The New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) today announced the 2023 class of NYSCF – Robertson Investigators, welcoming three outstanding stem cell researchers into the NYSCF Innovator community.
The NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Awards support promising early career scientists whose cutting-edge research holds the potential to accelerate treatments and cures through the NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Awards.
The awards provide unrestricted seed funding – $1.5 million over five years – for scientists who have established their own, independent laboratories within the last six years. This year, three scientists joined the thirteenth class of NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigators, which were announced this afternoon at the 18th annual NYSCF Conference on translational stem cell research, currently underway.
“These awards are absolutely critical for furthering the most promising stem cell science,” noted NYSCF Interim CEO Derrick Rossi, PhD, who received the award in 2010 for his pioneering work in mRNA technology that led him to co-found Moderna. “Not only do they give researchers flexibility to pursue their boldest ideas, they also connect top minds with one another to push the entire field forward. I look forward to seeing everything this talented group accomplishes in the coming years.”
To date, the NYSCF Innovator Community includes 80 NYSCF – Robertson Investigators and Alumni at 48 institutions throughout the world. This community also includes 88 NYSCF – Druckenmiller Fellows and Alumni as well as scientists and engineers conducting research at the NYSCF Research Institute.
“As a former recipient of this award, I know firsthand how transformational it is for a scientist,” noted 2013 NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Alumna Kristen Brennand, PhD, of the Yale University School of Medicine. “Its emphasis on investing in people rather than projects makes it unlike any other grant, and let me ask questions that would have otherwise gone uninterrogated. It is an honor to serve on the selection committee and welcome three talented scientists to this outstanding community.”
The NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Awards selection committee was chaired by Amy Wagers, PhD, the 2013 NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Prize Recipient (Harvard University) and included 2015 MacArthur Fellow Lorenz Studer, MD (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center), recipient of the Inaugural 2011 NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Prize Pete Coffey, DPhil (University College London; University of California, Santa Barbara), and 2017 NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Alumnus Louis Vermeulen, PhD (Genentech; Amsterdam University Medical Centers), along with Dr. Brennand.
To continue the Program’s commitment to fostering diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) in the scientific community, targeted elements were again included in the applications. These include a mandatory ‘commitment to DEIB’ statement from all applicants that reviewers considered alongside scientific merit, and an optional self-identification section that allowed reviewers to account for any undue adversity applicants faced in their careers due to membership in a systematically marginalized group.
The 2023 NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigators:
Judith Agudo, PhD (she/her)
Dr. Agudo is a Principal Investigator at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and an Assistant Professor of Immunology at Harvard Medical School. Her lab aims to uncover the mechanisms of immune evasion in tissue stem cells and cancer stem cells, so as to inform both regenerative therapies for autoimmune diseases and cancer immunotherapies. Leveraging technology she established to interrogate T-cell interactions with virtually any cell population, her lab is investigating potential therapeutic targets that could protect transplanted tissues from immune surveillance, as well as ways to modulate tumor immunogenicity to ensure cancer patients respond effectively to immunotherapy. Dr. Agudo obtained her PhD in Regenerative Medicine, Gene Therapy and Metabolism at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain, and completed her postdoctoral training in Immunology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Fei Chen, PhD (he/him)
Dr. Chen is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard University, and a Core Faculty member at the Broad Institute. His lab aims to enable scientists to measure, model, and manipulate the rules of tissue organization across space and time. By developing novel technologies at the intersection of spatial genomics, microscopy, synthetic biology, and computational analysis, his lab is illuminating cellular organization and interactions in aging, injury, and diseases like cancer to inform novel therapeutic interventions. Dr. Chen obtained his PhD in Biological Engineering from MIT and was a Schmidt Fellow at the Broad Institute.
Mijo Simunovic, PhD (they/them)
Dr. Simunovic is an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at Columbia University and a Member of the Columbia Stem Cell Initiative. Their lab aims to unlock the mysteries of early mammalian embryonic development, uterine biology, and endometrial function by bridging stem cell and synthetic biology. By creating integrated stem cell and organoid models mimicking post-implantation embryogenesis, their lab is uncovering insights into neglected areas of developmental biology with implications for reproductive disorders, infertility, and endometrial cancers. Dr. Simunovic obtained a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Chicago and a second PhD in Physics from the University of Paris, and completed their postdoctoral training at The Rockefeller University.
About The New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute
The New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) Research Institute is an independent non-profit organization accelerating cures and better treatments for patients through stem cell research. The NYSCF global community includes over 250 researchers at leading institutions worldwide, including the NYSCF – Druckenmiller Fellows, the NYSCF – Robertson Investigators, the NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Prize Recipients, and NYSCF Research Institute scientists and engineers. The NYSCF Research Institute is an acknowledged world leader in stem cell research and in the development of pioneering stem cell technologies, including the NYSCF Global Stem Cell Array®, which is used to create cell lines for laboratories around the globe. NYSCF focuses on translational research in an accelerator model designed to overcome barriers that slow discovery and replace silos with collaboration.