This year marks the 25th
anniversary of the ASH Scholar Awards program. During this 25-year period, ASH
has supported more than 200 fellows and junior faculty in both basic and
clinical/translational research by
providing partial salary or other support during the critical period required
for completion of training and achievement of status as an independent
Each day, ASH News Daily will feature current ASH
Scholars. To find out more about the ASH Scholar Awards program, please visit www.hematology.org.
Natalia Beglova, PhD
Dr. Beglova graduated with an MSc from the Moscow Physical
and Technical Institute in Moscow, Russia, and a PhD from McGill
University in Montreal, Canada.
At McGill University, she was trained by Kalle
Gehring, PhD, to use solution NMR spectroscopy for protein characterization.
Beginning in 1999, she was a research fellow in the Department of Pathology,
Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard
and she has conducted mentored research in the laboratory of Stephen Blacklow,
MD, PhD, on the molecular mechanisms of protein function. In Dr. Blacklow’s
library, Dr. Beglova learned x-ray crystallography and obtained extensive
experience with both solution NMR and x-ray crystallography. She combined these
methods of structural biology with biochemical studies to investigate the
structure and function of the integrin and lipoprotein receptor families of the
cell-surface receptors. Dr. Beglova joined Beth
Harvard Medical School,
in 2006. She is assistant professor at the Division of Hemostasis and
Thrombosis led by Drs. Bruce and Barbara Furie. Dr. Beglova’s research is
focused on the structure and function of B2GPI complexes in antiphospholipid
Xuefang Cao, PhD
Dr. Cao received his medical degree in China and
initially worked as a resident in internal medicine for two years. To pursue a
career in cancer-related research, he came to the United States for PhD training. As
a PhD candidate, he was trained in W. Stratford
May’s laboratory at the University of Florida Shands Cancer Center and studied
the biochemical mechanisms and signal transduction pathways regulating
apoptosis in the setting of hematologic malignancies. To gain experience in
animal models of cancers, Dr. Cao moved to Washington University
for postdoctoral work because of the strength of basic science in the
Immunology and Oncology Programs. In Timothy Ley’s laboratory, he was trained
in molecular biology, genetics, genomics, and transgenesis technologies, as
well as molecular imaging and preclinical animal models of tumor development
and clearance. Based on Dr. Cao’s experience and interest, he is currently
studying the mechanisms of regulatory T-cell (Treg) activation and function in
the setting of primary tumor formation and progression. Dr. Cao is fully
committed to pursuing a career as an independent investigator in academic
medicine. His long-term goal is to develop immune-based therapies that are safe
and effective for patients with various cancers, including solid tumors and
L.R. Devireddy, PhD
Dr. Devireddy obtained his DVM degree from A.P. Agricultural
University in Hyderabad, India.
He later attended the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore to pursue a Master’s degree in Virology.
Dr. Devireddy then enrolled in an interdisciplinary graduate program at the
University of Nebraska Medical Center studying the latency of herpes viruses
under the guidance of Dr. Clinton Jones. After graduation, he joined Prof.
Michael Green’s laboratory at the University of Massachusetts
to study the transcriptional regulation of apoptosis. His postdoctoral studies
were funded by fellowships from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the
Howard Temin Award from the National Cancer Institute. In the fall of 2006, Dr.
Devireddy accepted a faculty position in the Department of Pathology/Case Comprehensive Cancer Center at Case Western
At Case, he studies regulation of apoptosis by newly discovered lipocalin. Dr.
Devireddy is also interested in analyzing the role of lipocalin in normal
physiology and myeloproliferative disease.
Kira Gritsman, MD, PhD
Dr. Gritsman completed the MD/PhD program at New York University School of Medicine in 2001. Her
PhD thesis in the laboratory of Dr. Alexander Schier focused on the roles of
one-eyed pinhead (oep), an essential co-factor for the TGF-b family member
Nodal, during mesoderm and endoderm development in the zebrafish embryo. Dr.
Gritsman completed her residency in internal medicine at Columbia
in New York.
She then received her hematology-oncology training at the Dana-Farber Cancer
Institute/Partners Health Care
fellowship program and is now an instructor in the Hematologic Malignancies
Division at Dana-Farber. For her postdoctoral research, she joined the
laboratory of Dr. D. Gary Gilliland, where she began to focus on the PI3 kinase/AKT pathway, which is commonly dysregulated
in leukemia. Dr. Gritsman generated a murine bone marrow transplant model of
disease using a constitutively activated form of AKT to better understand the
role of AKT pathway activation in the pathogenesis of acute myeloid leukemia.
