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Dr. Hemali Phatnani Receives 2021 NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award

New York, NY  ·  October 5, 2021

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has selected Hemali Phatnani, PhD, Core Faculty Member and Director, Center for Genomics of Neurodegenerative Disease, New York Genome Center (NYGC), as a recipient of the prestigious NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award. This award is a part of the NIH’s High-Risk, High-Reward funding program and promotes exceptionally innovative or unconventional research projects with the potential to create or overturn fundamental paradigms.

The five-year, $8.5 million award will support the project The physical biology of neurodegeneration in sporadic Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis/Frontotemporal dementia. Dr. Phatnani, who holds a joint appointment as Assistant Professor of Neurological Sciences in the Department of Neurology, Division of Neuromuscular Medicine, at Columbia University, will serve as lead principal investigator working in collaboration with researchers at Columbia University, New York University, and The University of Edinburgh. The multi-institutional team will explore whether physical changes within cells caused by molecular overcrowding may underlie these neurological disorders. This research could alter the view of pathogenesis and provide a new framework to find better therapies for these complex neurodegenerative diseases.

Dr. Phatnani’s research focuses on using novel tools and technologies in conjunction with cellular and animal models and patient-derived tissue samples to understand how disease-associated mutations perturb intercellular interactions in the tissue microenvironment in ALS-FTD. To understand the role of intercellular interactions in disease, her lab applies spatially-resolved transcriptomic and proteomic approaches to deconvolve both spatial and cell-type specific changes in gene expression across entire brain or spinal cord regions from rodent and human post-mortem tissue. The team develops novel computational and analytical tools specifically tailored to overcoming the unique analytical challenges associated with such complex data sets. Their approaches can be broadly applied to any neurodegenerative disease, and data are broadly shared, so that they may provide a platform for other investigators to unveil markers specific to their disease of study.

Read the NIH announcement here.

Read more news about the Center for Genomics of Neurodegenerative Disease – Phatnani Lab.

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