Awards and Grants×

News

Michael Shen, PhD, the Arthur J. Antenucci Professor of Medical Sciences and  professor of genetics, urology, and systems biology at Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)(link is external and opens in a new window). Dr. Shen, who also co-leads the Tumor Biology and Microenvironment research program at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC), joins four other Columbia faculty members who have been elected to the 2021 class of AAAS fellows.

Read full article on Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center News Page

 

A discussion with Andrea Califano(link is external and opens in a new window) and narrative medicine writer Rita Charon, "Aflight in ideas and visions, he and his colleagues in systems biology have been soaring toward what Califano predicts as the Golden Age of Biology. Not unlike the golden ages of physics and chemistry, when Newton and Lavoisier broke through conceptual barriers to see with new minds, this age equips biology for flight"

Read full article on Narratives of Discovery page.

December 14, 2021

New award for Chaolin Zhang

Chaolin Zhang, PhD, Associate Professor in Systems Biology will receive $2,766,392 over five years from the National Insititue of Neurological Disorders and Stroke for “RNA regulatory networks in neuronal cell type diversity and function”. This award will support Dr. Zhang to understand better post-transcriptional gene expression regulation through specific protein -RNA interactions, or RNA-regulatory networks which is critical for expanding the complexity of the mammalian nervous system with implications in an expanding list of neuronal disorders. The proposed studies will investigate alternative splicing regulation in generating the distinct molecular programs in diverse neuronal cell types of mouse cortex. Information obtained in this project will provide insights into the fundamental mechanisms that controls such diversity as well as the functional consequences in defined, clinically relevant neuronal cell types.

Chaolin Zhang, PhD, Associate Professor in Systems Biology will receive $1,200,000 over three years from The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) via the 2021 Genomics of ASD: Pathways to Genetic Therapies Initiative.  Grants funded through this Initiative are intended to leverage current knowledge about risk genes for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) into the development of new genetic therapies.  Leveraging the target discovery platform developed by the lab, Dr. Zhang’s research goal on this project focuses on restoring functional protein production using antisense oligos (ASOs) by modulating the alternative splicing as potential therapeutics. 

Read full article on Simons Foundation website.

Honoring outstanding postdoctoral scientists from academic research institutions across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, the Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences announced the three Winners and six Finalists of the 2021 Blavatnik Regional Awards for Young Scientists. 

Biologists aspire to understand every gene’s contribution to an organism’s biology and behavior. Microbiologist Wenyan Jiang has helped repurpose the CRISPR-Cas system, an immune system of many bacteria, and co-opt it to upgrade the way many scientists control and examine the genome. Jiang developed a groundbreaking tool called CRISPR Adaptation-mediated Library Manufacturing (CALM), which exploits CRISPR RNA, a type of RNA naturally found in bacteria. CALM has enabled scientists to quickly determine the causal link between genes and bacterial behaviors such as antibiotic resistance and pathogenesis and pave the way for developing new, effective antimicrobial drugs. 

Read full article on Blavatnik Award site

September 10, 2021

New award for Harris Wang

Harris Wang receives the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science for the development and application of Multiplex Automated Genome Engineering (MAGE), a new framework for manipulating DNA to produce synthetic or engineered recombinant genetic material, and for his use of CRISPR technology to track and record transient cellular processes in the human gut microbiome. Born in Beijing, China, Wang is an associate professor at Columbia University in New York.

The 2022 Vilcek Foundation Prizes in Biomedical Science are a part of the Vilcek Foundation Prizes program. In 2022, the foundation is awarding the Vilcek Foundation Prizes in Biomedical Science, the Vilcek Foundation Prizes in Dance, and the Vilcek Prize for Excellence.

See full article on Vilcek Foundation site.

September 7, 2021

New award for Tal Korem

Tal Korem, PhD, Systems Biology and Obstetrics & Gynecology, will receive $3,404,285 over five years from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for "A large scale investigation of the vaginal metagenome and metabolome and their role in spontaneous preterm birth”.
 
This award will support the efforts of the Korem lab, along with Co-Investigators Dr. Anne-Catrin Uhlemann (Department of Medicine) and Dr. Ronald Wapner (Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology), to understand the role of the vaginal microbiome in preterm birth, the leading cause of neonatal morbidity and mortality. The investigators will generate a dataset of paired vaginal microbiome and metabolome measurements from samples collected along pregnancy in a large prospective cohort. Using this data, they will seek to identify new biomarkers for early identification of preterm birth and investigate the metabolic mechanisms that potentially underly it. 

Barry Honig, PhD, Systems Biology, will receive $2,025,000 over four years from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences for “Genome-Wide Structure-Based Analysis of Protein-Protein Interactions and Networks.”

Read full article in CUIMC Newsroom.

The annual Precision Medicine Pilot Grants have been awarded to five teams of  researchers conducting innovative basic science, translational, and clinical research across multiple diseases. 

