The I.M. Rosenzweig Junior Investigator Award

Helping Junior Scientists Grow

​The I.M. Rosenzweig Junior Investigator Award was established to encourage researchers to maintain and enhance their interest in PF research during the early stages of their academic career. 

Researchers who have completed their formal training within the past five years are eligible for this award. Two $50,000 grants are awarded per annual cycle, disbursed over a two-year period.

2016 recipients

Vinicio de Jesus Perez, MD
Stanford University
“HH-10: A novel therapeutic for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis” 
This award is funded by the NYC Run-Walk-Hike for Pulmonary Fibrosis.

Dr. Vinicio de Jesus Perez received his MD from the University of Puerto Rico Medical School and completed an internal medicine residency at Massachusetts General Hospital. He subsequently trained in pulmonary and critical care medicine in Denver, followed by postdoctoral research training at Stanford University, where he currently serves as assistant professor of medicine.  His current research focuses on understanding the genetic and molecular mechanisms of pulmonary hypertension (PH), idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and tuberous sclerosis/LAM. He is principal investigator of a research program dedicated to identifying new therapeutic approaches to treat these conditions. As a medical professional belonging to a minority group, Dr. de Jesus Perez is involved in academic endeavors seeking to improve access of care for patients with disadvantageous ethnic backgrounds and promote diversity in medicine.


Koji Sakamoto, MD, PhD
Yale University
“The role of LincRNA FENDRR as a novel regulator of myofibroblast differentiation in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis”
This award is partially funded by the Jenny H. Krauss and Otto F. Krauss Charitable Foundation Trust, in memory of Stephen N. Dirks.

Dr. Sakamoto is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of Internal Medicine at Yale University. He obtained his MD degree at Nagoya University in Japan. After several years of engagement with clinical service in one of leading center for care of pulmonary fibrosis patients in the country, he earned his PhD degree from Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine in 2012. Currently Dr. Sakamoto conducts research exploring novel mechanisms regulating pulmonary fibrosis under the mentorship of Dr. Naftali Kaminski at Yale University. 

His research interests include dissecting unveiled epigenetic mechanisms of lung fibrogenesis by implementing high-throughput analytic methodology. In particular, he has been interested in characterizing the pathogenic role of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) as epigenetic disease regulators, and seeking the potential of lncRNAs as novel therapeutic targets.
As being a physician-scientist motivated by his clinical experience, Dr. Sakamoto also enjoys opportunities to participate in patient support group events and disease awareness events.

2015 recipients

Jose D. Herazo-Maya, MD
Yale University
"Serum microRNA Expression Profiles as Biomarkers in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis"
Funded by Genentech

Dr. Herazo-Maya is an instructor in medicine in the Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care at Yale University. He obtained his MD degree at the University of Cartagena School of Medicine in Colombia. In 2008, he became a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Pittsburgh, Simmons Center for Interstitial Lung Disease, under the mentorship of Dr. Naftali Kaminski, where he worked in the area of functional genomics, molecular biology, and bioinformatics. He completed his internal medicine residency at the University of Pittsburgh and Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Fellowship at Pittsburgh and Yale.

Dr. Herazo-Maya’s research focus is the identification of molecular profiles associated with increased mortality in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) using high-throughput “omic” technologies and precision medicine approaches. His ultimate goal is to identify new therapeutic targets for IPF that can improve patient survival. His previous research demonstrated a 52-gene signature that predicted survival in IPF and tied these gene expression changes with shifts in immune cell subpopulations. Most recently, he has developed an interest in studying microRNAs in serum as potential diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers in IPF and their mechanistic role in disease severity and progression.


Jonathan Kropski, MD
Vanderbilt University
"RTEL1 and DNA Damage Signaling in Pulmonary Fibrosis"
This award is funded by the NYC Run-Walk-Hike for Pulmonary Fibrosis.

Dr. Kropski is an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Allergy, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. He obtained his undergraduate degree from Davidson College and completed his medical education, internal medicine residency, and pulmonary/critical care fellowship at Vanderbilt. Dr. Kropski’s research interest focuses on determining the molecular mechanisms that mediate the early pathogenesis of pulmonary fibrosis, with an emphasis on the role of genetic factors that influence alveolar epithelial injury and repair. As a fellow working under Dr. Timothy Blackwell, Dr. Kropski identified mutations in DKC1 and RTEL1 as the basis for disease in some families with pulmonary fibrosis. His independent work now utilizes cell and animal-based models to determine the mechanisms through which these and other genetic risk factors for pulmonary fibrosis contribute to the development of disease. His ultimate goal is to use genetic and genomic profiling to develop rational and specific therapies for patients with pulmonary fibrosis.

2014 recipients

Jung-Whan (Jay) Kim, DVM, PhD
University of Texas at Dallas
"Evaluation of Hypoxia-inducible Factor-1 (HIF-1) Signaling as Anti-fibrosis Therapy"

Dr. Jung-whan Kim is an Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Texas at Dallas.

