March 8, 2022—(BRONX, NY)—In a demonstration of research excellence and entrepreneurial vision, faculty at Albert Einstein College of Medicine have secured two of the five 2022 XSeed Awards, which provide $100,000 in funding for each winning team to advance promising basic science findings that have startup potential. The theme of this year’s competition was neurodegeneration, with proposals offering novel approaches to address key questions about the pathogenesis, progression, diagnosis, or treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
“Einstein is well known for its outstanding basic science and translational research faculty, a reputation that is reinforced by their success in this competition,” said Gordon F. Tomaselli, M.D., the Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz Dean at Einstein and executive vice president and chief academic officer at Montefiore Medicine. “These awards, on top of the two winning teams last year, also demonstrate Einstein’s commitment to supporting our scientists as they seek to turn their discoveries into diagnostics and treatments that improve the health of our Bronx community and beyond. I applaud each of them for their scientific excellence and initiative.”
Winners of the 2022 XSeed Awards are:
- Arne Gennerich, Ph.D., and Hernando Sosa, Ph.D., for their proposal to identify and develop drugs targeting neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases. The team will start by normalizing the activity of the protein KIF1A. Its dysfunction has been implicated in some cases of intellectual disability, autism, and microcephaly—known collectively as KIF1A-associated neurological disorders, or KAND. The team will use structural analysis, virtual screens, and in vitro and in vivo assays to identify small molecules that might rescue KIF1A function.
- Nicholas Sibinga, M.D., and Sayan Nandi, Ph.D., for their research into microglial phagocytosis. This protective process clears dying neurons and toxic proteins such as amyloid beta from the brain—but its overactivity damages live neurons and has been implicated in multiple sclerosis, ALS, and other neurodegenerative diseases. These investigators have found that loss of function of the protein Iba1 slows down microglial phagocytosis. The team, which also includes Evripidis Gavathiotis, Ph.D., Derek Huffman, Ph.D., and Alishba Maira, M.S., will investigate strategies for using drugs to target the Iba1 pathway and thereby disrupt microglial phagocytosis.
“Einstein faculty members have secured four of the ten XSeed Awards given over the first two years of this prestigious competition,” noted Janis Paradiso, M.B.A., C.L.P., director of the office of biotechnology and business development, whose office worked with several of the teams that submitted applications for the award. “Our scientific community is focused on important projects that have potential in treating debilitating diseases and is committed to advancing this research. We look forward to working with our Einstein researchers as they build additional relationships with funding sources, like XSeed, investment groups, and licensing partners, to further develop Einstein innovations.”
In addition to funding, all winning teams, which are selected by Deerfield Management and a panel of industry specialists, will join a cohort of their fellow awardees and be provided with two years of peer-learning and office hours with leading investors, entrepreneurs, and business experts. XSeed graduates are expected to serve as mentors and coaches for future cohorts, further strengthening New York City’s entrepreneurial community.