She is now continuing her investigation of PI3 kinase signaling in
hematopoiesis and leukemia in Dr. Thomas Roberts’ laboratory, utilizing mouse
knockout models, in which individual catalytic isoforms of PI3 kinase are
deleted in hematopoietic stem cells.
Jeanne Hendrickson, MD
Dr. Hendrickson is a
pediatric hematologist and transfusion medicine physician. Her research is
titled “Regulation of Red Blood Cell (RBC) Alloimmunization by Different
Subtypes of Recipient Inflammation.” Dr. Hendrickson’s research utilizes a
reductionist murine system in which RBCs express the model antigen hen egg lysozyme (HEL). She discovered that
inflammation of the recipient prior to transfusion with the toll-like receptor
agonist poly (I:C), a double-stranded RNA, significantly increases the rate and
magnitude of response to the HEL RBC antigen. This increase in alloimmunization
has now been observed in two different donor model systems (mHEL, with
non-specific HEL expression, as well as HOD, with RBC-specific HEL expression).
Mechanistic immunologic studies of response at the antigen-presenting cell
level, CD4+ T-cell level, and B-cell level are ongoing, with a goal of
identifying the key step(s) contributing to the increased alloimmunization
observed with poly (I:C). Dr. Hendrickson has also observed that the spleen is
essential to RBC alloimmunization in mice, with splenectomized animals failing
to make anti-HEL after mHEL transfusion, despite pretreatment with poly (I:C)
or adoptive transfer of antigen specific CD4+ T cells.
Elizabeth Hexner, MD
Dr. Hexner has a clinical and research interest in
myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) and experimental approaches to stem cell
transplantation. She received her medical degree from the Columbia University
College of Physicians and Surgeons, where she also completed her training in
internal medicine. Dr. Hexner went on to complete her clinical fellowship
training at the University of Pennsylvania and performed post-doctoral research
in the laboratory of Dr. Stephen Emerson, where she focused on two preclinical
projects: the role of T cells in umbilical cord blood transplantation (also an
ASH Clinical Research Training Institute project) and the activity of JAK2
inhibitors in primary cells from patients with MPNs. Both preclinical projects
have moved into the clinical arena and are currently in phase I studies.
Through the MPN research consortium, she is the study chair for a multicenter
phase I/II study of CEP-701 in
myelofibrosis; she has a particular interest in establishing reproducible
bioassays from patient samples to evaluate for JAK2 activity and level of
inhibition. She is currently assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and she intends to cover the areas of both late-preclinical and early-clinical testing of novel
therapies in hematologic malignancies in her career.
Heidi D. Klepin, MD, MS
Dr. Klepin completed her
fellowship training in geriatrics, hematology, and oncology at Wake Forest University and received a master’s degree in Health
Sciences Research from the Wake
Her research emphasizes three themes:
1) the predictive value of baseline physical and cognitive function on
treatment response and toxicity, 2) the impact of cancer therapy on physical
and cognitive function, and 3) interventions to promote functional independence
during treatment. Dr. Klepin’s specific research projects focus on acute
myelogenous leukemia (AML) as the model of a disease for which optimal therapy for older adults remains unclear, due in part to
increased toxicity with standard treatments. With her award, she is evaluating
the predictive value of a simple pretreatment bedside geriatric assessment
battery on treatment related-mortality and overall survival, and whether tumor
biology modifies this relationship. Post-treatment follow-up assessments are
also conducted to assess the impact of induction chemotherapy on multiple
geriatric domains relevant to functional independence and quality of life. Additionally,
Dr. Klepin collaborated on a recently completed pilot study evaluating the
feasibility of conducting an inpatient exercise intervention on older adults
hospitalized for AML induction chemotherapy.
Han Liu, PhD
Dr. Liu is a postdoctoral research scholar in the Division
of Molecular Oncology, Washington University in St.
Louis. He received his BS degree in biotechnology and
MS degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from the Peking University,
China. He then joined Dr. Zhu Chen’s laboratory at the Shanghai Institute of
Hematology, Rui-Jin Hospital, affiliated with Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China.
During that time, Dr. Liu began his research career in hematology. His graduate
studies focused on the physiological function of proteins related to
hematopoiesis and leukemia, with special emphasis on MLL fusion proteins. He
earned his PhD in genetics and trained as postdoctoral researcher until 2005,
when he joined Dr. James Hsieh’s laboratory at Washington University.