He received his DVM degree at Konkuk University, Seoul, Korea and completed his PhD as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) pre-doctoral scholar at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Since he joined the University of Texas at Dallas as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in 2013, his research has focused on the mechanisms underlying the effects of hypoxic responses in the pulmonary fibrosis and tumorigenesis.

Among many cell populations involved in the disease progression of pulmonary fibrosis, his group is interested in fibroblasts, a type of cell providing structural support for various tissues, are responsible for scarring tissues by producing the extracellular matrix such as collagen in response to tissue damage and inflammation. Utilizing various transgenic animal models, his group seeks to better understand how fibroblasts contribute to the development of fibrosis, which can be exploited for a novel therapeutic strategy.


Chiko Shimbori, PhD
McMaster University
"The Role of Mast Cells in Pathophysiology of Pulmonary Fibrosis"
Funded by InterMune, Inc.

Dr. Shimbori is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at McMaster University in Canada.

Originally from Japan, she received BS and MS degrees at Tottori University. She earned a PhD from Shimane University in the Department of Medicine and Pharmacology in Japan. Dr. Shimbori currently conducts research under Dr. Martin Kolb at McMaster University in the area of pulmonary fibrosis.

Through her doctoral and post-doctoral training, Dr. Shimboris learned that the tissue microenvironment is a crucial element in pulmonary fibrosis and can substantially influence the characteristics, activity, and differentiation of cells. Her current research focus is on mast cells and their role in the disease. Amongst others, she explores the impact of the extracellular matrix in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) on mast cell function and characteristics. In particular, she investigates the role of mast cells as profibrotic elements-- not their well-known inflammatory properties. Dr. Shimboris believes that her studies will help scientists better understand some of the mechanisms that cause the progression of pulmonary fibrosis and thereby lead to the development of new therapies for IPF.

Dr. Shimbori enjoys working with her wonderful supervisor and colleagues and life in Canada. She also loves nature and relaxes by practicing yoga.

2013 recipients

Kristen Tropea Leeman, MD
Harvard Medical School, Boston Children’s Hospital
“Characterization of Endogenous Lung Stem Cells in a Pulmonary Fibrosis Model”

Dr. Kristen Leeman is a neonatologist in the Division of Newborn Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and instructor at Harvard Medical School. She attended University of Virginia Medical School, completed her pediatrics residency at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and trained at the Harvard Neonatal Perinatal Fellowship Program where she served as a Chief Fellow. She currently conducts her research under the mentorship of Dr. Carla Kim at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.

Her research interests include examining the role of endogenous lung stem cells in lung injury and repair. Specifically, she has begun to focus on determining the effects of fibrosis on lung stem cell autonomous functions and examining the effects of mesenchymal stromal cell treatment on lung stem cell properties in pulmonary fibrosis.

She hopes her work utilizing lung stem cell biology to gain insight into pulmonary disease mechanisms will lead to novel therapeutic approaches. Dr. Leeman enjoys spending time with her husband, traveling, and painting.

2012 recipients

Haitao (Mark) Ji, PhD
University of Utah
"Design and Synthesis of Selective Beta-catenin/T-Cell Factor Inhibitors for the Treatment of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis"
Funded by InterMune, Inc.

Dr. Haitao (Mark) Ji is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Assistant Professor in the Center for Cell and Genome Science, University of Utah.

A native of China, Mark received his PhD and BS degrees at the Second Military Medical University of China. After completing his military service, Mark served as a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University. As a postdoctoral fellow under Professor Richard Silverman, he proposed a new concept, minimal pharmacophoric element, and developed a new method for fragment-based inhibitor design, called fragment hopping. By using this new strategy Dr. Ji discovered the most potent and dual selective nNOS inhibitor reported to date.

Dr. Ji’s independent research interests are largely dedicated to the structure-based design and synthesis of small molecules to modulate cellular signalling pathways that are critical in pulmonary fibrogenesis. In the process of designing and synthesizing new small-molecule inhibitors, he also aims to develop novel and widely applicable techniques for future drug discovery. Accordingly, research in his group utilizes multidisciplinary approaches including synthetic organic chemistry, computer modeling, molecular and cell biology.

Dr. Ji has published 68 research papers, five review papers and three book chapters. Mark is married to Grace Zhang. They have one son, Nate.

Rebecca Keith, MD
University of Colorado, Denver
"Therapeutic Targeting of PTPN-13 in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis"

Dr. Keith is an Instructor in the Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Colorado Medical School in Denver. Her clinical interests include fibrotic and collagen vascular associated lung diseases. She conducts her research under the mentorship of David W. H. Riches, PhD, at National Jewish Health in the area of rheumatoid arthritis associated interstitial lung disease and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

More recently, she has begun to focus on the development of targeted small molecules to inhibit the interactions of protein tyrosine phosphatase, non-receptor type 13 and Fas as candidate therapeutic agents in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Dr. Keith enjoys spending time with her family in the Rocky Mountains.

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