Giani and Vatine Receive Malaniak Award

Malaniak awardees Gad Vatine, PhD, left, and Jorge Fernando Giani, PhD, flank Leslie Raffel, MD, chair of the award committee.

Cedars-Sinai researchers Jorge Fernando Giani, PhD, and Gad Vatine, PhD, were presented with the 2015 Bohdan (Danny) Malaniak Award for Excellence in Postdoctoral Research in a Jan. 27 ceremony that drew a record audience of 160 to the Harvey Morse Auditorium. The annual award, which carries a $3,000 cash prize, aims to foster basic and translational research by promoting investigative curiosity.

In opening remarks, Leslie Raffel, MD, chair of the award committee, site director of the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and Cedars-Sinai professor of pediatrics, remembered Malaniak (1930–2013), the award's namesake, as "one of the major movers and shakers in advocating for research at Cedars-Sinai." His family attended the event.

Malaniak, whose decades-long tenure began in the 1950s, served as associate vice president for academic affairs and later as a consultant and emeritus administrator for academic and medical affairs.

This year, 12 applications, covering a broad range of topics, were received for the award. Four finalists were selected to present their research at the ceremony:

  • Giani, for the study "Renal Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme is Essential for the Inflammation-Induced Salt Sensitivity";
  • Bingchen Han, PhD, for "FOXC1 Regulates Cancer Stem-like Properties via Inducing SMO-Independent Hedgehog Pathway and Confers Drug Resistance in Basal-like Breast Cancer";
  • Ritchie Ho, PhD, for "Transcriptomic Analyses of Fetal, Mature, and Aged Spinal Tissue Guide Modeling of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis with Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells and Mice";
  • Vatine, for "IPSCs and AHDS Patients to Model Psychomotor Retardation in a Dish"

"Each year the quality of the abstracts submitted gets better. The review committee was truly impressed by the sophistication of the science that is being performed here at Cedars-Sinai," said Raffel.

"I am truly honored and proud to receive the Malaniak award. This recognition encourages me to keep working hard and face new challenges as a researcher," said Giani, whose mentor is Kenneth Bernstein, MD, director of the Experimental Pathology Division in the Department of Pathology and professor of biomedical sciences and pathology and laboratory medicine. Giani's winning research concerned organ-specific treatment of hypertension and salt sensitivity.

Vatine is a postdoctoral scientist in the laboratories of Clive Svendsen, PhD, director of the Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute and professor of biomedical sciences and medicine, and Shlomo Melmed, MD, senior vice president of academic affairs, dean of the medical faculty and professor of medicine. His winning study utilized induced pluripotent stem cells from patients with Allan-Herndon-Dudley Syndrome, a rare inherited brain disorder, to model mental retardation in a laboratory dish.

"This award not only motivates me to push my research forward but it is also an honorable way to memorialize Danny Malaniak," said Vatine.

"Danny would have been so proud to see what these young scientists are accomplishing. We thank the Burns and Allen Research Institute at Cedars-Sinai for its unfailing support," said Raffel.