Dr. Liu continues to study the molecular basis for MLL leukemia. His work
focuses on the role of MLL in the cell-cycle regulation. Dr. Liu discovered a
biphasic expression of MLL through cell cycle, which is lost in MLL leukemias.
With the ASH Scholar Award, he is currently investigating the function of MLL
in DNA damage checkpoint and how the MLL-fusion proteins will cause checkpoint
defects and contribute to the development of MLL leukemias.
Takahiro Maeda, MD, PhD
Dr. Maeda received his
medical degree from Nagoya
University in 1994. After
completing his internship, residency, and clinical training in
hematology-oncology at Konan Showa Hospital
and Toyohashi Municipal
Hospital, he returned to Nagoya University
in 1999 to obtain a PhD degree with a
keen interest in translational therapeutics.
Dr. Maeda received a doctorate in hematology-oncology in 2002 and
engaged in postdoctoral studies at Memorial
Center from 2001-2006. In
2007, Dr. Maeda accepted an assistant professor position in the Department of
Hematopoietic Stem Cell and Leukemia Research at Beckman Institute of the City
of Hope. Dr.
Maeda wants to investigate the various mechanisms by which hematologic
malignancies develop. His ultimate goal is to discover new therapeutic
approaches for these diseases. During his postdoctoral fellowship, Dr. Maeda
found that the transcription factor LRF (for leukemia/lymphoma related factor) is a proto-oncogene and a master
regulator of hematopoietic cell development.
Shannon McKinney-Freeman, PhD
Dr. McKinney-Freeman first became interested in blood as a
high school student after her father underwent a bone marrow transplant to
treat his myelodysplasia. She received degrees in chemistry and biology from Ripon College,
Ripon, WI, in
1998 and a PhD in immunology from Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX,
in 2003. While working in the lab of Dr. Margaret Goodell as a graduate
student, she demonstrated that skeletal muscle-derived hematopoietic stem cell
(HSC) activity was the result of itinerant HSCs rather than trans-differentiating
myogenic stem cells. Dr. McKinney-Freeman then joined the lab of Dr. George
Daley at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical
School to study
hematopoietic development and the hematopoietic potential of pluripotent stem
cells. Dr. Daley had just published data
that showed that HoxB4 expression could drive the production of HSC-like
cells from embryonic stem cells (ESCs). However, little was known about the
phenotype of these ESC-HSCs and their relationship to in vivo HSC
compartments. Dr. McKinney-Freeman’s work in Dr. Daley’s lab has revealed that
these cells display traits of HSC compartments present during early development
and lack a direct in vivo correlate. Dr. McKinney-Freeman is currently
studying the gene networks that regulate HSC emergence during ontogeny and from
Akil Merchant, MD
Dr. Merchant is a
medical oncology fellow at Johns
where he studies normal and malignant hematopoiesis. Dr. Merchant’s previous work, in the laboratory
of Dr. Margaret Goodell, focused on understanding the genetic programs regulating hematopoietic stem cells and their
responses to chemotherapy. His current work builds on these insights to explore
how dysregulation of normal developmental pathways critical for hematopoiesis
leads to cancer and chemoresistance. With his current mentor, Dr. Bill Matsui,
he has demonstrated that Hedgehog signaling is critical for myeloid development
and is up-regulated in leukemic cancer stem cells. As an ASH Scholar, his
project is to better understand the clinical consequences of Hedgehog
activation in leukemia and test pathway inhibitors as new therapies for
hematologic diseases. In addition to his work on Hedgehog signaling, he has
shown that the transcription factor, Nrf2, essential for protecting cells from
oxidative stress, is required for normal hematopoietic stem cell function and
mediates chemoresistance in leukemia. At the conclusion of his fellowship, Dr.
Merchant plans a career as a translational researcher in hematologic malignancies.
David Motto, MD, PhD
Dr. Motto is an assistant professor of internal
medicine and pediatrics at the University
of Iowa. Dr. Motto received his MD and PhD degrees
from the University of Iowa and completed his clinical training in
pediatrics and pediatric hematology-oncology at the University of Michigan. Dr. Motto’s laboratory studies the
biochemistry, physiology, and genetics of blood clotting diseases and platelet
biology. Currently, a strong focus is on the thrombotic microangiopathies
(TMAs), which are characterized clinically by small blood vessel thrombosis of
various organs, coupled with thrombocytopenia and the physical destruction of
red blood cells. The two most common TMAs are thrombotic thrombocytopenic
purpura (TTP) and the closely related hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). Dr. Motto’s ASH Scholar Award focuses on
investigation of potential shared mechanisms of pathogenesis between TTP and
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