RESEARCH > Award Recipients


Researcher Profiles

To find out more on these exceptional individuals and their research projects please click on their name below.

2014 – 2016 Research Scholars

2015 – 2016 Research Scholars

Irina Debnath, PhD
Sonia Fargue, MD, PhD
Chunming Guo, PhD
Andrew Hau, PhD
Shu Lin, PhD
Tomasz Owczarek, PhD
Sungyong You, PhD

Aditya Bagrodia, MD
Zarine Balsara, MD, PhD
Chad Ellimoottil, MD
Michael Johnson, MD
Austin Kirschner, MD, PhD
Shihong Ma, PhD
Akanksha Mehta, MD
Yasser Noureldin, MD, PhD
Anobel Odisho, MD, MPH
George Schade, MD

2015 – 2017 Research Scholars

Zheng Cao, PhD
Abraham Hakimi, MD
Petra Popovics, PhD
Vijay Samineni, PhD


2014 – 2016 Research Scholars

Irina Debnath, PhD

Irina Debnath, PhD

Project Title: "Identification and Characterization of the MrpJ Virulence Gene Network in Uropathogenic Proteus mirabilis"

Institution: New York University School of Medicine

Mentor: Melanie Pearson, PhD

Sponsor: AUA New York Section Research Scholar Fund

Proteus mirabilis is a major cause of catheter-associated urinary tract infections (UTIs), a type of complicated UTIs that affect a large portion of the aging population in long-term care facilities and hospitalized patients with indwelling urinary catheters, incurring a steep healthcare cost and heavy public health burden worldwide. In addition to severe bladder and kidney infections, this bacterium manifests an alarmingly high percentage of antibiotic resistance and causes urolithiasis or kidney stones, further complicating the disease progression and treatment. Two critical aspects of P. mirabilis virulence are hair-like surface appendages (fimbriae / pili), which mediate attachment to the host's urinary tract, and tail-like flagella, which mediate motility. Dr. Debnath's research is focused on major P. mirabilis gene regulator MrpJ, which modulates the inverse temporal regulation of these two virulence processes during UTI and whose absence renders these bacteria highly attenuated in pathogenesis. Her data suggest that MrpJ regulates a number of other critical virulence effectors and Dr. Debnath hypothesizes that MrpJ is orchestrating an intricate virulence gene network during UTI. Her study will determine the various virulence genes in this network directly regulated by MrpJ, the molecular mechanism of this regulation, and how MrpJ and a subset of MrpJ-regulated genes modulate the host's immune defense to establish disease in the urinary tract, thus defining novel pathogenic targets for future therapeutics.

AUA New York Section Research Scholar Fund

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Sonia Fargue, MD, PhD

Sonia Fargue, MD, PhD

Project Title: "Metabolism Associated with Hyperoxaluria and Calcium Oxalate Stone Disease"

Institution: University of Alabama at Birmingham

Mentor: Ross Holmes, PhD and Dean Assimos, MD

Sponsor: AUA Southeastern Section Research Scholar Fund

Kidney stones have been reported to affect at least 5% of Western populations. Of these, calcium oxalate stones are the most common. The primary hyperoxalurias are severe inherited diseases, which cause recurring calcium oxalate stones, may lead to renal failure and necessitate transplantation. Three different forms of primary hyperoxalurias have been identified, all three involving enzyme of the metabolism of oxalate and glyoxylate, a precursor of oxalate. The goal of Dr. Fargue's proposed research is to elucidate some of the mechanisms of the glyoxylate metabolism, using cell models of primary hyperoxaluria. The insights that will be gained in this way will not only help design treatments for patients with primary hyperoxaluria, but will also shed light on pathways that are involved in the more common forms of calcium oxalate kidney stones.

AUA Southeastern Section Research Scholar Fund

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Chunming Guo, PhD

Chunming Guo, PhD

Project Title: "A Mouse Model for Human Urinary Incontinence"

Institution: Children's Hospital Boston

Mentor: Sean Xue Li, PhD

Sponsor: AUA New England Section Research Scholar Fund

Human Urofacial Syndrome (UFS) (aka, Ochoa syndrome), a rare autosomal recessive disease with dysfunctional urination, including urinary incontinence, frequency and urgency. Dr. Guo has successfully generated a mouse Hpse2 mutant line that models UFS. This is the first and the only mouse model of UFS, which enables him to study specific aspects of molecular and cellular basis of complex urological problems including urinary incontinence. In this project, Dr. Guo is investigating neuronal and muscular basis of Hpse2 mutant defects in lower urinary tracts.

