NINDS Staff Spotlight


Dr. Antonina Roll-Mecak – 2022 NIH Director’s Challenge Awards Recipient

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Dr. Antonina Roll-Mecak

The NIH Director’s Challenge Awards program supports investigator-initiated, collaborative, and interdisciplinary projects that employ engineering and/or physical science approaches to problems in biology and medicine.

One of this year’s recipients is Dr. Antonina Roll-Mecak – a Senior Investigator and Chief of the Unit of Cell Biology at NINDS. Her innovative research, in collaboration with NIBIB, will focus on generating a complete single-molecule resolution 4D map of the tubulin code and its readers in the human neuron by developing methods for expansion microscopy coupled with single molecule imaging.

Ultimately, these novel methods will be broadly applicable to other structural problems that require nanoscale resolution and molecular contrast.

 


Congratulations Dr. Derek Narendra - Grass Foundation ANA Award in Neuroscience

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Dr. Derek Narendra

The Grass Foundation ANA Award in Neuroscience was established in 2007 to honor outstanding young investigators doing research in basic or clinical neuroscience. This  year’s recipient is Dr. Derek Narendra — a Lasker Clinical Research Scholar and Investigator at NINDS and a Board-Certified neurologist — who has made exceptional contributions in the neurodegeneration field.

Dr. Narendra’s ground-breaking research demonstrated that the Parkinson’s Disease (PD) genes Parkin and PINK1 form a mitophagy pathway for mitochondrial quality control. This work established disrupted mitophagy as a mechanism of pathogenesis in PD and other neurodegenerative disorders, and is the basis of current drug discovery efforts to enhance the PINK1/Parkin mitophagy pathway.

A recipient of numerous awards, Dr. Narendra recently discovered that another mitochondrial quality control pathway protects against a separate set of neurogenetic disorders – those caused by misfolding of mutant CHCHD10 within mitochondria.

A round of applause to Dr. Narendra!


Muscular Dystrophy Association Recognizes Dr. Bönnemann

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Dr. Carsten Bönnemann

Dr. Carsten Bönnemann, Chief of the Neuromuscular and Neurogenetic Disorders of Childhood Section (NNDCS) in NINDS’s Intramural Neurogenetics Branch, recently received the first-ever Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Legacy Award for Achievement in Clinical Research. The award, which recognizes outstanding accomplishments in neuromuscular disease research or care, was presented Mar. 14 at the opening ceremony of the 2022 MDA Clinical and Scientific Conference in Nashville.

Dr. Bönnemann’s current work focuses on identifying the genetic and cellular mechanisms of early-on-set muscle and nerve diseases in order to develop gene and transcript directed treatment strategies for them.

Dr. Bönnemann was honored for his contributions to the field of neuromuscular disease research including (but not limited to):

  • Identifying genetic causes of limb girdle muscular dystrophies
  • Clarifying molecular pathways and developing preclinical models for congenital muscular dystrophies
  • Using next-generation genomic technologies for new gene discoveries in children with complex neuromuscular and neurogenetic conditions
  • Establishing natural history and outcome measures for use in clinical trials for congenital myopathies
  • Conducting the first intrathecal adeno-associated viral vector gene therapy trial for giant axonal neuropathy in humans

Congratulations Dr. Bönnemann for such an outstanding accomplishment!


NINDS Principal Investigator Spearheads the Power of an Inclusive Workplace Recognition Project

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Dr. Sadhana Jackson

Dr. Sadhana Jackson – a pediatric neuro-oncologist at both the NINDS and National Cancer Institute, and co-chair of the UNITE “T” Committee – spearheaded the very successful Power of an Inclusive Workplace Recognition Project. The focus of the Project is to diversify the portraiture within NIH buildings and digital spaces; foster organizational change; and highlight inclusive excellence among underrepresented groups in administrative, scientific, and executive careers at the NIH.

To learn more about the Project, click here.

 


New Tenured Faculty

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Dr. Quan Yuan

Dr. Quan Yuan has been officially appointed as a Senior Investigator. Dr. Yuan was recognized for conducting a thriving, thorough, thoughtful, and highly creative and rigorous research program that continues to provide novel insights into the principles and mechanisms  of nervous system plasticity and its regulation by neural activity. The quality and impact of her scientific accomplishments as a Tenure-Track Investigator at NINDS have earned her an impeccable local, national, and international reputation.

Dr. Yuan is considered a leader in the field of developmental neuroscience and in the Drosophila neurobiology community. The depth and volume of her scholarship and clear research vision, along with her service contributions, enthusiastic and impactful mentoring, and standing in the community, all speak to the enormous value she has brought to NINDS, and will continue to bring as a Senior Investigator


New Scientist Emeritus

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Dr. Michael J O'Donovan

NINDS is also honored to announce Dr. Michael J O'Donovan has been named an NIH Scientist Emeritus.  Dr. O’Donovan has a long and impressive career, having been appointed as the Chief of the NINDS Developmental Neurobiology Section in 1991. With a research focus on the organization of motor networks in the spinal cord, Dr. O’Donovan is internationally recognized as an innovator, collaborator, and scientist. His research led to the development of novel techniques for and approaches to studying the developing spinal cord. These techniques and approaches led to his and others’ discoveries of novel mechanisms that underlie spontaneous activity and development of motor control in developing mammals.

