NIH Award Supports Sickle Cell Disease Treatment in Malawi, NCI Outstanding Investigator Awards Granted for Research in Hematology, and more

Saad Usmani, MD, MBBS

Saad Usmani Receives 2020 Multiple Myeloma Excellence Award from International Congress on Controversies in MM

The International Congress on Controversies in Multiple Myeloma (COMy) has granted the 2020 Multiple Myeloma Excellence Award to Saad Usmani, MD, MBBS.

Each year, COMy presents this award to a physician for their research and clinical contributions to development and progress in multiple myeloma and plasma cell dyscrasias.

Dr. Usmani is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chief of the Plasma Cell Disorder Program, and Director of Clinical Research in Hematologic Malignancies at the Levine Cancer Institute/Atrium Health. A member of the American Society of Hematology (ASH), International Myeloma Working Group, SWOG Myeloma Committee, American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), and the American Society of Bone Marrow Transplantation, he also chairs the ASH Scientific Committee on Plasma Cell Neoplasia and serves on the ASCO Scientific Committee on Lymphoma and Plasma Cell Disorders and the NCI Myeloma Steering Committee.

Source: Levine Cancer Institute press release, October 8, 2020.

David Green, MSA

David Green Begins Term as President of AABB

During the AABB Virtual Annual Meeting, the association announced that David Green, MSA, began his term as president. He succeeds Beth Shaz, MD, in this role.

Mr. Green is currently Chair of the Alliance of Blood Operators. Previously, he has served as President and CEO of Vitalant. Prior to joining Vitalant, his roles included President and CEO of Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center, Principal Officer for the Southeast Blood Region of the American Red Cross, and Chair of Blood Centers of America.

“I have been a member of AABB for almost 30 years. It is truly an honor to continue to serve the transfusion medicine and biotherapies community now as president of this association,” said Mr. Green. “I am particularly impressed at how quickly our community has been able to adapt and overcome so many of the challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and look forward to working with AABB members as we continue to ensure the safety of donors and patients worldwide during these demanding times.”

Source: AABB press release, October 2, 2020.

Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, PhD

Jill O’Donnell-Tormey Receives SITC’s Tara Withington Public Service Award

Cancer Research Institute (CRI) CEO Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, PhD, has been named the inaugural recipient of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) Tara Withington Public Service Award. This award is granted to an individual or group who furthers the field of cancer immunotherapy through increasing public awareness, research efforts, or funding.

The award was presented to Dr. O’Donnell-Tormey during an online ceremony at the virtual SITC 35th Annual Meeting.

“Jill is a true leader and strong advocate for cancer immunotherapy through her continuous service at the Cancer Research Institute,” said SITC President Mario Sznol, MD, during the ceremony. “She has overseen the exponential growth and evolution of core programs at CRI, including disseminating research, funding and training future generations of tumor immunologists, and supporting and promoting clinical development of new promising cancer immunotherapies.”

Source: CRI press release, November 11, 2020.

Kate Westmoreland, MD

NIH Awards UNC Project-Malawi $500,000 to Support Sickle Cell Disease Treatment

The NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have jointly awarded $500,000 to a team of researchers led by UNC Project-Malawi. The grant will fund infrastructure for sickle cell disease (SCD) treatment and research in partnership with the Malawi Ministry of Health/Kamuzu Central Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital Global Hematology Oncology Pediatric Excellence (HOPE) Program, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and the Research Triangle Institute.

Kate Westmoreland, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology at UNC, will lead the project. “Every child, no matter where they are born in the world, should have equal access to care. Unfortunately for children born with SCD in Malawi and across sub-Saharan Africa, this is not the case,” Dr. Westmoreland said. “This award will make it possible to provide comprehensive high-quality SCD care … to our patients in Malawi, and ultimately to improve their survival and quality of life.”

The grant will support improvements at an SCD clinic that Kamuzu Central Hospital opened with UNC Project-Malawi in 2015, which now serves 550 patients. “The mortality rates for SCD and HIV is unacceptably high in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Irving Hoffman, PA, MPH, International Director of UNC Project-Malawi. “We want to build clinical and research systems that will set the stage to reduce mortality rates, including eventual gene therapy for both diseases.”

“We are excited to partner with UNC on this initiative that will strengthen the capacity to diagnose and treat SCD in Malawi,” says Nmazuo Ozuah, MD, Medical Director of Global HOPE in Malawi. “Global HOPE is committed to drastically improving outcomes for children with cancers and blood disorders in sub-Saharan Africa. The burden of SCD in this region cannot be overstated.”

Source: UNC press release, October 12, 2020.

Ola Landgren, MD, PhD

Ola Landgren Named Leader of Experimental Therapeutics at Sylvester Cancer Center

Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami has named Ola Landgren, MD, PhD, as inaugural leader of its new Experimental Therapeutics research program, effective November 1, 2020. In addition to this role, Dr. Landgren will lead the multiple myeloma (MM) clinical and research teams at the cancer center.

Prior to joining Sylvester’s leadership, he served as Chief of Myeloma Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for 6 years.

The new Experimental Therapeutics Program will bring together multidisciplinary teams of clinicians and scientists throughout Sylvester to support early laboratory discoveries, refinement of preclinical models, and early-stage and first-in-human clinical trials, with the overall goal of facilitating FDA approvals.

“Also, the Experimental Therapeutics Program will play a key role for continued and expanded scientific medical education, mentoring, and culture of intellectual synergism and collaboration,” Dr. Landgren said when asked about his vision for the program. “We will support all promising discoveries made in our laboratories and clinics, with the goal to reach its full potential for benefiting people with cancer.”

