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Press Release

February 7, 2019

Kathleen Reichert
American Skin Association

American Skin Association Announces
18 Promising, New Grants for Skin Cancer
and Disease Research in 2019

February 7, 2019 - New York, NY – For more than three decades, American Skin Association (ASA) and its affiliates have funded more than $50 million in grants to address the causes and treatments of melanoma, vitiligo, and psoriasis, as well as other skin diseases, and to search for much-needed cures. Today, ASA continues its tradition of awarding significant research grants by funding 18 promising new grants for 2019.

This year, the much sought-after ASA Milstein Research Scholar Award for Melanoma/Non-melanoma Skin Cancer has been awarded to Neda Nikbakht, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology and Cutaneous Biology at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia for her research on Genomic Profiling of Early Stage Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma.

ASA renewed its commitment to Roger Lo, MD, PhD of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Dr. Lo is midway through his work on a three-year award of the Abby S. and Howard P. Milstein Innovation Award for Melanoma/Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Research (MIA). The grant of $750,000 was initially funded in 2018 and focuses on the field of cancer genetics and genomics, using next generation sequencing approaches to uncover the basis of resistance to both molecularly targeted therapies and immune checkpoint inhibitors.

These grants were made possible through the generosity of the Milstein Family. Howard P. Milstein, Chairman of ASA, and his family are devoted to funding vital dermatological research in an effort to discover cures for skin cancers and diseases.

"We are proud to continue our funding of crucial research through ASA. Although the skin is our largest and perhaps most vulnerable organ, dermatological research remains one of the most underfunded areas of medicine," said Mr. Milstein. "Through these grants we improve the chances of finding cures and bring hope to those suffering from devastating skin diseases."

Dr. Roger Lo, the MIA awardee, said, "I am very grateful for the continued generosity of Howard Milstein and his family. My lab is conducting patient-oriented melanoma research, the knowledge from which we will be able to use to directly impact patient management and care. This would not be possible without the support of individuals like Mr. Milstein."

ASA's Medical Advisory Committee (MAC) is comprised of leading physicians and scientists who oversee the annual grant review and award process. Through MAC’s leadership, ASA's grant program has supported the work of nearly 300 investigators, ranging from talented young researchers in the early phases of their careers to recognized leaders in the field of dermatology.

ASA President and Co-Chair of its MAC, Dr. David A. Norris, added, "We have a wonderful group of grant awardees this year. ASA's Medical Advisory Committee is excited for the future findings of these important studies."

ASA provides significant special research awards to established investigators and medical students studying melanoma, non-melanoma skin cancer and skin diseases. Through these grants, ASA has promoted the early careers of many gifted young investigators and has had a profound impact both on dermatology research and clinical care of dermatologic disease. In particular, ASA-funded researchers have had a broad impact on melanoma research, improving our understanding of its diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. With an exclusive focus on skin disease research, ASA has helped open new frontiers in skin science, producing results that can change how we understand and treat skin disease.

The following are the recipients of the 2019 MIA, ASA Research Scholar Awards, Research Grants, and Medical Student Grants:

Abby S. and Howard P. Milstein Innovation Award for Melanoma/Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Research (MIA)

Roger Lo, MD, PhD (2018-2020)
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Epigenetic and Immunologic Basis of Melanoma Initiation and Progression

ASA Milstein Research Scholar Award in Melanoma/Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer

Neda Nikbakht, MD, PhD
Thomas Jefferson University
Genomic Profiling of Early Stage Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma

Daneen & Charles Stiefel Investigative Scientist Award for Melanoma Research

Willy Hugo, PhD
The Regents of the University of California, Los Angeles
Single-Cell Analysis of Gene Networks Driving Immunotherapy Resistance in Melanoma

Hao Chang, PhD
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Dual Role of Frizzled 7 in Melanoma Development and Progression

ASA Calder Research Scholar Award Vitiligo/Pigment Cell Disorders

John Harris, MD, PhD
University of Massachusetts, Worcester
CCL5 – Induced Clustering of T cells Modulates Vitiligo Progression

ASA Research Scholar Award

Xiying Fan, PhD
University of Colorado Denver
A Novel Mouse Model for Visualizing Cancer Development and Immune Evasion

ASA Research Grant for Skin Cancer and Melanoma

Markus Schober, PhD
New York University School of Medicine
Defining AMIGO2 Function in Chemotherapy Resistance and Squamous Cell Carcinoma Progression

ASA Research Grant for Vitiligo and Pigment Cell Disorders

Rupali Gund, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
Role of Syntaxin17 in Melanosome Maturation and Alopecia Areata Pathogenesis

ASA Research Grant for Psoriasis/Inflammatory Skin Diseases

Sarah Whitley, MD, PhD
University of Pittsburgh
IL-23 Regulates Cutaneous Resident Memory T Cell Development

ASA Research Grant for Quality of Life/Health Services/Outcome Studies

Rebecca Hartman, MD, MPH
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
The Role of Inflammation in Melanoma Risk – Does Sex Matter?

ASA Research Grant for Childhood Skin Diseases/Disfigurement

Elena Bernardis, PhD
University of Pennsylvania
Quantifying Alopecia Variations from Images via Artificial Intelligence

ASA Hambrick Medical Student Grants Targeting Melanoma and Skin Cancer

Zizi Yu
Harvard Medical School
Characterizing the Role of Mast Cells in the Inflammatory Synapse of Cutaneous T Cell Lymphoma

Jamie Hu
Yale School of Medicine
Biodegradable Bioadhesive Nanoparticle (BNP) Drug Delivery in the Treatment of SCC

Jihoon Lee
University of Washington
CRISPR-Cas9-Based Epigenome Editing to Inhibit Skin Cancer

Kristina Navrazhina
Weill Cornell Medicine
The Role of AMPK Signaling in Melanoma Metastasis

Alicia Mizes
University of Pittsburgh
Novel Intratumoral Delivery of Chemotherapeutics for the Immunotherapy of Cutaneous Neoplasms

Catherine Baker
Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
CRISPR-Cas Genome Editing for Cutaneous Oncoviruses

Kevin Yang
University of Alabama at Birmingham
The Role of STING Agonists in UVB-Induced DNA Damage


A unique collaboration of patients, families, advocates, physicians and scientists, ASA has evolved over thirty-two years as a leading force in efforts to defeat melanoma, skin cancer and other skin diseases. Established to serve the now more than 100 million Americans — one third of the U.S. population — afflicted with skin disorders, the organization’s mission remains to: advance research, champion skin health particularly among children, and drive public awareness about skin disease. For more information, visit

American Skin Association is a 4-Star Charity Navigator rated foundation.