AUA New England Section Research Scholar Fund

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Andrew Hau, PhD

Andrew Hau, PhD

Project Title: "uPAR and mTORC2: Coupled Targets for Therapeutics Development in Bladder Cancer"

Institution: University of California San Diego

Mentor: Donna Hansel, MD, PhD

Sponsor: Frank and Marion Hinman Urology Research Fund

Bladder cancer represents one of the deadliest cancers globally and will account for over 15,000 deaths in the United States in 2013. For patients with invasive bladder cancer, the gold standard of treatment involves radical cystectomy, which is initially effective in decreasing morbidity. However, the high recurrence and distant metastasis within the first several years post-surgery necessitates new treatment options and a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying this disease. Presently, Dr. Hau and his research team have identified two powerful pro-invasion candidates that have increased expression in high-grade, invasive bladder cancer and our research suggests that combined inhibition of these factors could represent a new therapeutic option for the management of bladder cancer.

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Shu Lin, PhD

Shu Lin, PhD

Project Title: "Determining the Role of Epithelial-mesenchymal Transition in Prostate Cancer and Stem Cells During Castration-resistant Cancer Progression"

Institution: University of California Los Angeles

Mentor: Robert Reiter, MD

Sponsor: Robert J. Krane, MD Urology Research Scholar Fund

Patients with advanced prostate cancer are often treated first with anti-androgen therapies, but will invariably develop deadly castration resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) without clear mechanism. Epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) has been suggested as a critical pathway utilized by cancer stem cells (or by epithelial tumor cells to confer stem cell properties) to survive after androgen ablation and that this adaptive response underlies the development of castration resistance. However, there is a lack of direct evidence for the role of EMT in prostate stem cells, and little is known about the pivotal pathways mediating EMT in prostate cancer. In this study, Dr. Lin proposes to clarify the relationship of N-cadherin, Zeb-1 and other transcriptional activator of EMT to prostate stem cell behavior and prostate cancer invasion, metastasis and CRPC progression. She will also determine the role of AR in these processes. Her proposed research will likely reveal an important role of EMT in prostate cancer and stem cells, and provide useful information of EMT-related biomarkers for preventing and developing efficient therapeutics to combat the treatment resistance to next-generation AR antagonists.

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Tomasz Owczarek, PhD

Tomasz Owczarek, PhD

Project Title: "Cell of Origin of Bladder Cancer"

Institution: Columbia University Medical Center

Mentor: Cory Abate-Shen, PhD

Sponsor: Dornier MedTech

Dr. Owczarek's research proposal is focused on understanding how the various cells in the bladder give rise to bladder cancer. Normal bladder epithelium consists of three different cell types that differ significantly from each other. Dr. Owczarek hypothesizes hat depending on which cell type undergoes cancerous transformation, bladder cancer may be more or less malignant, and that this contributes to the outcome for the patient.

To investigate whether this is indeed the case, Dr. Owczarek is planning to utilize an experimental mouse model, which resembles human disease. Based on previous experimental work carried out in the laboratory in which he works, has already identified genes that cause lethal bladder cancer in the mouse model. In the research that he is now proposing, he will examine the differences between tumors that arise from different types of bladder epithelial cells, which are based on these genetic modifications. Sophisticated analysis of these tumors will allow Dr. Owczarek to find the similarities and differences of cancers that arise from different cell types in the bladder. In so doing, he will identify approaches to distinguish the type of epithelial cells from which cancers arise in the patient. Dr. Owczarek's successful implementation of these studies will help to identify appropriate and effective anticancer therapies based on cell of origin of cancer.

Dornier MedTech

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Sungyong You, PhD

Sungyong You, PhD

Project Title: "An Epigenomic Pathway From Cholesterol to Intracrine Androgen"

Institution: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Mentor: Michael Freeman, PhD and Jayoung Kim, PhD

Sponsor: AUA Western Section Research Scholar Fund

Prostate cancer (PC) is incurable when it becomes resistant to current therapies. Dr. You and colleagues have recently discovered that a protein, scaffold attachment factor B1 (SAFB1), is a novel regulator of the androgen receptor and other proteins associated with PC progression to end-stage disease. The goal of his research project is to identify and functionally characterize the gene regulatory networks controlled by SAFB1. He will use computational, laboratory, and genomics methods to uncover this novel network. This project is directed toward elucidating the molecular mechanisms that promote lethal prostate cancer so that novel methods for combating the disease and substantially prolonging life can be found.

