2021 Young Investigator Draft
About Young Investigator Draft
The Young Investigator Draft is the result of Uplifting Athletes’ ongoing commitment to cultivate resources that accelerate scientific advancements for rare disease treatments and potential cures while facilitating the next generation of rare disease researchers.
Young Investigator Draft grants fund research that is collaborative and translational in order to positively impact treatments and potential cures for the entire Rare Disease Community.
Uplifting Athletes has provided more than $300,000 in funding to rare disease researchers through its first three Young Investigator Drafts.
Underrepresented Researchers in Medicine Initiative
The 2021 Young Investigator Draft will mark the first Draft to highlight Uplifting Athletes’ recently introduced Underrepresented Researchers in Medicine (URM) initiative. URM aims to provide opportunities for rare disease researchers from diverse backgrounds, and to celebrate and fund their work through the Draft. Uplifting Athletes aspires to lead the change in representation in medicine and medical research, and help rare disease patients from all walks of life feel represented and inspired by the Young Investigator Draft honorees.
2021 Young Investigator Draft Class
- Dr. Adele Mossa Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai View StoryDr. Adele Mossa Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Dr. Mossa, Ph.D. is a postdoctoral research fellow in the De Rubeis lab at the Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She has worked on mouse models for rare neurodevelopmental disorders since her undergraduate studies. She joined the De Rubeis lab in July 2020 and is studying the mechanisms of DDX3X syndrome, a rare neurodevelopmental condition affecting predominantly females. Her goal is to lay the groundwork for the development of novel therapeutics for DDX3X syndrome. Prior to joining De Rubeis lab, Dr. Mossa studied mouse models of two rare neurodevelopmental disorders. While in these labs, she discovered fundamental mechanisms underlying two rare diseases and targeted them with pharmacological agents, thus laying the groundwork for new therapeutic avenues.
- Dr. Neha Nagpal Boston Children’s Hospital View StoryDr. Neha Nagpal Boston Children’s Hospital
Dr. Nagpal received her Ph.D. in Biochemical Engineering and Biotechnology from the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, India. She joined the Agarwal lab at Boston Children’s Hospital in 2016 where she has been developing small molecule strategies to modulate human telomerase in the rare degenerative disease, dyskeratosis congenita (DC). Her work in the past few years has discovered novel chemicals that have the potential to restore telomere maintenance in stem cells derived from patients with DC. Dr. Nagpal is driven to improve the drug-like properties of these molecules to develop the first systemic treatments for DC, pulmonary fibrosis, and other rare telomere biology diseases.
- Dr. Peter M.J. Quinn Columbia University View StoryDr. Peter M.J. Quinn Columbia University
Dr. Quinn, Ph.D. began his scientific career at The University of Manchester and continued his development in the Novel Therapies Division of Manchester-based biotech Epistem. He subsequently undertook a Masters in Molecular Medicine at Brunel University where he fostered a deep enthusiasm for research. After beginning his doctoral studies at Leiden University, Dr. Quinn applied his passion for research to an entirely new domain—he began investigating the pathobiology of inherited retinal dystrophies (IRDs). Following the receipt of his Doctorate, Dr. Quinn joined Drs. Stephen H. Tsang and Irene H. Maumenee’s team at Columbia University in order to continue developing his IRD research. He is developing novel gene-editing and gene-augmentation strategies, in addition to repurposing prior FDA approved drugs. Dr. Quinn plans to begin his own independent academic career as a Principal Investigator, developing novel therapies and elucidating molecular mechanisms of IRDs.
- Dr. Qinglan Ling University of Texas Southwestern View StoryDr. Qinglan Ling University of Texas Southwestern
Dr. Ling has a keen interest in using cutting-edge genetic tools to develop treatment strategies for human diseases. She earned her Ph.D. in pharmacology from the University of Houston in 2018 where she published three peer-reviewed papers as the first author and received a Future Faculty Fellowship in 2015. Dr. Ling is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Dr. Steven Gray at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. As a postdoc, she has been leading preclinical studies to establish an AAV-based gene therapy strategy for SURF1-related Leigh syndrome, a rare and devastating mitochondrial disease that typically presents in infancy and has no current treatment options. As this work moves into clinical trials, Dr. Ling’s future research endeavors include developing novel gene therapy strategies for mitochondrial diseases and other neurodegenerative diseases using mitochondria as a target.
- Dr. Sarah Sheppard Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia View StoryDr. Sarah Sheppard Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Dr. Sheppard is an Attending Physician in the Division of Human Genetics and a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Applied Genomics under the mentorship of Dr. Hakon Hakonarson at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). She completed her undergraduate degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, then attained her MD, Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and completed her combined pediatrics and medical genetics residency at CHOP. She is currently completing a master of science in translational research at the University of Pennsylvania. Her translational research focuses on the genetics and potential tailored therapeutics of vascular anomalies. Her accolades include the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Distinguished Research Trainee Award (2019) and the Association for Clinical and Translational Sciences Outstanding Postdoctoral Trainee Award (2020).
