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Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Faculty Members Receive NIH Director's Pioneer Award

The NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, established in 2004, supports exceptionally creative scientists pursuing new research directions to develop pioneering approaches to major challenges in biomedical and behavioral research. This year, two faculty members affiliated with the Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program received the prestigious award:

Howard A. Fine, M.D., Weill Cornell Medicine for his project, "Human Brain Cancer, Rather than Brain Cancer Cells, on a Plate" and Luciano A. Marraffini, Ph.D., The Rockefeller University, for his project, "Generation of Immunological Memory by CRISPR-Cas Systems."

Dr. Fine, M.D. is the Feil Professor of Medicine, Director of the Brain Tumor Center and Associate Director of Translational Research at the Meyer Cancer Center, Weill Cornell Medicine. Dr. Fine’s 29-year career has been devoted almost exclusively to translational research and developmental therapeutics for glioblastoma. His laboratory was one of the first to isolate and propagate primary patient-derived glioma stem cells in vitro, with his most recent work devoted to modeling in vitro patient specific glioblastoma's using patient induced pluripotent cell-derived cerebral organoids and glioma stem cells. Dr. Fine trained in internal medicine at the Hospital the University of Pennsylvania and then completed a clinical and research fellowship in medical oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Fine was one of the founders and Director of the DFCI Neuro-Oncology Disease Center and was the founder and Chief of the Neuro-Oncology Branch at the National Institutes of Health before coming to Weill Cornell.

Dr. Marraffini received his undergraduate degree from the University of Rosario in Argentina in 1998 and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 2007, studying bacterial pathogenesis in the laboratory of Dr. Olaf Schneewind. He was a postdoc at Northwestern University from 2008 to 2010 with Dr. Erik Sontheimer, where he pioneered studies on CRISPR-Cas immunity. Dr. Marraffini determined that that CRISPR-Cas systems target DNA molecules in a sequence-specific manner, a study that was key to understand the mechanisms of CRISPR immunity at the molecular level. In 2010 he joined the faculty of The Rockefeller University, where he continued studies on the basic biology of the CRISPR-Cas immune response. For more information about Dr. Marraffini please visit

© 2006 Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program