2017 Fishman Fund Award Ceremony Celebrates Postdoctoral Scholars

Written by 
Helen I. Hwang
2017 Fishman Fund Ceremony with Malin Burnham, Dr. Kristiina Vuori, Armi Williams, Reena Horowitz, Dr. Jose Luis Nieto Torres, Dr. David Sala Cano, Dr. Michael J. Stec, Jeanne Jones, Greg Lucier

More than 100 supporters of Sanford Burnham Prebys (SBP) Fishman Fund Awards came out to honor this year’s Fishman Fund Award recipients: David Sala Cano, Ph.D., Michael J. Stec, Ph.D., and Jose Luis Nieto Torres, Ph.D., at the Sanford Consortium on Tuesday evening.

Malin Burnham, SBP’s Honorary Board Trustee, spoke about SBP exemplifying collaboration as part of its DNA. He also said that of all the organizations he works with, he gets the most satisfaction from being involved with SBP. Dr. Torres received the award and Fishman Fund medallion from Burnham, while Torres’ parents watched on with pride. They flew in from Spain, visiting the United States for the first time.

Fishman Fund co-founders and SBP supporters Reena Horowitz and Jeanne Jones led the ceremonies as they spoke about the founding of the Fishman Fund Award in 2001. The Fishman Fund Career Development Awards have grown from a $1,500 allowance to $10,000 stipends for each recipient so they can attend workshops, network and travel to national and international scientific conferences to learn about the latest developments in their research fields. The generosity of Fishman Fund donors enables such important career advancement opportunities for future scientific leaders.

Greg Lucier, former SBP board member and CEO of NuVasive, Inc., also spoke on the topic of “we versus me,” emphasizing the importance of teamwork. SBP supporters Dr. Andrew Viterbi, co-founder of Qualcomm, and Armi Williams, Fishman Fund Advisory Board member and former SBP trustee, presented Fishman Fund awards and medallions to Drs. Stec and Cano, respectively.

This year’s recipients gave short presentations on their work, each of which dealt with aging, including muscle stem cells, muscle regeneration and autophagy (body’s ability to eliminate waste and recycle). Read more about their work below.

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2017 Fishman Fund Awardees:

David Sala Cano, Ph.D., a postdoctoral scholar in the laboratory of Alessandra Sacco, Ph.D., is working on muscle stem cells. He focuses on muscle wasting, a major health problem that leads to poor quality to life, and is associated diseases such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, cancer and aging. He is working on identifying new targets for drugs that may prevent skeletal muscle degeneration.

Dr. Cano comes to La Jolla from a small town of Abrúcies, Spain. He holds degrees from the University of Barcelona, including a B.S. degree in biochemistry, a M.S. degree in physiology and a Ph.D. in biomedicine. His goal is to become a principal investigator in an academic setting, combining his passion for research and teaching.

Michael J. Stec, Ph.D., focuses on understanding the mechanisms regulating stem cell function and skeletal muscle regeneration; he is also in the laboratory of Alessandra Sacco, Ph.D. He aims to develop novel therapies for improving muscle function in aged and diseased individuals.

Dr. Stec hails from Whippany, New Jersey. He holds a B.S. degree in health and exercise science from the College of New Jersey, a M.S. degree in exercise science from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in pathobiology and molecular medicine from the University of Alabama in Birmingham. Ultimately, his career goal is to obtain a position in the biotech industry.

Jose Luis Nieto Torres, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral scholar in the laboratory of Malene Hansen, Ph.D. He conducts research on autophagy—a process our bodies use to eliminate cell waste by recycling debris into usable sources of energy. Our bodies need to be able to eliminate debris that accumulates over time and make new components for proper functioning. Autophagy declines with aging, and is associated with many age-related diseases.

Dr. Torres joined SBP from Palencia, Spain. He obtained his B.S. degree in biochemistry and biology from the University of Salamanca and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in molecular biology from the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid. In the future, Dr. Torres aims to become a principal investigator of his own lab in an academic setting.