Jointly awarded by the Columbia Precision Medicine Initiative (CPMI), the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC), and the Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (Irving Institute), the Precision Medicine Pilot Grants underscore Columbia’s commitment to supporting diverse, cross-disciplinary research targeting the promise of precision medicine.

The five winning teams are being led by faculty at Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons (VP&S), including: Srilaxmi Bearelly, MD, associate  professor of ophthalmology; Brian Henick, MD, assistant professor of medicine; Chi-Min Ho, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology; Yufeng Shen, PhD, associate professor of systems biology and of biomedical informatics; and Xuebing Wu, PhD, assistant professor of systems biology and of medicine. The projects being funded are focusing on a range of research, from novel cancer therapeutics to health disparities research. 

The Vagelos Precision Medicine Pilot Grant program is made possible by a generous donation from Roy and Diana Vagelos and is intended to support groundbreaking basic research in the field of precision medicine. Each research team receives $100,000 in funding for one year. The researchers will present their projects at an annual symposium for the precision medicine awards in fall 2022.

Read full article in the HICCC Newsroom

Systems Biology will receive $3,829,859 over five years from the National Institute of Mental Health for “Discovery and Analysis of Brain Circuits and Cell Types Affected in Autism and Schizophrenia.” The project will be led by Dennis Vitkup, PhD, and Joseph Gogos, MD, PhD.

Read full article in CUIMC Newsroom.

Melissa McKenzie, PhD

Melissa McKenzie, PhD, a second-year postdoctoral research scientist in the lab of Chaolin Zhang , PhD, has been awarded a K99/R00 “Pathway to Independence” award. This honor supports her goal to identify how alternative RNA splicing networks influence cortical interneuron specification.

Dr. McKenzie graduated summa cum laude from Cornell University where she was an Irving Tanner Dean’s scholar double majoring in biological sciences and philosophy. She joined the Zhang lab with a growing interest in leveraging emerging sequencing and other genomics technologies to investigate the role of RNA transcripts in the developing brain. 

This award program is designed to facilitate a timely transition of outstanding postdoctoral researchers or clinician-scientists from mentored research positions to independent, tenure-track or equivalent faculty positions, and to provide independent NIH research support during the transition that will help these individuals launch competitive, independent research careers.

Read more about Dr. McKenzie and research by the Zhang lab

The 2021 Pershing Square Sohn Prize for Young Investigators in Cancer Research has been awarded to Xuebing Wu, PhD, for his innovative approaches to cancer research. The Pershing Square Sohn Prize is an annual award that provides early career scientists the freedom to take risks and pursue bold research at a stage when traditional funding is lacking. At Columbia University Irving Medical Center, Dr. Wu shares the designation with Christine Iok In Chio, PhD, whose work focuses on the biological mechanisms that drive pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.

With the support from the Pershing Foundation, Dr. Wu and his lab aim to develop a technology for mutation-specific elimination of tumor cells, by integrating a highly programmable CRISPR “gene-editing” system with advanced machine learning algorithms. 

Read the full article in the HICCC Newsroom. 

Tal Korem, PhD, Systems Biology and Obstetrics & Gynecology, will receive $307,136 over five years from the National Institute of Nursing Research for a subaward of “The Role of Host-Microbial Interactions in Altering Preterm Birth Risk Among Black Women.”

Read the full article in the CUIMC Newsroom.

Two Systems Biology GRAs Receive Awards

Tomasz Blazejewski has received the 2021 Dean's Award for Excellence in Research. His PhD research centered on generative models for biological sequences, a relatively new area at the interface of machine learning and biology. “I'm deeply appreciative to my advisor, Harris Wang,” says Blazejewski, “for giving me the freedom to investigate this relatively uncharted area, and to my thesis committee for its guidance as I tried to figure out the best approaches to the problem.”

Hanna Mendes Levitin has received the Titus M Coan Award for Excellence in Research. Her PhD research focused on extracting biological signals from-high dimensional data, specifically in the context of high-grade glioma, and on human tissue T cell activation. “I was surprised to receive the award,” says Levitin, “and believe it speaks to the excellence of my collaborators and mentors—especially my advisor, Dr. Peter Sims, and the entire Sims lab, as well as our collaborators, Dr. Donna Farber, Dr. Peter Canoll, and Dr. David Blei, and their respective labs.

Sagi Shapira,PhD, assistant professor of systems biology at Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons and Nicholas Tatonetti, PhD, associate professor of bioinformatics and of systems biology at VP&S, have recently been awarded a new pilot grant to support their collaboration in COVID-19 research.

Drs. Shapira and Tatonetti are one of three teams who have been awarded a COVID-19 research pilot grant from the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center. The pair will work on accurately identifying pathophysiological factors that modulate SARS-CoV-2 infection and explain variability in disease outcomes.

