The Neurofibromatosis Therapeutic Acceleration Program (NTAP) at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine is proud to announce that Dr. Nicole Brossier, Dr. Suganth Suppiah, and Dr. Harish Vasudevan have been selected as the 2021 recipients of the Francis S. Collins Scholars Program in Neurofibromatosis Clinical and Translational Research. They will be joining other exceptional clinician scientists who will lead Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) research and clinical care including the active Francis Collins Scholars (FCS) from the 2020 class; Dr. Tamar Green and Dr. Steven Rhodes.
The FCS Program in Neurofibromatosis Clinical and Translational Research was established in 2014 with the purpose of creating a community of exceptionally well-trained clinician-scientists committed to the research and clinical care of patients with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). Named in honor of Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, the current director of the National Institutes of Health and former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute. In 1990, Dr. Collins led one of the teams that discovered the NF1 gene. FCS are selected for their potential to drive the discovery of cures for NF1, become thought leaders in the field and inspire and train others in clinical care and research focused on NF1.
To support these goals, NTAP provides FCS with up to 100% salary support for two to three years, plus support for research, coursework, conference travel and mentorship. The program also provides a curriculum focused on translational science, a research community that offers hands-on support, and the opportunity to participate in collaborative translational research programs with government, academic and industry partners.
“Early stage clinician-scientists need dedicated time and support to become leaders in translational science for rare diseases such as NF1,” says Jaishri Blakeley, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Neurofibromatosis Center and NTAP. “The Francis S. Collins Scholars Program was launched to support a cadre of well-trained and dedicated clinician-scientists focused on NF1 in order to make the scientific leaps that are possible.”
About the scholars:
2021 FCS Recipients
Dr. Nicole Brossier obtained her M.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Alabama School of Medicine, then completed her residency in Pediatrics and Pediatric Hematology/Oncology fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis as part of the Pediatric Physician Scientist Training Program. Currently, she is an Instructor in the Department of Pediatrics at Washington University. She is a Pediatric Neuro-oncologist who specializes in the care of children with NF1-related brain tumors. During her postdoctoral work in the lab of Dr. David Gutmann, she built a platform to assess how different factors impact brain tumor penetrance in children with NF1. Her laboratory now focuses on how environmental, developmental and genetic factors impact neural stem cells to modulate pediatric brain tumor development. As an FCS scholar, Dr. Brossier will study whether germline NF1 mutations and maternal diet function as risk factors for NF1-glioma formation both inside and outside the optic pathway.
Dr. Suganth Suppiah completed his medical training at Western University and is currently completing his neurosurgical residency and Ph.D. at the University of Toronto. He will initiate his full-time FCS responsibilities in July 2022. During his graduate training, he characterized the molecular landscape of peripheral nerve sheath tumors associated with NF1, including neurofibromas and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNSTs) using state-of-the-art technologies. Through his research and clinical exposure to the Elisabeth Raab Neurofibromatosis Clinic in Toronto, he developed a strong interest in managing peripheral nerve sheath tumors associated with NF1. As a peripheral nerve surgeon, he plans to specialize in surgical management of these tumors and improve the quality-of-life of NF1 patients. During the Francis S. Collins scholar tenure, Dr. Suppiah will work on integrating multiplatform genomic and epigenomic data to uncover the molecular pathways that drive malignant transformation in the context of NF1 and identify novel therapeutic strategies.
Dr. Harish Vasudevan attended the California Institute of Technology for his undergraduate education before completing his MD, PhD training at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where his thesis work focused on understanding receptor tyrosine kinase signaling during development. He then began radiation oncology residency at the University of California San Francisco, where he is currently a Holman Pathway Research Fellow in the Department of Radiation Oncology. His postdoctoral work to date has elucidated genomic mechanisms underlying tumor heterogeneity and oncogenic signaling in neurofibromatosis type I (NF1). As a Francis Collins Scholar, Dr. Vasudevan will focus on understanding the transformation of neurofibroma to malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST) with an emphasis on identifying and testing novel treatments for patients with NF1. In addition, through his clinical training as a radiation oncologist, Dr. Vasudevan will play an active role in the multidisciplinary care of tumors arising in patients with NF1 and translate discoveries made at the laboratory bench to the clinical bedside.
Dr. Steven Rhodes completed his M.D., Ph.D. and pediatric residency training at the Indiana University School of Medicine/Riley Hospital for Children. He is currently completing his fellowship training in Hematology-Oncology as part of the Pediatric Scientist Development Program (PSDP) supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the American Society of Pediatric Department Chairs (AMSPDC). He is performing his post-doctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Wade Clapp. During his training, he has developed new mouse models that accurately mimic the progression of plexiform and atypical neurofibroma precursor tumors to a deadly sarcoma called malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST); the leading cause of death in people with NF1. Using these models and other state-of-the art technologies, Dr. Rhodes is working to identify potential new therapies that can not only treat MPNST, but ultimately prevent the development of these devastating tumors in individuals who are at risk. As a pediatric oncologist, he plans to devote his clinical practice to caring for children with NF1-associated neurofibromas, MPNST, and other related tumors.
Dr. Tamar Green is a physician-scientist and a child psychiatrist. She gained her training as a child psychiatrist at Tel Aviv University in Israel. She has completed a postdoctoral research fellow in neuroscience at the Center for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences Research at Stanford University. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford. Her lab takes a “genetic first” approach, which is the study of children with known genetic conditions who present with attention deficits, hyperactivity, and deficits in social cognition. Her lab’s focus is on the Rasopathies, a collection of syndromes associated with genetic mutations affecting the Ras/MAPK pathway. Dr. Green holds a career developmental award from NICHD studying Ras/MAPK mutations’ effects on the developing brain. These studies are directed at uncovering neural correlates associated with deficits in attention, memory, and social skills in Noonan syndrome. As an FCS scholar, Dr. Green will expand her focus to study brain development and organization in children with NF1. The ultimate goal is to understand how brain imaging in NF1 can serve as sensitive indicators of a treatment’s effects on cognitive and behavioral functions related to ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, and learning disabilities in NF1.
Based at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, The Neurofibromatosis Therapy Acceleration Program (NTAP) was founded in 2012 to accelerate the discovery and advancements for NF1 associated peripheral tumors. NTAP supports initiatives that serve its mission of focusing on therapeutics, fostering collaboration, promoting the open and timely sharing of results, and streamlining the research process. Following these guiding principles and with the resources provided, NTAP has enabled the generation of tangible results ranging from early discovery efforts to clinical trials which are actively changing the NF1 field. For more information, go to: http://www.n-tap.org