As an expert in his field, Dr. O’Donovan is frequently sought for invited talks and guest lectures. In addition to his research contributions, Dr. O’Donovan served on numerous NIH committees and is a highly regarded mentor to numerous research fellows. We are ever grateful for his contributions and are happy he will maintain an ongoing working relationship at NIH in his role as an emeritus.


Harvey J. Bullock, Jr. Director’s Award

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Dr. Angel de la Cruz Landrau

Congratulations to Dr. Angel de la Cruz Landrau for being the 2021 Harvey J. Bullock, Jr. Director’s Award recipient!  The citation is in recognition of his significant contributions toward promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at the NIH by developing and advocating for the inclusion of all under-represented groups in the neurosciences, specifically the Hispanic and LGBTQ communities. To further his knowledge and interest in DEI, Dr. Cruz completed a detail in the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education to learn the specifics of training and outreach programs for under-represented communities, and to learn about policies surrounding DEI programs. Following that detail, he joined the NINDS Division of Extramural Research Programs to Enhance Neuroscience Workforce Diversity (OPEN) to learn strategies for outreach to the extramural community. His colleagues in intramural and the NINDS training office know firsthand his dedication and passion, a constant champion for DEI and helping trainees at every level.


Drs.  Avi Nath and David Sibley Elected Members of the AAAS

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Council elected 564 members as Fellows of AAAS. Among them are Drs. Avi Nath (left) and David Sibley (right). Election as a Fellow  honors members whose efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications in service to  society have distinguished them among their peers and colleagues.

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Dr.  Avi Nath
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Dr. David Sibley

 Dr. Daniel Reich elected to AAP and the Henry Kunkel Society

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Dr. Daniel Reich

Dr. Daniel Reich  was elected to both the Association of American Physicians and the Henry Kunkel Society. Each year, the Association of American Physicians, which was founded by William Osler in 1885, elects no more than 70 “physicians with outstanding credentials in basic or translational biomedical research.” Among the AAP’s goals is to establish “role models to kindle new generations of high achievers in medicine and medical science.” The Henry Kunkel Society, founded at Rockefeller University in 1990, aims “to foster the development of clinical investigators focused on hypothesis-driven, patient-oriented research, particularly in the field of immunology and related subjects.”   Both memberships are prestigious acknowledgments of his accomplishments in the field.

 


Drs. Rebecca Gottesman and Michael Ward Elected Members to the ASCI

The American Society of Clinician Investigation (ASCI) announced the election of 95 new members for 2022, among them are NINDS Investigators Drs. Rebecca Gottesman (left) and Michael Ward (right). The members represent excellence across the breadth of academic medicine. They will be officially inducted into the Society at the ASCI Dinner and New Member Induction Ceremony, April 8, 2022,as part of the  AAP/ASCI/APSA Joint Meeting, April 8-10, at the Swissotel Chicago.

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Dr. Rebecca Gottesman
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Dr. Michael Ward

Dr. Reoma Vice Chair of the AAN Experimental Neurotherapeutics Section

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Dr. Lauren Reoma

Dr. Lauren Reoma, Director of the CTU and Lead, Clinical Trials Compliance and Safety Oversight Office, has been elected as the Vice Chair of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), Experimental Neurotherapeutics Section. The Experimental Neurotherapeutics Section has been established to serve the needs/interests of neurologists and other clinical neuroscientists who are interested in developing, evaluating and implementing new treatments for neurological diseases. This growing and important subspecialty of neurotherapeutics brings together neurologists in academia, private practice, government and industry to work with basic neuroscientists, pharmacists, pharmacologists, neurogeneticists, physical therapists, clinical trial coordinators, nurses and nurse practitioners, physician assistants and statisticians on the development and assessment of novel treatments, their subsequent regulatory approval, and their effective use in practice.

There are major issues and opportunities in experimental therapeutics that this section will be able to consider. The section should help to foster training and research as well as address important topics/areas: implementation science; global neurotherapeutics - - both access and disparities; U.S. neurotherapeutic disparities and inequities; clinical trial design and implementation; and drug development. 


Archive

Dr. Michael Ward and the Arrest ALS Initiative

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Dr. Michael Ward

Dr. 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

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Dr. Zayd Khaliq

Dr. 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.


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

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Dr. Zu-Hang Sheng

Dr. 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

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Dr. Avindra Nath

Dr. 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.

 

 


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

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Dr. 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

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Dr. Richard Youle

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.