Award Event Honors the Late Danny Malaniak

The 2014 Bohdan (Danny) Malaniak Award for Excellence in Postdoctoral Research was awarded to two Cedars-Sinai scientists in a ceremony that included a tribute to the award’s late namesake. More than 120 people attended the standing-room-only event Jan. 29 in Harvey Morse Auditorium.

A record 22 submissions were received for the annual research award, which was won by postdoctoral scientists Stacey Kolar, PhD, and Gretchen Miller, PhD. Each received a $3,000 cash prize, a certificate and a plaque. The award aims to foster basic and translational research, enrich knowledge of health science and encourage the development of investigative curiosity and attitudes.

Malaniak, who served as a consultant and emeritus administrator for academic and medical affairs until his death in 2013, was remembered for his lengthy career at Cedars-Sinai. He began his tenure in the 1950s and rose through the ranks, eventually becoming associate vice president for academic affairs.

Zab Mosenifar, MD, executive vice chair of the Department of Medicine and co-medical director of the Cedars-Sinai Women’s Guild Lung Institute, delivered remarks about Malaniak at the ceremony.

"If there are pillars that would be holding up Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, he would be the pillar of zeal for academia. That's how I remember my friend Danny," he said. "Danny was a very decent man, a good man, an honest man."

Four award finalists presented their research at the event:

  • Kolar, "The Role of Bacterial Hyaluronidase in Immune Evasion";
  • Miller, "Evidence for a Dying Forward Process of ALS in the SODI G93A Rat";
  • Josiane Broussard, PhD, "Inhibition of Nocturnal Free Fatty Acid Suppresses Hyperinsulinemic Compensation During Diet Induced Insulin Resistance";
  • Yi-Tsung Lu, MD, "Single-Cell Whole Genome Sequencing of Circulating Tumor Cells in Prostate Cancer."

They were selected by an expert panel that judged their submissions based on scientific content, originality and clarity of oral presentation. The panel is chaired by Leslie Raffel, PhD, Cedars-Sinai professor of pediatrics and site director of the University of California Los Angeles Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI).

"This year was notable for the largest number of submissions we have ever received since the award's inception. The quality of the applications was excellent," said Raffel. "We were all very impressed with the four finalists, who really exemplified the quality of the basic and translational research being performed at Cedars-Sinai."

Kolar, a postdoctoral scientist in the laboratory of George Liu, MD, PhD, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Cedars-Sinai's Maxine Dunitz Children's Health Center, expressed her gratitude for the opportunity. "This award solidifies my hard work and encourages me to continue being a researcher, " she said. "I greatly appreciate the entire process, as it has made me a better scientist."

Miller, who is mentored by Clive Svendsen, PhD, director of the Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute, found that the award gave validity to a less-than-conventional hypothesis which contended that amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, may originate in the brain.

"This award has given me a sense of validation that the perseverance of unconventional ideas in science may be worth the risk," she said.

Applications for the 2015 Malaniak Awards will be available in November.

"I hope that the Malaniak Award will continue to serve as a longstanding tribute to the memory of Danny Malaniak," said Raffel.

 

Photo: Stacey Kolar, PhD (second from left), and Gretchen Miller, PhD, display their Malaniak Award for Excellence in Postdoctoral Research. Kolar is a postdoctoral scientist in the laboratory of George Liu, MD, PhD (far left), and Miller’s mentor is Clive Svendsen, PhD (far right).