Six NYC Scientists Win Pershing Square Sohn Prize for Young Investigators in Cancer Research

Monday, May 8, 2017


The Pershing Square Sohn Research Alliance Continues Investment in the Next Generation of Medical Research Talent to Accelerate Breakthroughs in Cancer Research

The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance today announced the six winners of the fourth annual Pershing Square Sohn Prize for Young Investigators in Cancer Research, awarded annually to promising early career, NYC-area scientists. Recipients receive $200,000 in funding per year for up to three years, for a total of $600,000, to support explorative, high-risk/high-reward cancer research. The awards will be presented on May 24.

“The Pershing Square Sohn Prize invests in brilliant, early career scientists who are on their way to making significant contributions to the field of cancer research,” said Bill Ackman, co-founder of The Pershing Square Foundation and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, L.P. “We are proud to support these scientists and their innovative research as they work to discover a cure for cancer.”

The winners of the 2017 Pershing Square Sohn Prize are:

  • Yimon Aye, PhD, Assistant Professor, Weill Cornell Medicine: Dr. Aye’s research analyzes the overlooked aspects of ribonucleotide reductase (RNR) function and regulation to discover two novel binding proteins that can either promote or suppress DNA synthesis. These previously unnoticed proteins may play a fundamental role in treating drug-resistant B-cell lymphomas and reveal the next generation of disease intervention.
  • Juan Cubillos-Ruiz, PhD, Assistant Professor, Weill Cornell Medicine: Dr. Cubillos-Ruiz’s project seeks to understand the main mechanism that hinders the immune system’s ability to fight the growth of ovarian tumors. Specifically, he will examine how cellular stress within ovarian cancer tumors impacts the immune system and whether disabling “stress sensors” could be used to enhance the efficacy of treatment.
  • Mikala Egeblad, PhD, Associate Professor, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory: Dr. Egeblad will research the relationship between chronic inflammation and the metastatic recurrence of breast cancer. In particular, her team will explore the role of neutrophils,   a specific type of immune cell, in the awakening of dormant cancer cells. Neutrophils can form neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) as part of the body’s reaction to inflammation. By targeting NETs, we may be able to prevent cancer recurrence.
  • Daniel Heller, PhD, Assistant Member, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Dr. Heller has created a nanotechnology platform that would allow doctors to develop personalized medicines that target the many mutations in a specific patient’s tumor while steering these drugs away from healthy cells to avoid toxicity. His research will extend beyond the traditional limits of nanomedicine by looking at the specific changes in drug pharmacology that are needed to improve kinase inhibitors, a common component of chemotherapy that can cause severe side effects.
  • Eirini Papapetrou, MD, PhD, Associate Professor, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai: Drawing on cutting-edge technologies from stem cell research and CRISPR genome editing, Dr. Papapetrou’s lab has pioneered a new approach to modeling common blood disorders called myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) that can progress to acute myeloid leukemia. With no existing effective treatment for these blood disorders, she hopes to use this new technology to study MDS and uncover new therapeutic options.
  • Richard White, MD, PhD, Assistant Member, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Dr. White’s research examines tumor microenvironments to identify new cell types that could be used as therapeutic targets. Using zebrafish as a model to study cancer, he has uncovered novel interaction between melanoma cells and fat cells. His research aims to show that the adipocytes promote melanoma progression and metastasis. This novel interaction will reveal promising new therapeutic targets for treatment. Dr. White’s research will also be supported by the Melanoma Research Alliance, in a special partnership between the two foundations to show support for this innovative and important melanoma research.

Founded in 2013, The Pershing Square Sohn Prize recognizes the work of young leaders in cancer research by providing early-stage funding to young, NYC-based cancer researchers. In addition to funding, the Prize facilitates access to leaders in the life science, philanthropic, and business communities.

“The Sohn Conference Foundation believes that the Prize program’s investment in leading scientists will change how cancer is understood and treated in the near term,” said Evan Sohn, Vice President of the Sohn Conference Foundation. “Each of the Prize winners found a window into how cancer functions in a new or unexpected way; we are giving them the time and funds they need to pursue their insights and because of how well-equipped they are. We are confident that they will make discoveries that reverberate throughout the cancer research community and reach the patients for whom our Foundation fights.”

“The quality work and innovation demonstrated by the 2017 Prize winners is truly impressive,” said Olivia Tournay Flatto, PhD, President of the Pershing Square Foundation. “We are deeply inspired by these young investigators and the spirit of collaboration among New York’s life-sciences researchers and the institutions with whom they’re working. It will be thrilling to witness the culmination of their efforts as they pursue innovative and groundbreaking cures and treatments.”

As part of the selection process, The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance relied on the guidance of a highly accomplished advisory board that reflects the culture of collaboration the Alliance wanted to implement.

Prize Advisory Board members include:

  • Jeanne B. Ackman, MD, Director, Thoracic MRI, Radiologist, Massachusetts General Hospital, Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School
  • Mikael Dolsten, MD, PhD, President, Worldwide Research and Development, Pfizer, Inc.
  • Allan Goodman, PhD, President and CEO, The Institute of International Education
  • Pablo Legorreta, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Royalty Pharma
  • Richard P. Lifton, MD, PhD, President, The Rockefeller University
  • Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Oncology, Columbia University Medical Center, Author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer and The Gene: An Intimate History
  • James E. Rothman, PhD, Fergus F. Wallace Professor of Biomedical Sciences, Yale University, 2013 Nobel Prize Winner in Physiology or Medicine
  • Bruce Stillman, PhD, President and CEO, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
  • Craig Thompson, MD, President and CEO, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Additional details about the Prize winners can be found on the PSSCRA website at


About The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance

The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance was formed in 2013 through a $25 million commitment by Bill and Karen Ackman and The Pershing Square Foundation, which partnered with The Sohn Conference Foundation. The Alliance is dedicated to playing a catalytic role in accelerating cures for cancer by supporting innovative cancer research and by facilitating collaborations between academia and industry.  Annually, the Alliance awards The Pershing Square Sohn Prize to young New York based scientists who are engaged in cutting-edge cancer research. For more information, visit

About The Pershing Square Foundation

In 2006, Bill and Karen Ackman founded the Pershing Square Foundation (PSF) to support exceptional leaders and innovative organizations that tackle important social issues and deliver scalable and sustainable impact across the globe.  In the decade since, PSF has committed $400 million in grants and social investments across a number of fields, including health and medicine, education, economic development and social justice.  By investing in pioneering individuals, non-profits and mission driven companies who dare to re-imagine the possible, PSF has helped to bring about important breakthroughs — from cancer research and small scale agriculture to criminal justice reform and educational opportunities for young people in communities around the world. For more information visit:

About The Sohn Conference Foundation

The Sohn Conference Foundation is dedicated to the treatment and cure of pediatric cancer and other childhood diseases. The Foundation supports cutting-edge medical research, state-of-the-art research equipment, and innovative programs to ensure that children with cancer survive and thrive. The Foundation raises its funds through premier investment conferences and special events, including its renowned annual New York Sohn Investment Conference.

Founded in 1995, the Conference honors the memory of Ira Sohn, a Wall Street professional who lost his battle with cancer at age 29. The Foundation has expanded its reach to include Sohn Australia Conference, Sohn Canada Conference, Sohn Hong Kong Conference, Sohn India Conference, Sohn London Conference, Sohn San Francisco Conference and Sohn Tel Aviv Conference. To date, the Foundation has raised more than $75 million. More information on the Sohn Conference Foundation can be found here:

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