Sanford-Burnham News Archive

Fishman Awards Honor Gifted, Young Burnham Researchers

LA JOLLA, Calif. , October 13, 2008

The Burnham Institute for Medical Research today announced that five of the Institute’s postdoctoral research associates will be honored with Fishman Fund Awards to recognize their commitment to basic biomedical research. The awardees will receive $5,000 grants to be used to further their education and career development.

The goal of the Fishman Award Fund is to provide an incentive for outstanding post-doctoral fellows to further their professional and career development as they advance their training and become accomplished scientists. The award winners were selected from 59 applicants based on the quality of their research and the breadth of their scientific vision. This is the seventh year the awards have been given.

These scientists are working to understand fundamental biological processes which may yield new insights into cancer, autoimmune disease, heart disease and other conditions.

The Fishman Fund Award winners are:

Melanie Hoefer, Ph.D.
Under the direction of Dr. Robert Rickert, Dr. Hoefer investigates the crosstalk between the immune system and bone metabolism. She hopes to decipher the underlying causes of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Jochen Maurer, Ph.D.
Dr. Maurer studies cancer stem cell biology in Dr. Robert Oshima’s lab. He is establishing a line of breast tumor initiating cells, which will be an invaluable tool to screen for proteins or other molecules that can change the cell’s fate. The goal is to find a compound that cures breast cancer.

Elizabeth Rico, Ph.D.
Dr. Rico, working under the direction of Dr. Dieter Wolf, has been looking for small molecules that prevent the loss of the protein p27. Loss of p27 directly correlates with tumor progression and poor prognosis in several cancers including breast, colon and prostate cancer. Rico has identified three small molecules that restore normal levels of p27 in prostate cancer cells and is designing and testing similar molecules.

Maria Cecilia Scimia, M.D.
Dr. Scimia has been working with Dr. Pilar Ruiz-Lozano to analyze ways to protect the heart against stress. The team has discovered a cell surface receptor protein that may be a promising target for new therapies. Dr. Scimia also works with Dr. Mark Mercola to better understand cellular signaling in the adult heart and cardiac regeneration.

Chih-Cheng Yang, Ph.D.
Dr. Yang works in Dr. Dieter Wolf’s lab studying NKX3.1 protein loss in prostate cancer. NKX3.1 is a prostate specific tumor suppressor that is highly unstable and easily degraded during prostate cancer. Dr. Yang is working to identify the cellular pathways that degrade this protective protein and find drugs that can short-circuit that pathway to increase the amount of NKX3.1 available in cells to suppress prostate tumors.

About Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute is dedicated to discovering the fundamental molecular causes of disease and devising the innovative therapies of tomorrow. Sanford-Burnham takes a collaborative approach to medical research with major programs in cancer, neurodegeneration and stem cells, diabetes, and infectious, inflammatory, and childhood diseases. The Institute is recognized for its National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center and expertise in drug discovery technologies. Sanford-Burnham is a nonprofit, independent institute that employs more than 1,000 scientists and staff in San Diego (La Jolla), Calif., and Orlando (Lake Nona), Fla. For more information, visit us at

Sanford-Burnham can also be found on Facebook at and on Twitter @sanfordburnham.

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