PRESS RELEASE: Inaugural Pershing Square Sohn Prize Awarded to Six Young Scientists in New York City to Further Innovative Cancer Research

Prize forms part of $25M Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance

The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance today announced the winners of the inaugural Pershing Square Sohn Prize for Young Investigators in Cancer Research. Awarded to six New York City-based scientists at the Sohn Investment Conference, the Prize winners will each receive $200,000 per year for up to three years to enable them to pursue cutting-edge research at a stage when traditional funding is lacking.

The Prize is the first initiative of the $25 million alliance formed by The Pershing Square Foundation and The Sohn Conference Foundation in October 2013 to help bridge the gap between academia and the business community.

With this philanthropic capital, Prize winners will be able to undertake innovative and high-risk research projects. See below for information about the 2014 cohort and the focus of their research; additional details about the Prize winners can be found on the PSSCRA website at

  • Emily Bernstein, Ph.D., Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai: Dr. Bernstein’s research focuses on investigating the role of epigenetic factors involved in melanoma drug resistance by using a first-of-its kind high-throughput loss-of-function study to interrogate targetable chromatin factors that mediate drug resistance.
  • Adolfo Ferrando, M.D., Ph.D., Columbia University Medical Center: Dr. Ferrando’s research focuses on analyzing the genetics of human leukemia by using new tools to analyze the function of critical as yet un-annotated genomic sequences (‘dark matter”), opening new venues for the development of targeted therapies in human cancers.
  • Ross Levine, M.D., Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Dr. Levine’s research focuses on assessing how mutations in specific epigenetic proteins contribute to human cancer and to probe these mutated cancers for specific vulnerabilities that can be attached with novel drugs.
  • Agata Smogorzewska, M.D., Ph.D., The Rockefeller University: Using the genetic disease called Fanconi anemia, Dr. Smogorzewska’s research focuses on studying the inability of the DNA to repair and its contribution to cancer development.
  • Lloyd Trotman, Ph.D., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory: Dr. Trotman’s research focuses on the evolution of cancer genomes as cells metastasize through the body or resist therapy.
  • Sihong Wang, Ph.D., CUNY City College: Dr. Wang’s research focuses on creating an in vitro 3D human tumor model using patients own biopsy samples to search for the most effective drug(s) for individuals as reasonable throughput.

“We are delighted to be able to announce such an outstanding group of Prize winners today,” said Bill Ackman, co-founder of The Pershing Square Foundation and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, L.P. “Cancer affects virtually every family. With this Prize, we are attempting to fill an important gap in the market – providing opportunities to brilliant young scientists that are at a very productive stage of their careers, but who often struggle to secure the grants from established sources to continue with their work. We thank them for applying for the Prize and look forward to watching their progress in the years ahead.”

“The Sohn Conference Foundation is a longtime supporter of innovate cancer research in New York City. We are proud to join with The Pershing Square Foundation in this groundbreaking Alliance to support the brightest young minds doing the most exciting work in cancer research. We are looking forward to great things from this group of scientists as we help position them to make their big, bold ideas reality,” said Evan Sohn, vice president of the Sohn Conference Foundation.

Originally committed by Bill Ackman at a Sohn Investment Conference and announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in October 2013, The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Prize will serve as a catalyst for collaboration among scientists, academics, nonprofits, business investors, and the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. The program seeks to guide philanthropic funds to feed critical scientific discoveries, attracting like-minded investors to the cause of fighting cancer and creating a pipeline for early-stage biomedical investments.

Olivia Tournay Flatto, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance said, “Effective cancer research needs constant innovation, calculated risk taking and a close relationship with the pharmaceutical and business communities. With this prize, we are trying to combine the three. We’re encouraging young scientists to continue their groundbreaking research, while introducing them to mentors in the pharmaceutical and business communities in New York City that will help them in the months and years ahead.”

“As an increasingly sophisticated science hub, New York City has a number of leading medical schools and research facilities and we therefore expected a high quality of applicants,” said Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Ph.D., President of The Rockefeller University and member of the Pershing Square Sohn Prize Advisory Board. He added, “However, these applicants exceeded our hopes and the eventual winners have developed extremely encouraging plans for their research. We look forward to working with them.”

As part of the selection process, the Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance relied on the guidance of a highly accomplished advisory board that reflects the culture of collaboration the Alliance wanted to implement. Prize Advisory Board members included Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Ph.D., President, Rockefeller University; Craig Thompson, M.D., President and CEO, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Bruce Stillman, Ph.D., President and CEO, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Oncology, Columbia University Medical Center; Mikael Dolsten, M.D., Ph.D., President, Worldwide Research and Development, Pfizer, Inc.; Allan Goodman, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Institute of International Education; Pablo Legorreta, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Royalty Pharma; and Jeanne B. Ackman, M.D., Director, Thoracic MRI and Associate Radiologist, Massachusetts General Hospital.

About The Pershing Square FoundationThe Pershing Square Foundation is a private family foundation, based in New York, founded in December 2006 by Karen and Bill Ackman. The Foundation has committed $235 million in grants and social investments to support exceptional leaders and innovative organizations that tackle important social issues and deliver scalable and sustainable impact. Bill is the CEO and portfolio manager of Pershing Square Capital Management, L.P. For more information visit:

About The Sohn Conference FoundationThe Sohn Conference Foundation is dedicated to supporting innovative initiatives to cure and treat pediatric cancer. Identifying specific areas of need, the Foundation funds groundbreaking research, state-of-the-art technology, and programs to target cures and improve patient care. For more information visit:


For The Pershing Square Foundation:

James Frayne, Rubenstein Communications
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Sophia Hitti, Rubenstein Communications
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SOURCE The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance

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