The CHOP Research Institute has announced the winners of the 2013 CHOP Distinguished Research Trainee Awards, which provide institution-wide recognition for exceptional CHOP Research trainees, and create an avenue for mentors to show appreciation for their researchers-in-training.
The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs sought nominations for the award from faculty mentors in three trainee categories: Postdoctoral Fellow, Physician Fellow, and CHOP-based Graduate Student. Eighteen outstanding nominations were received among the three groups. Three winners were selected after review and voting by members of the Research Trainee Advisory Committee, chaired by Michael Robinson, Ph.D.
Yiran Guo, Ph.D., Division of Human Genetics and Molecular Biology, received the award in the Postdoctoral Fellow Category. Kosuke Izumi, M.D., Ph.D., a fellow in Human Genetics and Molecular Biology, was selected to receive the award in the Physician Fellow Category. Wulan Deng, Ph.D., a former graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, received the award in the CHOP-Based Graduate Student category.
Dr. Yiran Guo, nominated by Hakon Hakonarson, M.D., Ph.D., performs research that focuses broadly on integrative genetic/genomic association tasks across multiple complex disease areas. His work, performed in association with CHOP’s Center for Applied Genomics (CAG) and BGI (formerly the Beijing Genome Institute), includes managing a large-scale, 1,000 rare disease sequencing program that will identify causative genes for rare pediatric diseases by exome and whole genome sequencing. Isolating these genes will help researchers worldwide to better understand the etiology of rare disorders, a first step in developing novel diagnostic tools and treatments. Dr. Guo has also served as the lead analyst in a multi-site project exploring the genetics influencing body mass index. This line of research will have implications in studies of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and a number of associated disorders. According to Dr. Hakonarson, "Dr. Guo is making excellent progress in preparing himself for an independent research career. His research is highly regarded, which speaks for his exceptional skills as a postdoctoral trainee."
Dr. Kosuke Izumi is a researcher and physician with a particular interest in translational research as it relates to developmental genetics, including human developmental disorders and birth defects. In collaboration with his mentor, Ian Krantz, M.D., Dr. Izumi studies the chromosomal disorder Pallister-Killian Syndrome (PKS), caused by extra copies of the short arm of chromosome 12. Individuals with PKS exhibit distinctive developmental disabilities, including diaphragmatic hernias, heart defects and growth disruption. Dr. Izumi's work on PKS will lead to the identification of the critical genes that contribute to the PKS phenotype as well as candidate downstream genes that may be directly causative of associated birth defects. His focus and perseverance may also lead to the development of new pharmacologic approaches to treat this diagnosis. Dr. Krantz praised his hard work, stating, "Dr. Izumi has been extremely productive academically. He has catalyzed projects in the lab, created new directions of investigation, and has initiated an academic career for himself that will make him a leader in the field of human developmental disorders." Dr. Izumi recently joined the lab of a collaborator, Dr. Katsu Shirahige at the University of Tokyo, where he will continue to study the molecular basis of PKS and examine a new disorder related to a novel gene identified in the Krantz laboratory.
Dr. Wulan Deng, a recent doctoral program graduate at the University of Pennsylvania, was nominated by Gerd Blobel, M.D., Ph.D., for her exceptional research skills and passion for science. Her work has introduced major contributions in the fields of transcriptional regulation and chromatin function. According to Dr. Blobel, “Wulan’s work on higher order chromatin organization has provided fundamental insights into gene regulation and opened the door for a new approach to manipulate globin gene regulation for therapeutic purposes.” Dr. Deng’s discovery hinged on the use of synthetic zinc finger proteins engineered to create chromatin loops in vivo at the beta globin locus. This experimental system was intended to identify the cause-effect relationships of chromatin loops and gene expression. Indeed, these specially modified zinc finger proteins were highly active in producing chromatin loops and in activating beta globin gene transcription. Dr. Deng’s more recent studies revealed that the system may also be employed to reactivate embryonic or fetal globin gene expression in adult erythroid cells. This could potentially benefit patients with sickle cell anemia and certain forms of thalassemia. Dr. Deng is now leading efforts to engineer new zinc finger proteins targeted to the human fetal globin gene promoters in order to examine this novel therapeutic strategy. Dr. Deng has received a number of additional awards, and part of her work was recently published in the journal Cell.
Each of our 2013 award winners were presented with certificates of achievement by Philip Johnson, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer, during the CHOP Research Poster Day award ceremony and reception on February 27, 2013. They also received a monetary prize and will be featured on the CHOP Research Trainee Web portal at http://training.research.chop.edu.
The next request for CHOP Distinguished Research Trainee Award nominations will be extended in mid-October 2013. All mentors are encouraged to consider nominating their exceptional trainees for this prestigious honor.
Yiran Guo, Ph.D.
Kosuke Izumi, M.D., Ph.D.
Wulan Deng, Ph.D.
These exceptional CHOP researchers were nominated by their mentors to receive this prestigious award, presented to them by Dr. Philip Johnson at the 2013 CHOP Research Poster Day. Read more...