AUA Western Section Research Scholar Fund

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2015 – 2016 Research Scholars

Aditya Bagrodia, MD

Aditya Bagrodia, MD

Project Title: "The Prognostic and Therapeutic Value of Genomic Alterations and PI3K/AKT/mTOR Aberrations in Upper Tract Urothelial Carcinoma"

Institution: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Mentor: David B. Solit, MD and Jonathan A. Coleman, MD

Sponsor: Society for Urologic Oncology Research Scholar Fund I

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Zarine Balsara, MD, PhD

Zarine Balsara, MD, PhD

Project Title: "Function of the PRC2/Ezh2-dependent Epigenetic Program in Bladder Regeneration and Repair"

Institution: Boston Children's Hospital

Mentor: Rosalyn M. Adam, PhD and Sean X. Li, PhD

Sponsor: Urology Care Foundation

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Chad Ellimoottil, MD

Chad Ellimoottil, MD

Project Title: "Medicare Payment Variation for Kidney Transplantation: Implications for Episode-Based Bundled Payments"

Institution: University of Michigan

Mentor: David C. Miller, MD, MPH and Vahakn Shahinian, MD, MS

Sponsor: Indian American Urological Association/Sakti Das, MD Research Scholar Fund

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Michael Johnson, MD

Michael Johnson, MD

Project Title: "Integrated Computational and Biological Identification of Personalized Tumor-specific Neoantigens in Renal Cell Carcinoma"

Institution: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

Mentor: Mohamad E. Allaf, MD and Charles G. Drake, MD, PhD

Sponsor: AUA Mid-Atlantic Section Research Scholar Fund

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Austin Kirschner, MD, PhD

Austin Kirschner, MD, PhD

Project Title: "Treatment of Metastatic Castration-resistant Prostate Cancer by PIM1 Kinase Inhibition Enhances Androgen Deprivation Therapy and Docetaxel Chemotherapy"

Institution: Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Mentor: Robert J. Matusik, PhD, Sarki A. Abdulkadir, MD, PhD, and Michael L. Freeman, PhD

Sponsor: Center for Prostate Disease Research

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Shihong Ma, PhD

Shihong Ma, PhD

Project Title: "Development of QevOS, a Novel Quantitative Model System for Prostate Cancer Bone Metastasis"

Institution: The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Mentor: Ganesh Raj, MD, PhD

Sponsor: AUA South Central Section Research Scholar Fund I

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Akanksha Mehta, MD

Akanksha Mehta, MD

Project Title: "The Impact of Male Factor Infertility on the Utilization and Outcomes of Assisted Reproductive Technology"

Institution: Emory University School of Medicine

Mentor: Jessica B. Spencer, MD, Martin G. Sanda, MD and Michael Goodman, MD, MPH

Sponsor: AUA Southeastern Section Research Scholar Fund III

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2015 Joseph Segura, MD Scholarship in Endourology and Stone Management

Yasser Noureldin, MD, PhD

Yasser Noureldin, MD, PhD

Project Title: "Endourologic Technical Skills Transfer from the Virtual Reality Environment to the Operating Room"

Institution: McGill University Health Centre

Mentor: Sero Andonian, MD

Sponsor: Boston Scientific Corporation, The Endourological Society, and the "Friends of Joe"

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Anobel Odisho, MD, MPH

Anobel Odisho, MD, MPH

Project Title: "The Impact of Clinical and Demographic Factors on Risk-Adjusted Outcomes for Urologic Cancer Surgery"

Institution: University of Washington

Mentor: John L. Gore, MD

Sponsor: Society for Urologic Oncology Research Scholar Fund II

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George Schade, MD

George Schade, MD

Project Title: "Boiling Histotripsy of the Kidney: A Novel Ultrasound Based Treatment for Renal Cell Carcinoma"

Institution: University of Washington

Mentor: Michael R. Bailey, PhD and Daniel W. Lin, MD

Sponsor: AUA Western Section Research Scholar Fund II

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2015 – 2017 Research Scholars

Zheng Cao, PhD

Zheng Cao, PhD

Project Title: "Targeting the Prostate Tumor Microenvironment by a Novel Quinazoline Agent"

Institution: University of Kentucky Medical Center

Mentor: Natasha Kyprianou, PhD

Sponsor: Genentech

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Abraham Hakimi, MD

Abraham Hakimi, MD

Project Title: "Interrogation of the Sorbitol Pathway in VHL-Independent HIF driven Renal Cell Carcinomas"

Institution: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Mentor: James J. Hsieh, MD, PhD

Sponsor: Kidney Cancer Association

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Petra Popovics, PhD

Petra Popovics, PhD

Project Title: "Use of Receptors for Growth Hormone-releasing Hormone (GHRH) and Luteinizing Hormone-releasing Hormone (LHRH) Receptors as Potential Therapeutic Targets to Reduce Inflammation and Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition in Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia"

Institution: University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

Mentor: Andrew V. Schally, PhD and Ferenc Rick, MD, PhD

Sponsor: AUA Southeastern Section Research Scholar Fund II

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Vijay Samineni, PhD

Vijay Samineni, PhD

Project Title: "Optogenetic Dissection of Cell Type-specific Roles in Bladder Pain"

Institution: Washington University – St. Louis

Mentor: Robert W. Gereau, PhD

Sponsor: Indian American Urological Association/Kailash Kedia, MD Research Scholar Fund

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