2010 TTS-Astellas Young Investigator Awards

astellasTen TTS-Astellas Young Investigator Awards were presented to TTS members with the highest scoring abstracts during the Vancouver Congress. TTS will be profiling the award winners throughout the year in Tribune.

li_liLI LI, USA

Li Li was granted a Young Investigator Award for her research paper: A highly specific novel 3 gene-set can non-invasively predict operational renal allograft tolerance. This gene-set specific to operational tolerance in peripheral blood has been identified using the high-throughput microarray and can be further validated by Q-PCR across multiple patients groups and transplant centers with high sensitivity, specificity and accuracy. It can be used as a non-invasive monitoring tool for screening patients with stable operational tolerance after kidney transplantation. Serial measurement of expression for this gene-set in peripheral blood opens the door for deliberate immunosuppression minimization after transplantation, and should be further tested for its utility in also monitoring patients on tolerance induction protocols in kidney transplantation.

The young research scientist Li got her MD on clinical medicine from China and MS on bioinformatics from Boston University. Currently, she works at Stanford University. Her research interests are: biomarkers identification for diagnosis/prognosis of specific phenotypes for solid organ transplantation using integrated bioinformatics approach and clinical outcomes analysis on prospective and retrospective clinical trials. She received the Distinguished Research Fellow Award and Young Investigator Award in the past from the American Society of Transplantation.



Kazuaki Tokodai was granted a Young Investigator Award for his paper called Interruption of a cross-talk between the complement and coagulation cascades improves early outcomes after intraportal islet transplantation. He is a general surgeon specialized in solid organ transplantation at Tohoku University Hospital in Japan. He has been involved in the research of islet transplantation, especially the instant blood-mediated inflammatory reaction (IBMIR). IBMIR, characterized by activation of both the coagulation and complement cascades, is one of the major obstacles to successful islet engraftment. He has an active interest in the cross-talk between the complement and coagulation cascades in the IBMIR.

In the complement system, complement 5a factor (C5a) is well known to elicit a broad range of pro-inflammatory reactions. In islet transplantation, the regulation of C5a might contribute to the suppression of the IBMIR.

In recent years, many researchers have reported a potential interplay between complement and coagulation cascades. Dr. Tokodai’s team has shown through their research that C5a inhibitory peptide attenuates the cross-talk between the complement and coagulation cascades through suppressing the up-regulation of tissue factor expression on leukocytes in recipient livers and thereby improves early outcomes after intraportal islet transplantation.


laura_wozniakLAURA WOZNIAK, USA
Laura Wozniak received a Young Investigator Award for her work on the Validation of a Transcriptional Profile of Tolerance in Pediatric Liver Transplant Recipients. In collaboration with Dr. Sarwal’s lab at Stanford University, peripheral blood gene expression patterns from a cohort of 18 UCLA pediatric liver transplant recipients were compared to a unique 13-gene set identified from previous tolerance studies. The gene set correctly predicted tolerance with 100% sensitivity and 83% specificity. Prospective studies are needed to determine whether this 13-gene set can identify patients who can be withdrawn from immunosuppression.

Dr. Wozniak received her M.D. from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York. She then completed her Pediatric residency at UCLA. She is now a fellow in Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition at UCLA. In addition, she is completing a Clinical Pharmacology fellowship and an M.S. in Health Services Research. Clinically, she is interested in caring for liver and small bowel transplant patients. Under Dr. McDiarmid’s mentorship, Dr. Wozniak’s research is aimed at identifying biomarkers of tolerance after liver transplantation, with the ultimate goal of enabling clinicians to individualize immunosuppression.