) brings together Columbia University, The Rockefeller University, and Yale University to create new technologies to characterize and bioengineer immune cells—with the ultimate goal of creating disease-specific “cellular endoscopes” that can detect early stages of disease in cells, monitor cell changes, and resolve diseases before they become untreatable.

The CZ Biohub NY is the fourth research institute in the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Network, a groundbreaking collaborative model for scientific research. The network includes the first CZ Biohub, in San Francisco, a second in Chicago, and the Chan Zuckerberg Institute for Advanced Biological Imaging in Redwood City, California. Together, the CZ Biohub Network institutions pursue science and technologies that quantify human biology in action to help researchers measure how cells and tissues function to increase our understanding of health and disease.

Read full article on the Irving Medical Center news page.

Andrea Califano, Dr, has been honored with the 26th Alfred G. Knudson Award in Cancer Genetics by the National Cancer Institute(link is external and opens in a new window) (NCI) for his exceptional contributions to the field of cancer research. Califano, a pioneer in the field of cancer genetics, is the Clyde and Helen Wu Professor of Chemical and Systems Biology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and a member of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The award is named in honor of geneticist and cancer researcher Alfred G. Knudson, MD, a 1947 graduate of the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, who helped uncover several major genetic mysteries behind cancer leading to his “two-hit” hypothesis explaining the relationship between hereditary and non-hereditary cancer. The NCI presents this prestigious award to individuals who have advanced our understanding about the genetic workings of the disease.

Read full article on the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center news page.

The Glenn Foundation Discovery Award was created to support research projects with strong potential to develop pioneering discoveries to understand the underlying biological mechanisms that govern normal human aging and its related physiological decline.

Dr. Wu’s Discovery Award is titled "Aging as a self-reinforcing feedback loop: investigate the role of noncoding translation" and aims to open new lines of research into the complex interplay between multiple hallmarks of aging. Learn more about his ongoing research at Columbia here.

Read full article on American Federation for Aging Research page and Eurek Alert! page.

Andrea Califano, Dr, the founding chair of the Department of Systems Biology, will be leaving the chair role this fall to launch an exciting new program in collaboration with multiple universities in the tri-state area. We look forward to sharing further details on this new endeavor soon. In the meantime, we are pleased to share that Harris Wang, PhD, another founding member of the department, has agreed to serve as the interim chair.

While Dr. Califano is leaving his post as chair, his lab will remain at Columbia and he will continue to be a full-time faculty member in systems biology, biochemistry & molecular biophysics, medicine, and biomedical informatics, as well as a member of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center. As Dr. Wang steps into his role as interim chair, Dr. Califano will work closely with him to ensure continuity during the leadership transition.

Dr. Wang is well respected within the department and widely acknowledged as a pioneer in the field of synthetic biology. He holds dual bachelor’s degrees in physics and applied mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a PhD in biophysics & medical engineering from Harvard University, where he served as an instructor in systems biology before joining the Columbia faculty in 2013. Dr. Wang's research focuses on advancing next-generation microbiome and cellular therapeutics using systems and synthetic biology approaches. His development of Multiplex Automated Genome Engineering (MAGE), a technique allowing rapid genome editing of microbial cells, was celebrated as a breakthrough in the field of synthetic biology in 2009. More recently, Dr. Wang has been recognized for his pioneering work in spatial mapping and precision editing of the gut microbiome and using CRISPR technologies to track and record transient cellular processes. He was named a Schaefer Research Scholar at VP&S in 2018, one of many honors he has received. He received the 2022 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) from the White House, and the NIH Director’s Early Independence award.  

Brian J. Joseph, PhD, postdoc in Chaolin Zhang and Hynek Wichterle labs, was one of the five 2023 class New York Stem Cell Foundation postdoc fellows. Dr. Joseph is working to re-engineer RNA regulatory networks to create mature brain cells from stem cells that can be used to better understand neurodegenerative diseases as well as aging.  For details see https://nyscf.org/programs/extramural-grants/fellowship-program/2023fellowshipclass/.


On Thursday, April 20, the UIC Alumni Association presented its annual Alumni Awards Ceremony honoring standout rising stars, humanitarians, distinguished service and exceptional achievement within UIC’s alumni community. Among the awards, the Alumni Achievement Award is the highest honor bestowed by UIC.

UIC=University of Illinois Chicago


Rodney Rothstein

BS ‘69, Biological Sciences

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Rodney Rothstein is an internationally recognized geneticist who studies yeast as a means to understand human diseases ranging from cancer to COVID-19. He graduated from UIC in 1969 with a major in biological sciences and obtained a PhD from the University of Chicago. He has been studying the molecular mechanisms by which naturally occurring breaks in DNA strands are mended using techniques that are fundamental to understanding how gene mutations cause disease. In 2009, Rothstein was awarded the Genetics Society of America’s Novitski Prize. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is currently a professor of genetics and development at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, where he has mentored the next generation of geneticists since 1984. Rothstein credits the faculty at UIC with providing the inspiration and confidence to pursue a career in genetics.



Columbia researchers have shined new light on how the “dark” part of the genome allows cancer cells to be detected by the immune system, which could lead to better immunotherapies.

The immune system recognizes cancer cells by the cells’ tumor-specific antigens, fragments of degraded proteins uniquely found on the surface of cancer cells. Previous studies have shown that the vast majority of tumor-specific antigens are produced from the noncoding genome, the “dark” part of the genome that scientists believed, until recently, did not code for any protein.

How tumor cells display fragments of these “dark” proteins was an open question, now answered in a new  study(link is external and opens in a new window)  published this week in Nature by  Xuebing Wu, PhD , assistant professor of medicine and systems biology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and his team.

Read  full article  on Columbia University Irving Medical Center News page.

Chemicals that accumulate in the vagina, potentially originating from personal care products, may contribute to spontaneous preterm birth, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

The study of 232 pregnant women found that a handful of non-biological chemicals previously found in cosmetics and hygiene products are strongly associated with preterm birth.

“Our findings suggest that we need to look more closely at whether common environmental exposures are in fact causing preterm births and, if so, where these exposures are coming from,” says study co-leader  Tal Korem, PhD , assistant professor in the Program for Mathematical Genomics and the Departments of Systems Biology and Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia. “The good news is that if these chemicals are to blame, it may be possible to limit these potentially harmful exposures.”

Read  full article  on Columbia University Irving Medical Center News page.