Read the full article here

Tal Korem, PhD
Dr. Tal Korem

Tal Korem, PhD, has been named a CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar, a fellowship that supports leading early-career researchers in science and technology. 

Dr. Korem is an assistant professor of systems biology with a joint appointment in obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons, and a faculty member of the Program for Mathematical Genomics . As a global scholar, he is joining CIFAR’s Humans and the Microbiome research program, where his work will focus on harnessing human microbial communities to identify and develop novel diagnostic and therapeutic tools.

CIFAR’s  Azrieli Global Scholars program supports its fellows through funding and mentorship, emphasizing essential network and professional skills development. The scholars join CIFAR research programs for a two-year period where they collaborate with fellows and brainstorm new approaches to pressing science and technology problems. Research topics are diverse, ranging from bio-solar energy and visual consciousness to engineered proteins and the immune system. 

Dr. Korem is one of 14 researchers out of an applicant pool of 217 selected by the Canadian-based nonprofit organization. This year’s cohort represents citizenship in eight countries and appointments in institutions from Canada, the U.S.,  Israel, Australia, the Netherlands, and Spain.

-Melanie A. Farmer

Dr. Harris Wang of Systems Biology
Dr. Harris Wang is lead PI on a new DARPA-funded project developing novel therapies to counter effects of high-dose ionizing radiation.

Harris Wang, PhD, assistant professor of systems biology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center , is leading a team of experts in radiation research, CRISPR-Cas technologies, and drug delivery on an innovative new project announced June 27 funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) . The up to $9.5M project focuses on pursuing a therapy to protect the body from the effects of high-dose ionizing radiation, and is part of DARPA's initiative to fund research into new strategies to combat public health and national security threats.

In humans, acute radiation syndrome primarily affects stem cells in the blood and gut, yet existing treatments only help to regenerate blood cells, and only with limited effect. There is no possibility for prophylactic administration of these drugs, and most must be delivered immediately following radiation exposure to provide any benefit. There are no existing medical countermeasures for radiation damage to the gut.

The Columbia team aims to develop an orally delivered programmable gene modulator therapeutic. The multimodal treatment the team envisions would take hold in both the gut and liver, triggering protection and regeneration of intestinal cells, while also inducing liver cells to produce protective cues that trigger the regeneration of blood cells in bone marrow.

Columbia investigators win Chan Zuckerberg Initiative grants to accelerate development of cellular roadmap of the human body.

In two groundbreaking research projects contributing to the Human Cell Atlas, Columbia University scientists are tasked with mapping complete cells in the immune system and the human spine. The global effort is aiming to identify and define every cell type of the human body and create a collection of maps for navigating the cellular basis of human health and disease.

Peter Sims, PhD
Peter Sims, PhD, assistant professor of systems biology

The Columbia teams, which include co-principal investigators from the Department of Systems Biology Drs. Peter Sims and Raul Rabadan , are among the 38 collaborative science teams launching the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s (CZI) Seed Networks for the Human Cell Atlas project announced today. The three-year projects, receiving a total of $68 million in award funding by Seed Networks, are collaborative groups that are bringing together expertise in science, computational biology, software engineering, and medicine to support the ongoing progress of the Human Cell Atlas .

Investigating the Immune System + Aging

Dr. Sims, part of an international team including close collaborator Dr. Donna Farber of the Department of Surgery , is combining single-cell sequencing technologies, data analysis, and immunology expertise to better understand how the immune system ages and gain new insights into how human diseases occur. 

Tuuli Lamport Research Award

Tuuli Lappalainen, PhD, was honored with the Lamport Research faculty award at the 2019 Commencement ceremony. Dr. Lappalainen is pictured here with Columbia University Trustee Andrew Barth (left) and Dean Lee Goldman of Columbia University Irving Medical Center. (Courtesy of CUIMC Communications)

Tuuli Lappalainen , PhD, assistant professor of systems biology at Columbia University and core faculty member at the New York Genome Center (NYGC) , has received the Harold and Golden Lamport Research award, presented on May 22 at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons Commencement Ceremony. 

The Lamport Research award is an annual prize given to junior faculty members that show promise in basic science or clinical science research. This year it recognizes Dr. Lappalainen’s ongoing research in functional genetic variation in human populations, and her work in elucidating the cellular mechanisms linked to genetic risk for various diseases and traits. Dr. Lappalainen and her lab combine computational analysis of high-throughput sequencing data, human population genetics approaches and experimental work. 

Her group at NYGC and Columbia is highly collaborative and has made important contributions to several international research consortia in human genomics, including the Genotype Tissue Expression (GTEx) Project and the TOPMed Consortium. 

Dr. Lappalainen joined the faculty at Columbia University in 2014 as part of the Department of Systems Biology and NYGC. In 2018, she received the annual Leena Peltonen Prize for Excellence in Human Genetics, which was presented to her in Milan, Italy, at the 52nd European Society of Human Genetics meeting. 

Pages