Researchers from across the globe assembled at Einstein on Thursday, June 2, at a memorial symposium in honor of Paul S. Frenette, M.D., Einstein professor of medicine and of cell biology and the founding director and chair of the Ruth L. and David S. Gottesman Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.
Dr. Frenette, who arrived at Einstein in 2010, made breakthrough observations that helped advance the understanding of vascular biology, sickle-cell disease, cancer, and stem-cell biology. He died at age 56 in July 2021 of angiosarcoma, a rare type of cancer.
The all-day symposium, which drew hundreds of attendees, paid tribute to Dr. Frenette through a series of presentations from scientists who traveled to the Bronx from as far away as Singapore.
The eight research sessions consisted of both in-person and virtual presentations on sickle-cell disease, hematopoietic stem cells and their biological niche, pre-cancer stem cell generation, and the targeting of acute myeloid leukemia stem cells. The sessions featured invited guest speakers and alumni who trained in Dr. Frenette’s lab and are now principal investigators leading research programs.
The eight presenters were:
- Karina Yazdanbakhsh, Ph.D., vice president and director of research development at the New York Blood Center Lindsey Kimball Research Institute;
- Sandra Pinho, Ph.D., a former postdoctoral mentee of Dr. Frenette who is now an assistant professor of pharmacology and regenerative medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago;
- Andreas Trumpp, Ph.D., professor and head, division of stem cells and cancer, Heidelberg Institute for Stem Cell Technology and Experimental Medicine;
- Andres Hidalgo, Ph.D., a former postdoctoral mentee of Dr. Frenette who is now a professor of immunology at Yale School of Medicine;
- Catriona Jamieson, M.D., Ph.D., deputy director of the University of California San Diego Moores Cancer Center;
- Daniel Lucas, Ph.D., a former postdoctoral mentee of Dr Frenette who is now an assistant professor of pediatrics, Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center;
- Toshio Suda, M.D., Ph.D., senior principal investigator, Cancer Science Institute of Singapore; and
- Maria Maryanovich, Ph.D., a former mentee of Dr. Frenette and now an assistant professor of cell biology at Einstein.
Frenette Scholar Award
Six postdoctoral fellows at Einstein were also chosen by the Gottesman Institute as inaugural Paul S. Frenette Scholar Award recipients, which carry a stipend of $18,000 each for outstanding mentees who wish to pursue careers in stem cell research. The six award recipients were:
- Oriol Busquets-Figueras, Ph.D. Mentor: Frank Soldner, M.D., assistant professor in the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience and of genetics;
- Randall Carpenter, Ph.D. Mentor: Maria Maryanovich, Ph.D., assistant professor of cell biology;
- Marta Mastrogiovanni, Ph.D. Mentor: Teresa Bowman, Ph.D., associate professor of developmental & molecular biology, of oncology, and of medicine;
- Kenta Nishitani, Ph.D. Mentor: Wenjun Guo, Ph.D., associate professor of cell biology;
- Lidiane Torres, Ph.D. Mentor: Keisuke Ito, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of cell biology and of medicine; and
- Jingli Wang, Ph.D. Mentor: Lindsay LaFave, Ph.D., assistant professor of cell biology.
A Pioneer of Stem Cell Research
“The originality and the sustained nature of Paul’s discoveries made him one of the absolute pioneers of the stem cell niche field, and one of the most impactful and respected scientists in experimental hematology in general,” said Ulrich Steidl, M.D., Ph.D., professor of cell biology and of medicine and the interim director of the Gottesman Institute, during opening remarks at LeFrak Auditorium at the Michael F. Price Center for Genetic and Translational Medicine and Harold and Muriel Block Research Pavilion.
Dr. Steidl said Dr. Frenette nurtured an environment at the Gottesman Institute “that was not just for performing high-caliber science, but also building strong bonds and friendships,” where speakers from around the world visited Einstein to share their work. “Due to the cross-disciplinary nature of the institute, these events exposed us all to science we might normally miss at our usual and more focused conferences.
“Paul’s untimely passing has been a monumental loss for us at many levels,” Dr. Steidl continued. “We not only lost an extraordinarily smart, innovative, and collegial physician-scientist, but we also lost a phenomenal leader, a great mentor, a colleague, and a friend. We all revere Paul for his creative, rigorous, and paradigm-shifting science. But we also loved him for his kindness, his humbleness, and his humor. His calm, focused, and content-driven leadership style has always been an inspiration for many of us.”
Gordon Tomaselli, M.D., the Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz Dean at Einstein and executive vice president and chief academic officer, Montefiore Medicine, echoed that sentiment. “When Paul passed away, I heard from a number of my colleagues and friends who knew Paul and expressed their sorrow. I understood this was not only a tribute to Paul and a testament to his scientific acumen, but it was also a reflection of the enduring relationships that he built along his scientific journey.”
Dr. Tomaselli noted that the Gottesman Institute that Dr. Frenette founded “is remarkable not only for the profound science that is being performed, but for an environment of collaboration and training created for colleagues and students.”
The day’s events were organized by Einstein’s Drs. Bowman, Ito, and Steidl. A tribute to Dr. Frenette was held at midday that included a welcome to Dr. Frenette’s wife, Nadine, and children Clara and Alberic, and a message from the “Frenettocytes.”
Dr. Hildago, a former colleague of Dr. Frenette’s, explained to the audience that a Frenettocyte is “a person who was trained by Dr. Frenette or is a descendant of the scientific Frenette lineage.” He then showed a screen covered in blue dots that expanded exponentially into more dots like moons orbiting tiny planets. Dr. Frenette’s former mentees, he said, can now be found across the world at their own labs, performing their own research built on the science they conducted in the Frenette lab.
A native of Canada, Dr. Frenette received his medical degree from Université Laval in Quebec City, followed by residency training at McGill University in Montreal; he completed a clinical fellowship in hematology-oncology at Tufts–New England Medical Center in Boston. After a faculty appointment at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Frenette joined the faculty of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in 1998 and was recruited to Einstein in 2010.
Posted on: Wednesday, June 29, 2022