News

Three early-career scientists at VP&S—X. Shawn Liu (Physiology & Cellular Biophysics), Xuebing Wu(link is external and opens in a new window) (Medicine), and Nikhil Sharma (Molecular Pharmacology & Therapeutics)—have been selected as 2021 Paul A. Marks Scholars.

Established in 2006, the Paul A. Marks Scholars Program honors the extraordinary legacy of the late Paul A. Marks, MD’49(link is external and opens in a new window), by supporting the recruitment and retention of outstanding early career scientists with a primary tenure-track assistant professor appointment in one of the basic science departments at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. The program funds up to three scientists at $100,000 per year for a period of three years.

Marks, who died in 2020, was an internationally renowned physician-scientist and an exceptional academic leader. Marks served as VP&S dean from 1970 to 1973 and vice president for medical sciences at VP&S from 1973 to 1980 before serving as president and CEO of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center from 1980 to 1999.

Through his pioneering investigations in cancer biology and genetics, Marks helped reveal how cancer cells arise. He developed new chemotherapy and chemoprevention agents, including suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid, which transformed the treatment of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma and is currently undergoing trials to treat an array of cancers.

Read full article in the HICCC 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.