NINDS Staff Spotlight


Headshot of Michael E Ward


Dr. Michael Ward and the Arrest ALS Initiative

Michael Ward and Clotilde-Lagier-Tourenne (MGH) recently received a prestigious team-science grant from the “Arrest ALS Initiative”, which focuses on identifying ways to improve neuronal health and survival in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. In a series of collaborative experiments, the Ward and Lagier-Tourenne labs will use high-throughput screening approaches in human iPSC neurons to identify genes and chemical compounds that improve expression of stathmin-2, a key microtubule regulating protein that is severely downregulated in patients with ALS.

Dr. Zayd Khaliq and Team Receive ASAP Award

Zayd Khaliq, Head of the Cellular Neurophysiology Section, is part of a team of seven investigators that received funding from Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s (ASAP), a collaborative research initiative that brings scientists together from around the world to better understand the basic mechanisms of neurodegeneration and how they contribute to symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease (PD). The team’s research will focus on the function and neural circuit mechanisms of PD. Historically, research in PD has focused on how a normal brain protein, called synuclein, goes awry and accumulates in cells, including dopamine-releasing neurons. However, the role of brain activity in early PD is poorly understood and more information is needed to determine how activity interacts with synuclein to impair function and cause neurodegeneration. Dr. Khaliq and his interdisciplinary team [KZ([1] will use a range of cutting-edge approaches in mouse models of PD to test where and how brain activity changes in early disease stages and how this might be remediated to prevent or slow disease progression. The team includes Robert Edwards (UCSF), Kira Poskanzer (UCSF), Ken Nakamura (Gladstone Institutes and UCSF), Alexandra Nelson (UCSF), Chris Ford (University of Colorado, Denver), and Glenda Halliday (University of Sydney). They will work across multiple experimental systems—including human brain tissue—to test the role of neural activity in PD.

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Dr. Zu-Hang Sheng receives Dr. Francisco S. Sy Award

Zu-Hang Sheng has been selected to receive the 2021 Dr. Francisco S. Sy Award for Excellence in Mentorship at HHS . This award is in recognition of Dr. Sheng’s exceptional mentorship to others from the Asian American/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community, fostering their professional growth and career development.  Established by the Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC), the award is named in honor of Dr. Francisco Santos Sy, who championed mentorship initiatives throughout his career at the NIH and CDC. Upon award notification, Dr. Sheng was quoted, “this is one of the most important highlights of my professional career at NIH and really a proud moment for me and my entire team – both former and current trainees – to accept this prestigious award. Mentoring and training the next generation of biomedical scientists is my most exciting career goal and would not be possible without the strong support of my Institute leadership team. I will always treasure this award and continue to do my best to support the mission of NIH and HHS.” 

Dr. Avi Nath - ANA  Soriano Lecturer

Avindra Nath, Clinical Director of NINDS, has been designated the 2021 Soriano Lecturer by the American Neurological Association. The lectureship established in 1987 by ANA member Dr. Victor Soriano and his wife to acknowledge a “brilliant lecture delivered by an outstanding scientist” who is also a member of the Association. Dr. Nath will speak on the neurobiology of COVID-19.

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Dr. Antonia Roll-Mecak - American Academy of Neurology Frontiers in Neuroscience

Antonina Roll-Mecak was a 2021 American Academy of Neurology Frontiers in Neuroscience Lecturer. Her talk focused on the roles of spastin and katanin, two enzymes, in the severing and repair of microtubules. This process is of particular importance in the neuropathy associated with chemotherapeutic drugs and may play a role in neurodegenerative diseases.

Dr. Richard Youle selected for the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences

The Breakthrough Prize Foundation has announced the esteemed recipients of the 2021 Breakthrough Prize, recognizing a spectacular array of groundbreaking achievements in the Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics and Mathematics. Each year, the Prize is celebrated at a gala award ceremony, where the awards are presented by superstars of movies, music, sports and tech entrepreneurship. Due to the global pandemic, however, this year’s ceremony has been postponed until March 2021. Dr. Youle is one of four investigators selected for the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.

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NIH Researcher Sonja W. Scholz awarded 2020 ANA Soriano Lectureship 

The American Neurological Association (ANA) has announced that Sonja W. Scholz, M.D., Ph.D., as this year’s winner of the Soriano Lectureship. Established in 1987, the Soriano Lectureship is awarded every year for a “brilliant lecture delivered by an outstanding scientist” at the ANA’s annual meetings. Dr. Scholz won the award for her presentation entitled Genomic Approaches Paving the Way for Precision Neurology, she uses advanced genetics to understand neurodegenerative disorders. Read more

Dr. Ling-Gang Wu – Recipient of the ITAC Award

Ling-Gang Wu’s proposal, Visualizing SARS-CoV-2 virus entry and its underlying endocytic Mechanisms, for the Intramural Targeted Anti-COVID-19 (ITAC) Funding Program was selected for award. Award recipients can receive up to two years of funding for ongoing or new COVID-19 research efforts. If successful, the proposed work will be the first time viral entry is caught in real time at super-resolution. The resolved mechanisms may account for not only CoV2 entry, but likely many other viruses (including influenza virus) that enter cells via endocytosis. The findings of this proposal may advance understanding of viral entry, and ultimately help prevention and treatment of CoV2 infection as well as other viruses.

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Headshot of David R. Sibley

Dr. David Sibley 2020 Fellow of the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (FASPET)

The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) selected David Sibley as one of it’s 2020 Fellows. This honor is bestowed on ASPET members who have demonstrated excellence through their overall contributions to pharmacology and the Society. It is a significant achievement; Dr. Sibley is one of 19 researchers selected for this honor. His research has focused on characterizing the molecular properties of G protein-coupled receptors, particularly those for the neurotransmitter dopamine, and studying their role in neuronal signaling. His early research led to the discovery of novel GPCR subtypes, which currently represent important drug targets for the treatment of neuropsychiatric disease. More recently, he has applied novel pharmacological concepts, including allosterism and biased signaling, to identify and develop receptor modulators that exhibit greater subtype and/or signaling pathway selectivity. Sibley’s efforts have led to the discovery of allosteric ligands, biased agonists, and best-in-class selective agonists and antagonists of the D1, D2 or D3 dopamine receptor subtypes. His research has led to numerous publications and reviews, as well as 10 patents and awards.

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Dr. Jeanne Billioux, M.D. – Sackett Award for Clinical Trial of the Year

Jeanne Billioux, Staff Clinician and Head of the International Virology Unit, is part of an international team recognized by the Society for Clinical Trials (SCT) for their outstanding work on the Pamoja Tulinde Maisha (PALM) Trial, which translates from the Kiswahili language to English as "Together Save Lives" Trial. The SCT presented the 2019 David Sackett Annual Trial of the Year Award to the research team in May 2020. The PALM Consortium Study Team has been working to identify safe and effective therapies for Ebola during an outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo and have conducted a trial of four investigational therapies.