The National Hemophilia Foundation (NHF) is pleased to announce the 2017 Judith Graham Pool (JGP) Postdoctoral Research Fellowship award recipients: Esther Cooke, PhD, from the University of California San Diego, Satish Nandakumar, PhD of Boston Children’s Hospital, and Kasturi Pal, PhD, from The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.
Dr. Cooke has been awarded the NHF/Nicholas Cirelli Family Research Fund JGP Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. In her research project, “Identification, Characterization and Therapeutic Targeting of Key Molecular Markers and Pathways Implicated in the Development of Hemophilic Arthropathy,” she will examine the molecular-level mechanisms associated with joint bleeding, re-bleeding, and the development of hemophilic arthropathy. Dr. Cooke will conduct comprehensive gene expression analyses to uncover possible genetic factors associated with the adverse after-effects of joint bleeds. Dr. Cooke hopes that her findings will eventually help identify targets for novel therapies that may reduce re-bleeding rates and slow the progression of hemophilic arthropathy.
Dr. Cooke received her PhD from the Leeds Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine at the University of Leeds, U.K., where she studied the role of fibrinogen phosphorylation in thrombosis. Dr. Cooke is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Annette von Drygalski, University of California San Diego, and in collaboration with the laboratory of Dr. Laurent Mosnier at the Scripps Research Institute.
Dr. Nandakumar has been awarded the NHF/Robert Long and Irwin Katzman JGP Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. For his research project, “Development of Hematopoietic CRISPR/Cas9 Gene Activation for Hemophilia Therapy,” he aims to cultivate a novel approach to hemophilia gene therapy that involves activation of existing factor VIII or IX genes within hematopoietic stem cells (cells that give rise to all the other blood cells) by taking advantage of the CRISPR/Cas9 gene activation system. This work has the potential to elicit important clues to developing an approach for gene therapy that benefit patients with mild hemophilia mutations.
Dr. Nandakumar is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Vijay Sankaran at the Boston Children’s Hospital. Previously, he did his graduate work at the St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. Nandakumar already has five publications, including co-first authored publications in Cell and PNAS as well as a co-authored work in Blood.
Dr. Pal has been awarded a JGP Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. Her project, “Dissecting the Roles of Non-muscle Myosin IIA in May-Hegglin Platelet Disorders,” will focus on trying to decipher the molecular mechanisms and signaling pathways which contribute to bleeding disorders and macrothrombocytopenia associated with May-Hegglin anomaly, a rare and inherited blood platelet disorder characterized by abnormally large platelets and defects of the white blood cells known as leukocytes. Her research will reveal novel insights into the mechanisms of thrombopoiesis, the process through which thrombocyte cells are generated – thrombocytes are key cells contributing to the blood clotting process. Dr. Pal would ultimately like to direct her research endeavors to solving platelet signaling defects contributing to hemostatic failures using multidisciplinary experimental approaches.
Dr. Pal is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Velia Fowler at the Scripps Research Institute. She received her doctoral degree working in the laboratory of Dr. Kathryn Defea at the University of California Riverside.
For the past 45 years, NHF’s JGP postdoctoral research fellowships have been supporting innovative projects in clinical and basic science research leading to a better understanding of the biochemical and genetic aspects of bleeding disorders. The JGP fellowship awards provide research support for up to two years. Overall funding for NHF’s research grant programs comes from the generous contributions made by NHF chapters, individuals and other foundations.