Announcing the 2022 CSCI Seed Fund Competition Winners

Columbia Stem Cell Initiative is excited to announce that three projects led by CSCI Full Member faculty have been selected for the 2022 CSCI Seed Fund Program, the 5th annual competition designed to jumpstart new stem cell research projects and promote collaboration among CSCI members.

Each recipient has been awarded $50,000 for up to a 2-year project period.    


Edmund Au, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology and Cell Biology

Co-PI: Kristin Baldwin, PhD

 “Synaptic specificity in a dish: developing human models of neural circuit dysfunction”

Neurologic diseases affect cognition and behavior through disruption of their precise patterns of connectivity between different types of neurons.  The Au and Baldwin labs will combine forces to generate distinct subtypes of inhibitory human neurons in vitro and test their capacity to precisely link with target neurons. This new model of "synaptic specificity in a dish" will enable high throughput testing of risk factors for neurodegenerative and psychiatric disease.


Piero Dalerba, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology and Cell Biology

Co-PI: Kam Leong, PhD

“Identification of epithelial stem cell populations of the salivary gland”

Permanent loss of salivary gland (SG) function is commonly observed in human medicine and causes severe disability in patients, impairing speech, swallowing and the mechanical crushing of food, while concurrently promoting mouth infections and accelerating tooth decay. Among the key barriers to the progress of preventative and therapeutic approaches against SG insufficiency is a limited understanding of the cell composition and regenerative dynamics of SG epithelia, and especially the lack of experimental means to enable the isolation and prospective study of their stem cell populations. The aim of this research project is to formally test the stem cell properties (i.e., self-renewal and differentiation capacity) of eight (n=8) distinct sub-populations of SG epithelial cells recently discovered by our laboratory, following their differential purification by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) and prospective, in vivo, orthotopic transplantation in mouse models of SG injury.


Joriene de Nooij, PhD 

Assistant Professor of Neurological Sciences

Co-PIs: Chia-Wei Cheng, PhD

Barbara Corneo, PhD

Claudia Doege, MD

“Exploring the relationship between mitochondrial metabolism and FRDA vulnerability”

Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) is caused by a trinucleotide GAA expansion in the first intron of the FRATAXIN (FXN) gene and is characterized by cardiomyopathy and progressive neurological disease. FXN encodes a ubiquitous mitochondrial protein, raising the question why its loss affects certain tissues but not others. Using FRDA-patient induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), our proposal explores the relationship between cellular metabolism, metabolic substrate flexibility, and FRDA vulnerability.

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.