Source: University of Miami press release, October 29, 2020.

Schaefer Research Scholarships Awarded to Columbia University Scientists

Four scientists at Columbia University have received awards consisting of a $50,000 cash prize and up to $200,000 in direct research support from the Schaefer Research Scholars Program.

This program, which is funded by a bequest from Ludwig Schaefer, PhD, presents awards to four researchers annually for outstanding work in the science of human physiology.

The awardees are as follows:

  • Emily Mace, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatric Immunology, for her project “Drawing the roadmap of human natural killer cell development”
  • Markus Siegelin, MD, Associate Professor of Pathology and Cell Biology and a member of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, for his project “Epigenetic targeting of the Warburg effect leads to therapeutic vulnerabilities”
  • Etienne Jacotot, PhD, Research Director at Inserm in France and Visiting Professor at Columbia University’s Taub Institute (in the laboratory of Carol Troy, MD, PhD), for their project “Role and targeting of Caspase-2 in Alzheimer’s disease”
  • David Roper, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry and Structural Biology at the University of Warwick, U.K., and Visiting Professor of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics (in the laboratory of Filippo Mancia, PhD) and Microbiology and Immunology (in the laboratory of Jonathan Dworkin, PhD), for his project “Molecular machines that synthesize the bacterial cell wall”

Source: Columbia University press release, October 29, 2020.

NCI Outstanding Investigator Awards Granted for Research in Hematology

Three researchers have received the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI’s) 2020 Outstanding Investigator Award to further their work in hematology/oncology. Each investigator will be awarded up to $600,000 in research support annually for 7 years.

“The NCI Outstanding Investigator Award addresses a problem that many cancer researchers experience: finding a balance between focusing on their science while ensuring that they will have funds to continue their research in the future,” said NCI Deputy Director Dinah Singer, PhD. “With an anticipated seven years of uninterrupted funding, NCI is supporting the opportunity for investigators to fully develop exceptional and ambitious cancer research programs.”

The awards were granted to the following investigators for their research related to hematologic conditions:

  • Craig Jordan, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Hematology at the University of Colorado Denver, for understanding and exploiting novel aspects of leukemia stem cell biology towards the goal of improved outcomes for patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
  • David Scheinberg, MD, PhD, Chair of the Molecular Pharmacology Program at Sloan Kettering Institute (the experimental research arm of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center), Director of the Experimental Therapeutics Center, and Vincent Astor Chair, for investigating exploiting the immune response to cancer specific targets
  • Hans-Guido Wendel, MD, Member/Professor of the Cancer Biology and Genetics Program, for his research on follicular lymphoma and how the disruption of the tumor microenvironment is effective against the disease

Drs. Jordan and Scheinberg are members of the American Society of Hematology.

Source:, October 12, 2020; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center press release, October 29, 2020.

Researchers Receive $11.2 Million NIH Grant to Leverage Microbiome Against GVHD

Researchers at the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center have received an $11.2 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to study using the microbiome to reduce the risk of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) after hematopoietic cell transplantation.

The research projects, which will explore the importance of the microbiome in limiting complications and improving post-transplant outcomes, are as follows:

  • Project 1, led by Pavan Reddy, MD, Deputy Director of the Rogel Cancer Center and Division Chief of Hematology/Oncology at Michigan Medicine, will explore the crosstalk between host cells and the metabolite butyrate in mouse models of GVHD.
  • Project 2, led by Gabriel Nunez, MD, Paul de Kruif Endowed Professor in the Department of Pathology at Michigan Medicine, will look at another host-microbiome interaction involving secondary bile acids.
  • Project 3, led by Thomas Schmidt, PhD, Lab Leader in The Michigan Microbiome Project; and Nicole Koropatkin, PhD, Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Michigan Medicine; focuses on the critical microbes and mechanisms that break down resistant starch to generate butyrate and secondary bile acids.
  • Project 4, led by Muneesh Tewari, MD, PhD, Ray and Ruth Anderson-Laurence Sprague Memorial Research Professor, Professor of Internal Medicine, and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Michigan Medicine; and Mary Riwes, DO, Assistant Professor of Medical Oncology at Michigan Medicine, will explore a proof-of-concept clinical trial looking at the role of dietary resistant starch on patients’ microbiome and metabolome and the impact on clinical GVHD.

“Our overarching goal is to make allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation safer and more efficacious. The proposal has a unifying central theme to understand the role of intestinal microbial metabolite interactions with host metabolism and the impact on intestinal GVHD,” Dr. Reddy said.

Source: University of Michigan press release, October 21, 2020.

CPRIT Awards $114.7 Million in New Grants

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) has awarded 62 new grants totaling $114.7 million, including 52 academic research awards, eight prevention awards, and two product development awards.

The awards support cancer research and prevention activities taking place in universities and community organizations across Texas that include recruiting cancer researchers to the state, expanding access to clinical trials, and providing needed cancer screenings for underserved populations, as well as two investments in Texas biotech companies developing CPRIT-supported research discoveries into promising new cancer treatments.

Among the grants are individual investigator awards to Yulin Li, MD, PhD, at the Methodist Hospital Research Institute in Houston for “Rational Combination Therapy for Aggressive Double-Hit Lymphoma,” and Linghua Wang, MD, at MD Anderson Cancer Center for “Predicting Response and Improving Efficacy of CAR T-cell Therapy in DLBCL.”

Source: CPRIT press release, August 19, 2020.