Two Yale scientists receive the Pershing Square Sohn Prize for Young Investigators in Cancer Research

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Two Yale scientists have been awarded the 2021 Pershing Square Sohn Prize for Young Investigators in Cancer Research, a prestigious award from the Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance (PSSCRA). In the quest for cures, the prize seeks to accelerate the most innovative cancer research and facilitate collaborations between the science and business communities.

Lilian Kabeche, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, and Sidi Chen, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Genetics, will each receive $200,000 per year for three years to support their research. They are the first two grantees from Yale School of Medicine.

Kabeche, who is a faculty member at the Yale Cancer Biology Institute, studies the interplay between the DNA damage repair pathway and mitotic machineries to promote genome stability. The PSSCRA board selected Kabeche’s proposal entitled Elucidating how centromere dysfunction leads to cancer.

“I am honored to receive this prize from the Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance. Our work to understand the mechanisms by which cancer cells continue to evade therapy requires bold, new approaches if we are to make a difference in medical science. Support from the Alliance is invaluable to our pursuit of innovative ideas,” said Dr. Kabeche.

Kabeche joined the Yale faculty in 2019 having completed a Ph.D. in Biochemistry at Dartmouth College in Dr. Duane Compton’s lab, where she studied the mechanism by which kinetochore-microtubules are regulated in mitosis to promote proper chromosome segregation. She completed post-doctoral work in Dr. Lee Zou’s lab at Mass General Hospital, Harvard University, identifying a novel role for the DNA damage repair kinase, ATR, in mitosis.

Chen is a faculty member at the Systems Biology Institute, also located on the university’s West Campus. His research utilizes a wide variety of modern biology and engineering tools, including in vivo gene editing and tumor modeling, genome-wide and focused CRISPR screens, immune engineering, high-density and high-dimensional genetic manipulations and systems level profiling to study the genetic, epigenetic, cellular and immunological bases of cancer oncogenesis, metastasis, immunity and treatment.

Chen receives the PSSCRA prize for his project Building transformative platforms for next-generation cell-based therapy. His work seeks to challenge existing paradigms to generate brand-new and potentially transformative tools. “The prize will help us to better understand, target and manipulate stem cells, hematopoietic systems, and immune cells, which will accelerate the development of new cell-based therapies for the treatments of cancer,” he said. 

Sidi Chen joined the Yale Faculty in 2015 having earned a PhD in evolutionary genetics from The University of Chicago in the lab of  Dr. Manyuan Long. He completed postdoctoral studies at MIT under the mentorship of Dr. Phil Sharp, and also the Broad Institute working with Dr. Feng Zhang.

Both scholars are members of Yale Cancer Center.

The Pershing Square Sohn Prize for Young Investigators in Cancer Research provides early career, New York area scientists the freedom to take risks and pursue their boldest research at a stage when traditional funding is lacking. 

The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance seeks to guide philanthropic funds to feed critical scientific discoveries, attracting like-minded investors to the cause of fighting cancer and creating a pipeline for early-stage biomedical investments.