Announcing the 2020 CSCI Seed Fund Competition Winners

December 15, 2020

Three projects led by CSCI Full Member faculty have been selected for the 2020 CSCI Seed Fund Program, the 3rd annual competition designed to jumpstart new stem cell research projects and promote collaboration among CSCI members.

Lei Ding

Gurewitsch and Vidda Foundation Assistant Professor of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine and Microbiology and Immunology

“Epitranscriptional regulation of the hematopoietic stem cell niche”

Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) rely on their niche. N6-methyladenosine (m6A) is being appreciated as a key gene expression regulator at the epitranscriptional level. We aim to understand the role of m6A in regulating the HSC niche and HSC biology in vivo. 




Shawn Liu

Joan and Paul Marks, MD '49 Assistant Professor of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics

“Harnessing iPSC-based model to dissect the functional role of DNA methylation at the C9orf72 locus in ALS”

The GGGGCC (G4C2) hexanucleotide repeat expansion in the C9orf72 locus is the most common genetic cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Hypermethylation of G4C2 as well as the CpG island (CGI) in the C9orf72 promoter region was observed in C9orf72 mutant carriers, but the functional contribution of these methylation event to the pathogenesis of ALS is not clear. We aim to explore whether DNA methylation of G4C2 or CGI in C9orf72 can be a biomarker for ALS, and examine its functional contribution to C9orf72-associated neurodegeneration by applying our newly developed DNA methylation editing tool to motor neurons derived from ALS iPSCs.


Mijo Simunovic

Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering

“Advancing women’s health with quantitative stem cell-derived organoids of the female reproductive tract”

The impairment at the placenta-uterine interface is cause to a number of pregnancy disorders, such as ectopic pregnancy, preeclampsia, or placenta accreta, and, with often lifelong consequences, they carry a tremendous socioeconomic burden on women and families. We propose to leverage the explosive progress in organoid biology, tissue engineering, and CRISPR gene editing to build a quantitative platform of hPSC-derived organoids of the female reproductive tract. With this in vitro system, we aim to dissect the detailed molecular mechanisms in the course of embryo implantation, trophoblast differentiation, and uterine remodeling and hopefully shed light on the long-elusive first steps of human embryogenesis and early pregnancy.


Please join us in congratulating the winners of this year’s CSCI Seed Fund competition. We look forward to learning more to about the development of these exciting projects and to next year’s competition.