Meet the 2013 Fishman Fund award winners

By admin
October 7, 2013

Five outstanding young scientists comprised a living tribute to the vision of Institute co-founder Lillian Fishman when they received their 2013 Fishman Fund awards at the September 26 prize ceremony.

The event was described as “bittersweet” by emcee Reena Horowitz, who helped establish the awards in 2001 to honor Bill and Lillian Fishman, because it took place just one month after Lillian passed away. “Lillian was a visionary and a great inspiration,” said Horowitz, “and she took pride in fostering the careers of young scientists.”

Each year, the Fishman Fund bestows $6,000 awards on top postdoctoral researchers who compete for the honor. The money is used for training, equipment, and professional development. Past recipients have gone on to achieve landmark discoveries in translational research.

Keynote speaker Pamela Itkin-Ansari, a researcher in the Development and Aging Program at the Del E. Webb Center for Neuroscience, Aging, and Stem Cell Research, told the 2013 awardees, “I hope that years from now, when you notice that your award has the name ‘Fishman’ on it, you’ll be reminded that we here at the Institute have cheered you on every step of the way.”

President and interim CEO Kristiina Vuori, who began her career at the Institute as a postdoctoral researcher, thanked the donors in attendance, including Nina Fishman, Bill and Lillian’s daughter. “Without your support,” Vuori said, “Sanford-Burnham would not be able to retain and recruit postdoctoral fellows and accomplish our mission, From Research, the Power to Cure.”

The awards were presented to:

Florent Carrette, Ph.D. — Carrette works in Dr. Linda Bradley’s laboratory. He focuses on mechanisms by which the immune system’s CD8 T cells eliminate infected cells. He also is studying how these cells differentiate into memory cells, whose function is to prevent re-infection by the same virus. He is especially interested in influenza virus infection and hopes to improve vaccine strategies.

Julia Jellusova, Ph.D. — Jellusova is studying B cell maturation and differentiation in Dr. Robert Rickert’s laboratory. She plans to conduct research as a principal investigator on the role of B cells in autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. She also wants to make scientific problems interesting for the public by developing interactive books and games about immunology.

Louis Lapierre, Ph.D. — Lapierre works in Dr. Malene Hansen’s laboratory, where he has recently discovered a key transcription factor for longevity, which is emerging as a promising therapeutic target against neurodegenerative diseases. His future plans include leading an independent academic laboratory and developing basic and translational research programs.

Juan Pablo Palavicini, Ph.D. — Palavicini is a member of Dr. Xianlin Han’s laboratory, where he studies the intricate molecular mechanisms that lead to Alzheimer’s disease. His research is currently focused on a type of lipid found to be decreased in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients that may contribute to the development of the disorder. He will soon start testing therapeutic drug candidates that target these lipids.

Rachel Wilkie-Grantham, Ph.D. — Wilkie-Grantham is studying how cell death pathways become dysregulated and contribute to the development of cancer. She works in Dr. John Reed’s laboratory under the co-mentorship of Dr. Shu-Ichi Matsuzawa. She has a special interest in specific compounds that modify proteins involved in drug resistance. Her career goal is to lead a biotech industry research group focused on novel cancer therapeutics.

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