Physician-scientists Viviane Tabar and Lorenz Studer have been elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) for 2014. The ASCI, one of the nation’s oldest and most respected medical honor societies, is dedicated to the advancement of research that extends our understanding of and improves the treatment of human diseases, and members are committed to mentoring future generations of physician-scientists. The ASCI represents active physician-scientists who are at the bedside, at the research bench, and at the blackboard. Many of its senior members are widely recognized leaders in academic medicine.
Neurosurgeon and scientist Viviane Tabar’s clinical practice is focused on the surgical management of brain and skull base tumors, with special emphasis on complex glioma surgery, intraoperative brain mapping, and pituitary tumors; she also directs the multidisciplinary MSK Pituitary Center. Work in the Tabar laboratory is focused on two main themes: the use of pluripotent stem cells for translational purposes in the central nervous system and the study of brain cancer using a stem cell platform. She serves as a co-PI of a large consortium grant aimed at the development of a clinical trial for grafting human embryonic stem cell–derived dopamine neurons in Parkinson’s patients and has focused major efforts on the development of human ES-derived oligodendrocytes for brain radiation damage. Work on brain tumors in the lab is also inspired by stem cell biology. Recent work from the lab has shown evidence for significant heterogeneity and lineage transitions among cancer stem cells in glioblastoma. The lab has also pioneered the use of human ES cells as a platform for modeling cancer, starting with pediatric gliomas carrying histone mutations.
Developmental and stem cell biologist Lorenz Studer is a pioneer in the directed differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs). He was first to derive CNS and PNS stem cells and specific neuron types from hPSCs. His lab has made many important contributions to iPSC-based disease modeling. His work on familial dysautonomia and herpes simplex encephalitis are among the best examples of using iPSC technology for gaining novel mechanistic insights and for high-throughput drug discovery. In the area of cell therapy, Dr. Studer has been a leading figure in developing novel therapeutic approaches for Parkinson’s disease (PD). His lab established many of the current methods for deriving midbrain dopamine neurons from neural or pluripotent sources, and he was first to successfully use patient-matched dopamine neurons in an animal model of PD. His most recent work on hPSC-derived midbrain dopamine neurons has resolved a nearly ten-year-long search for a suitable human cell source in PD, with promising preclinical data in mouse, rat, and primate hosts. Dr. Studer now leads a consortium supported through a $15 million grant to translate his findings toward the first hPSC-based clinical trial in PD.