Seven New York City-Area Scientists Win Pershing Square Sohn Prize for Young Investigators in Cancer Research

The Pershing Square Sohn Research Alliance Has Invested $19 million in the Next Generation of New York City Medical Research Talent to Accelerate Breakthroughs in Cancer Research

NEW YORK--()--The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance today announced the seven winners of the 2018 Pershing Square Sohn Prize for Young Investigators in Cancer Research, awarded annually to promising early career, New York City-area cancer research scientists. Recipients receive $200,000 in funding per year for up to three years, for a total of $600,000, to support bold research at a stage when traditional funding is often lacking. The awards will be presented on May 23, 2018.

Over the past five years, the Alliance has awarded over $19 million to 32 talented research scientists. With this funding, provided at the early stage of their promising careers, the recipients are growing New York City as a biomedical research hub. In addition to funding, the Alliance provides Prize winners with opportunities to present their work to scientific and business audiences, helping to bridge the gap between the academic and business communities.

I’m incredibly proud of the 32 early-career researchers who have received the Prize since we started it five years ago,” said Bill Ackman, co-founder of The Pershing Square Foundation and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, L.P. “These innovative scientists bring the creativity and passion needed to think unconventionally and explore uncharted territory as they work to discover cures for cancer.”

The winners of the 2018 Pershing Square Sohn Prize are:

  • Dr. Daniel Bachovchin, PhD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Dr. Bachovchin’s project is to develop and use a highly innovative chemical-proteomics platform to determine the mechanism of action of anti-cancer protease inhibitors. The platform will enable the rapid identification of protease substrates, which will establish how two proteases act as an immune system checkpoint and will enable the development of a new immuno-oncology agent.
  • Kivanc Birsoy, PhD, The Rockefeller University: Dr. Birsoy’s research aims to identify the nutritional requirements of cancer cells to metastasize to different organs. His lab recently identified the amino acid aspartate as one such potential limitation for tumor growth. Finding nutrient limitations of cancer cells will ultimately lead to the development of metabolism based anti-cancer therapies.
  • Alberto Ciccia, PhD, Columbia University Medical Center: Dr. Ciccia’s research is in pursuit of new therapies against BRCA1-mutant tumors. His work will examine whether inflammatory signals induced by the DNA replication factor SMARCAL1 may contribute to the development of BRCA1-mutant breast tumors.
  • Camila dos Santos, PhD, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory: Dr. dos Santos’ ultimate goal is to devise new strategies to reduce breast cancer occurrence. Her research focuses on molecular changes brought on by pregnancy that block cancer progression and alter immune function in the breast.
  • Benjamin Greenbaum, PhD, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai - Mark Foundation Fellow: Dr. Greenbaum is a quantitative biologist who uses methods from math and physics to analyze highly complex data to understand better immunotherapy responses so that more patients can be successfully treated. His research will use a new computational approach to modeling tumor-immune recognition to integrate information about the tumor and its environment into improved predictions of response to immunotherapy.
    Dr. Greenbaum is being funded in partnership with The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research which supports individual investigators as well as multidisciplinary collaborative teams conducting innovative cancer research.
  • Dan Landau, MD, PhD, Weill Cornell Medicine and New York Genome Center: Dr. Landau’s research will focus on precision customization of anti-cancer therapy to prevent tumor evolution to treatment resistance, which remains a major, underexplored, emerging theme across the field of oncology. Using unique tools he recently developed, Dr. Landau’s laboratory will define both genetic and non-genetic changes at the level of a single cancer cell that enable leukemia cells to diversify and evolve to overcome therapy.
  • Benjamin Martin, PhD, Stony Brook University School of Medicine: Dr. Martin’s research is focused on developing a better understanding of the metastasis from primary tumors to new sites in the body. Working with zebrafish as a model, he will use state of the art microscopy and genetic analysis to achieve an unprecedented level of understanding about how circulating tumor cells are able to exit blood vessels and invade new sites in the body.

We are deeply impressed with the caliber of the applicants and with the diversity of types of innovative research focuses by the researchers and affiliated institutions,” said Olivia Tournay Flatto, PhD, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance and President of The Pershing Square Foundation. “It is inspiring to recognize, support, and connect New York City’s early career talent in pursuit of effective and groundbreaking cures and treatments.”

The work to find new treatments and cures for cancer continues to be an urgent global health priority so we are heartened by the research approaches of this year’s Prize winners,” said Evan Sohn, Vice President of the Sohn Conference Foundation. “We are confident that with the passion, creativity, and insights we’ve seen from this group of scientists, they will make discoveries that will have a lasting impact for the patients for whom our Foundation fights.”

The Mark Foundation is thrilled to partner with the Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance on this prestigious annual prize in support of scientific excellence,” remarked Michele Clearly, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research. “Dr. Greenbaum is an exceptional investigator and his proposed project on the predictive models of immunotherapy response perfectly aligns with The Mark Foundation’s mission to reward the kind of innovative scientific thinking that has the potential to advance our understanding of cancer biology and improve treatment paradigms.”

As part of the selection process, The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance relied on the guidance of a highly accomplished advisory board.

Prize Advisory Board members include: Jeanne B. Ackman, MD, Director, Thoracic MRI, Radiologist, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School; Mikael Dolsten, MD, PhD, President, Worldwide Research and Development, Pfizer, Inc.; Allan Goodman, PhD, President and CEO, The Institute of International Education; Pablo Legorreta, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Royalty Pharma; Richard P. Lifton, MD, PhD, President, The Rockefeller University; Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Oncology, Columbia University Medical Center, and Author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer and The Gene: An Intimate History; James E. Rothman, PhD, Fergus F. Wallace Professor of Biomedical Sciences, Yale University and 2013 Nobel Prize Winner in Physiology or Medicine; Bruce Stillman, PhD, President and CEO, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; Craig Thompson, MD, President and CEO, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Additional details about the Prize winners can be found on the PSSCRA website at

About The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance

The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance was formed in 2013 through a $25 million commitment by Bill and Karen Ackman and The Pershing Square Foundation, which partnered with The Sohn Conference Foundation. The Alliance is dedicated to playing a catalytic role in accelerating cures for cancer by supporting innovative cancer research and by facilitating collaborations between academia and industry. Annually, the Alliance awards The Pershing Square Sohn Prize to young New York based scientists who are engaged in cutting-edge cancer research. For more information, visit

About The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research

The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research funds groundbreaking research integrating discoveries in biology with innovative technology to deliver breakthroughs to patients. Established in 2015, The Mark Foundation serves as a premier partner to cancer researchers through an exemplary non-profit business model that combines the funding of high-impact, transformative basic and translational cancer research with venture philanthropy. To learn more, visit


Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance
Janet Wootten, 212-843-8024
Andrea Helling, 212-843-8025

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Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance
Janet Wootten, 212-843-8024
Andrea Helling, 212-843-8025