Aaron Viny named one of the VP&S 2021 Gerstner Scholars

Aaron Viny is one of four physician-scientists at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (along with Jennifer Gelinas, Catherine Spina, and Xiao Zhao) who have been named 2021 Louis V. Gerstner Jr. Scholars. 

The Louis V. Gerstner Jr. Scholars Program supports tenure-track physicians who conduct research that has the promise to bring new treatments to patients. The fund provides a stipend of $75,000 per year, for up to three years, to support the awardees’ research projects. Scholars are nominated by a committee of distinguished research faculty and selected by the VP&S dean. The program has named scholars every year since 2008.


Aaron Viny, MD, MS

Project: Alterations in DNA methylation and chromatin structure as convergent pathogenic drivers in myelodysplastic syndrome

Aaron Viny, MD, assistant professor of medicine, was recruited to VP&S in September 2020 from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where he studied the connections between cohesin mutations and cancer in the laboratory of Ross Levine, MD. Viny received his MD from the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine where he also earned a master’s in biomedical investigation/pathology and accreditation in physician investigation. He joined the New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical College for his internal medicine residency and then Memorial Sloan Kettering for his hematology/oncology fellowship and postgraduate research training.

Viny has previously investigated the effects of cohesin loss of function on transcriptional programming and lineage determination to elucidate important aspects of hematopoietic stem cell biology with relevance to leukemic transformation and therapy. The project has substantial clinical and scientific significance and was recognized with several awards, including a Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow Award and an NIH K08 career development award. Viny has published results from the project in Blood, Journal of Experimental Medicine, and Cell Stem Cell, and has co-authored many other impactful publications.

His project funded by the Gerstner program aims to show that chromatin structure and DNA methylation are both essential for gene regulatory networks in hematopoiesis. Using novel mouse models and banked frozen bone marrow samples from MDS patients, Viny aims to illustrate the effects of DNA hypomethylation in normal and cohesin-deficient settings on transcriptional programs in hematopoiesis. Importantly, hypomethylating agents (HMA) are therapeutically effective in ~20% of MDS/AML patients, yet the mechanism of these agents is largely unknown. Viny’s long-term goals are to develop a clinical assay to predict HMA response and develop a novel class of topologically guided therapeutics. 

Mentor: Emmanuelle Passegué, PhD, the Alumni Professor of Genetics & Development and director of the Columbia Stem Cell Initiative


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