NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance today announced the six winners of the 2021 Pershing Square Sohn Prize for Young Investigators in Cancer Research, awarded annually to cancer research scientists and physician-scientists based in the greater New York City area. The Prize, totaling $3.6 million, empowers investigators early in their independent careers to pursue research projects at a critical stage when traditional funding is lacking. Recipients receive $200,000 per year for three years.
Over the past eight years, the Alliance has awarded over $30 million to 52 scientists. With this funding, the recipients have contributed greatly to New York’s growing biomedical research hub. In addition to funding, the Alliance provides Prize winners with opportunities to present their work to scientific and business audiences to encourage collaboration and help bridge the gap between academia and industry.
“We are in awe of the incredible research the scientists have demonstrated, particularly this past year amid such challenging circumstances,” said Pershing Square Foundation Trustee Neri Oxman. “Our commitment to enabling early-stage research remains core to our mission, and we are proud to support this year’s prize winners and their innovative work.”
The winners of the 2021 Pershing Square Sohn Prize are:
- Sidi Chen, PhD, Yale School of Medicine: The laboratory of Dr. Chen works to create more effective cell-based immunotherapy against cancer. They have developed novel platforms for highly efficient and parallel engineering of therapeutic cell candidates. The goal of the project is to build transformative platforms for next generation cell therapy, an urgent unmet need since cell therapy has demonstrated little activity in solid tumors and refractory/recurrent hematological cancers.
- Christine Iok In Chio, PhD, Columbia University Irving Medical Center: Dr. Chio’s project will employ genetic and chemical proteomic approaches to ascertain how reversible methionine (an amino acid) oxidation regulates the signaling pathways that promote pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. These insights will then be exploited to develop novel therapeutic strategies to combat this highly lethal form of pancreatic cancer.
- Marcin Imielinski, MD, PhD, Weill Cornell Medicine: Using innovative methods to characterize structural changes in whole genome sequences, Dr. Imielinski hopes to explain why certain acral melanomas (which occur on the hands and feet) and other similar cancers with few small mutations respond to immunotherapy by examining a novel class of genetic alterations called tyfonas. This study can transform the basic understanding of cancer evolution and provide evidence for a whole genome sequencing immunotherapy biomarker to help navigate the best course for patient treatment.
- Lilian Kabeche, PhD, Yale University School of Medicine: Dr. Kabeche’s goal is to understand how the diverse roles of a protein called ATR protects cells from chromosomal instability throughout the whole cell cycle. In particular, she focuses on pancreatic cells, which have extremely high rates of instability. By targeting the process leading to chromosomal instability, her work may lead to the creation of a novel therapy that selectively and effectively treats cancers that exhibit continuous chromosome missegregation.
- Elena Piskounova, PhD, Weill Cornell Medicine: Using a combination of cutting-edge technologies, the laboratory of Dr. Piskounova will characterize how tRNA modifications enable adaptation and survival of metastasizing cancer cells under a variety of stresses throughout the metastatic cascade. This will ultimately allow the identification of the stress-response proteome as a driver of metastatic disease. By defining these molecular mechanisms in the context of metastasis, Dr. Piskounova will be able to identify novel targets that can be harnessed therapeutically to specifically eradicate deadly metastatic disease.
- Xuebing Wu, PhD, Columbia University Irving Medical Center: Dr. Wu is working to develop a platform for precise elimination of tumor cells by directly targeting tumor mutations using a new CRISPR genome engineering system and advanced machine learning. If successful, this platform will accelerate the development of precision therapies for many types of cancer.
“We remain extremely committed to cancer research during this global pandemic. We are continually impressed by the superb quality of the proposals we receive as well as the exceptionally talented researchers that are working in the greater New York area institutions,” said Olivia Tournay Flatto, PhD, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance and President of The Pershing Square Foundation. “It is our goal to build a community of creative and talented individuals, and to connect them with like-minded peers in pursuit of novel ideas, therapies, technologies, and, ultimately, knowledge that can further our understanding of disease and fundamental human biology.”
“The work to find new treatments and cures for cancer continues to be an urgent global health priority so we are heartened by the research approaches of this year’s Prize winners,” said Evan Sohn, Vice President of the Sohn Conference Foundation. “We are confident that with the passion, creativity, and insights we’ve seen from this group of scientists, they will make discoveries that will have a lasting impact for the patients for whom our Foundation fights.”
As part of the selection process, the Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance benefitted from the guidance of a highly accomplished advisory board.
Prize Advisory Board members include: Jeanne B. Ackman, MD, Director, Thoracic MRI, Radiologist, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School; Mikael Dolsten, MD, PhD, President, Worldwide Research and Development, Pfizer, Inc.; Allan Goodman, PhD, President and CEO, The Institute of International Education; Pablo Legorreta, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Royalty Pharma; Richard P. Lifton, MD, PhD, President, The Rockefeller University; Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Oncology, Columbia University Medical Center, and Author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer and The Gene: An Intimate History; James E. Rothman, PhD, Fergus F. Wallace Professor of Biomedical Sciences, Yale University and 2013 Nobel Prize Winner in Physiology or Medicine; Bruce Stillman, PhD, President and CEO, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; Craig Thompson, MD, President and CEO, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; and George D. Yancopoulos, MD, PhD, President and Chief Scientific Officer, Regeneron.
Additional details about the Prize winners can be found on the PSSCRA website at https://psscra.org/.
About the Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance
The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance was formed in 2013 by The Pershing Square Foundation, which has since committed more than $30 million to 52 scientists, in partnership with The Sohn Conference Foundation. The Alliance is dedicated to playing a catalytic role in accelerating cures for cancer by supporting innovative cancer research and by facilitating collaborations between academia and industry. Annually, the Alliance awards the Pershing Square Sohn Prize to early-career, New York area scientists who are engaged in cutting-edge cancer research. For more information, visit http://psscra.org/.
Program Manager, Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance