Two Columbia Scientists Receive Hirschl Trust Research Awards

Two early-career scientists at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons—Minoree Kohwi, PhD, and Chao Lu, PhD—have been awarded prestigious 2022 Hirschl Trust Research Awards by the Irma T. Hirschl Trust Research Scientist Program.

The award provides each investigator with steady funding ($200,000 over five years) that will enable the scientists to conduct high-risk, high-reward studies that have the potential to reveal new ways to improve human health.

The Irma T. Hirschl Trust Research Scientist Program has supported early-career biomedical scientists for more than 45 years and has supported the work of more than 100 Hirschl Trust Research Scientists at VP&S.

Minoree Kohwi, PhD

Assistant Professor, Neuroscience

Minoree Kohwi, PhD

Minoree Kohwi

Minoree Kohwi’s work addresses one of the most challenging questions in the field of nervous system development: How do neural stem cells give rise to the astronomical number of unique neurons and glia that make up the brain, and how is this process dysregulated in neurodevelopmental disorders?

Her contributions have been at the intersection of neurodevelopment and nuclear architecture, where she has shown that higher-order genome organization underlies neural stem cell competence to specify daughter cell fate. Her work provides new insights into the neurogenic potential of adult neural stem cells, which has important clinical implications.

Kohwi received her BS from California Institute of Technology and her PhD in neuroscience from the University of California, San Francisco. She completed her postdoctoral studies in molecular neuroscience at the University of Oregon.

Chao Lu, PhD

Assistant Professor, Genetics & Development

Chao Lu, PhD

Chao Lu

Chao Lu’s work demonstrates how genetic and metabolic perturbations lead to aberrant epigenetic regulation of gene expression that underlies cancer initiation and progression. His work was the first to connect mutations in IDH1/2 and the "oncometabolite" 2-hydroxyglutarate, found in several human cancers including acute myeloid leukemia, to impaired histone and DNA demethylation.

His studies contributed to the development of IDH1 and IDH2 inhibitors, which the FDA recently approved to treat leukemia, and uncovered a novel function of chromatin regulators as sensors of metabolic intermediates, linking cell metabolism to epigenetic control of gene expression.

He earned his BS from the National University of Singapore and his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. He completed his postdoctorate studies in chromatin biology and epigenetics at Rockefeller University.