Announcing the 2021 Grant Recipients
Congratulations to Dr. Sagar Shah of Cornell University and Tao Dai of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. They are each the recipient of a 2021 Pre-Doctoral Trainee/Fellow Grant in the amount of $25,000.
Dr. Sagar R. Shah
Dr. Shah is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Cornell. In his proposed study, titled “Identification and functional characterization of enhancer-associated mutations in breast cancer,” Dr. Shah will focus on identifying and characterizing enhancer mutations in an uncharted area of the genome. Enhancers are integral controllers of genes and, therefore, cell function and behavior. Dr. Shah will develop and use new methods to find and characterize the role of enhancer mutations, revealing whether and how these sequence alterations make TNBC cells aggressive, including resistance to therapy. Through this characterization of mutations, he aims to identify novel genomic vulnerabilities and therapeutic targets, providing insights into the cause and drivers of breast cancer and guide the development of highly specific drug therapies to improve patient outcomes.
An ethnic Indian, Dr. Shah emigrated from Tanzania, East Africa, to the United States with his family when he was 15 years old. He entered a five-year program at Clemson University, where he received his Bachelor of Science with High Honors in Biological Sciences, earning the school’s most prestigious award, the Norris Medal, for his service, leadership, and scholastic achievements, and his Master of Science in Bioengineering. Dr. Shah was selected to be the student speaker for the doctoral commencement ceremony when he received his PhD in Biomedical Engineering at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He then pursued a joint postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Shah is the recipient of numerous other honors and awards, including a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. He has co-authored 22 peer-reviewed manuscripts, 10 as the first or co-first author, that have been published in such journals as Nature Biomedical Engineering, Nature Communications, Cell Reports, Biomaterials, Biomacromolecules, and Molecular Pharmaceutics. Dr. Shah has also co-authored four patents on the design and development of therapeutic agents, targeted drug delivery systems, and prognostic devices for the management and treatment of cancer.Aside from his research in the lab, Dr. Shah serves on the scientific advisory board of a biotech startup focused on combating aggressive solid tumors. Currently, Dr. Shah is a joint postdoctoral associate in the laboratories of Dr. John Lis, PhD, and Dr. Haiyuan Yu, PhD, at Cornell University.
Tao Dai is a Third-Year PhD Student/Pre-doctoral Trainee in the Department of Cell Stress Biology at Roswell Park. His research study is titled “Uncovering the implications of breast cancer metabolic adaptation in the tumor microenvironment.” It is known that Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) cells enhance glucose usage to sustain rapid tumor growth. Tao’s lab recently discovered that one of the enzymes that regulates glucose metabolism, 6-phosphofructo-2-kinase/fructose-2,6-biophosphatase (PFKFB4), is increased in the tumors of TNBC patients, and depleting the PFKFB4 enzyme reduced TNBC growth and metastasis in mouse models. In his proposal, Tao will examine how PFKFB4 prevents immune cells from attacking breast tumors and how the enzyme increases the motility of TNBC cells, allowing them to spread to different organs. He aims to provide rationale for targeting PFKFB4 in patients diagnosed with TNBC, either alone or in combination with immunotherapy.
Tao received his Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the School of Pharmacy at Fudan University in Shanghai, China, where he completed his undergraduate thesis in the lab of Dr. Yi Zhun Zhu. At Fudan, Tao was awarded several scholarships for his academic achievements and worked as an undergraduate research assistant. He also worked as an assistant analyst in the Antibiotics Department of the Shanghai Institute for Food and Drug Control. Tao then joined the laboratory of Dr. Subhamoy Dasgupta at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo to pursue his PhD degree in Cancer Sciences. Tao has already published five co-authored papers: three papers as an undergraduate student, one as a rotating graduate student, and one in his current lab.
Request for Proposals
The Coalition will put out a new Request for Proposals for 2022 Grants in the fall of 2021. Applicants must be affiliated with for-profit or not-for-profit institutions in the eligible geographic area, including the Rochester, Buffalo, Ithaca and Syracuse regions (see map below). Proposals should focus on one of the Coalition research priorities of Etiology (Cause), Prevention, Prevention of Metastasis, Cure.
Questions? Please contact Research Administrator Helene Snihur, (585) 473-8177 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or look at the appropriate RFP file below from 2021, either Faculty or Pre- and Post-Doctoral Trainees/Fellows.
Researchers affiliated with for-profit and non-profit institutions based in Western and Central New York are eligible to apply. The funds awarded must be spent within the calendar year of the date of the grant and remain in the specified geographic area; however, travel to attend professional conferences is encouraged.
BREAST CANCER RESEARCH INITIATIVE
The Breast Cancer Coalition annually offers a maximum of two breast cancer research grants: $25,000 for Pre- and Post-Doctoral Trainees/Fellows and $50,000 for Faculty Researchers. The grants are awarded with the potential to yield significant medical breakthroughs in the cause and prevention of breast cancer, prevention of metastasis, and cure. Research proposals are solicited from regional medical and research institutions and through the Coalition’s website. Since 2003, the Coalition has awarded $976,125 to researchers in Upstate and Western New York.
The Coalition’s research grant program began in 2003 with a single grant of $25,000. The Coalition suspended its Research Initiative in 2008 to join the New York State Health Research Science Board (HRSB) grant process. For a variety of reasons, the Coalition withdrew from the HRSB and re-launched its Research Grant Initiative for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
To see our grant history follow this link: Grant History 2003 to present
About the Research Initiative
The Coalition is committed to supporting and furthering breast cancer research. The Research Initiative, unusual for a nonprofit “grassroots” organization, is an integral part of the Coalition’s continuing efforts to eradicate breast cancer.
The grants are intended to focus on four breast cancer research areas prioritized by the Coalition:
- Prevention of Metastasis
Coalition grant money is intended for use as “seed money” to fund innovative new projects with the potential to yield significant medical breakthroughs. Through our funding, recipients are given the opportunity to generate the preliminary data required to apply for larger grants from major institutions such as the Department of Defense and the National Institute of Health. The Research Advisory Board, a diverse group of researchers, scientists, clinicians, and survivor advocates, keeps the research program up to date, reviews and scores proposals, and makes funding recommendations to the Board of Directors.