- Dr. Timothy Hines The Jackson Laboratory View StoryDr. Timothy Hines The Jackson Laboratory
After completing his undergraduate work at Appalachian State University in 2012, Dr. Hines went to the University of South Carolina where in 2018 he completed his PhD in Biological Sciences. While at South Carolina, Dr. Hines received the Presidential Fellowship, the Sloan Minority Ph.D. Fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Kathryn Hinnant-Johnson Memorial Fellowship for research in the field of genetics. Currently, Dr. Hines is a postdoc at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine where he studies the cellular and biochemical mechanisms underlying the rare disorder Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT), an inherited peripheral neuropathy that causes loss of sensory and motor function. Part of Dr. Hines’ current project was recently funded by NINDS through a Research Supplement to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research. He is excited to continue growing his expertise in axon biology and to help find treatments for rare diseases.
- Dr. Ukpong Eyo University of Virginia View StoryDr. Ukpong Eyo University of Virginia
Dr. Eyo was born in Nigeria and grew up in several different countries. He immigrated to the United States in 2003 to pursue undergraduate studies at Northwest Missouri State University. He then went on to graduate school at the University of Iowa. Following his Ph.D studies, Dr. Eyo joined the lab of Dr. Long-Jun Wu, first at Rutgers University in New Jersey, then at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to study microglial-neuronal communications. In August 2018, Dr. Eyo started his independent lab in the Department of Neuroscience and the Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG) at the University of Virginia to continue his research on microglia with a focus on the developing brain. Away from the lab, Dr. Eyo enjoys time with his blessed family including his wife, two sons, and daughter.
Hall of Fame
Past Draft Classes
- Dr. Aimee Layton Columbia University | Rare Genetics Disorders
Dr. Layton’s research focuses on using exercise to improve patient outcomes and to predict how a patient will respond to certain interventions. Driven to work in a lab by her intrigue for science, Dr. Layton learned early in her career she needed interaction with patients to intertwine her passion and purpose professionally. And, provided the opportunity by her mentor Dr. Bob Garofano, the University of Massachusetts and Columbia University graduate is filling a dual role in the lab as a researcher and using that science to impact patients directly.
- Dr. Angela Waanders Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia | Rare Cancers
Dr. Waanders is a physician-scientist involved in clinical care and research on childhood brain and spinal cord tumors. She serves as the Executive Board Chair for CBTTC, and as the Director of Clinical Research for the Center for Data Driven Discovery in Biomedicine (D3b) at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Her most recent work launched a national initiative to routinely collect post-mortem brain-tumor tissue, including whole brain and spinal cord.
- Dr. David Fajgenbaum University of Pennsylvania | Rare Autoimmune Disorders
Dr. Fajgenbaum is a rare disease patient who nearly died during medical school. He suffers from Castleman Disease. The former college quarterback is a graduate of Georgetown, Oxford University and the University of Pennsylvania. He discovered a drug in his lab and began testing it on himself and is enjoying a more than five-year remission. The recently published author is at the center of the effort to cure his disease through a research network he founded - Castleman Disease Collaborative Network.
- Dr. Emily Lowry Columbia University | Rare Muscular and Neurological Disorders
Fascinated with neuroscience since the eighth grade when her parents strongly encouraged her to attend summer school for accelerated students and she picked a neuroscience class. Dr. Lowry is a graduate of Barnard College and Rockefeller University and is a researcher at Columbia University with a focus on ALS. The combination of studying the drugs used on patients and how the patients respond to those treatments scientifically drives the native of Northern California. Her love of science, a passion for creativity and compassion for people suffering drives Dr. Lowry.
- Dr. Alessia Stornetta University of Minnesota | Rare Blood Disorders
Dr. Stornetta grew up in Ticino, the Italian-speaking region of Southern Switzerland, and she obtained all her degrees from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. Drawn to the lab by her love of science and the reality that cancer is the largest killer worldwide, Dr. Stornetta’s research is focused on the impact outside agents have on the oral cavity and what natural molecules produced by the body also have on the oral cavity of patients with rare blood disorders.
- Dr. Phillip “Jay” Storm Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia | Collaborative Leadership Award
Dr. Storm is the chief of The Division of Neurosurgery at CHOP, specializing in pediatric brain tumors. The graduate of Wake Forest and Johns Hopkins University has specialized in using his skills as a clinician and a researcher to seek out bold and collaborative new treatments for brain tumors in children. Dr. Storm partners with the Children’s Hospital Research Institute as a leader in pediatric genetic research. Together they are working to develop new treatments that one day will help thousands of children with brain tumors.