Collin Tokheim, PhD Wins New Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation Quantitative Biology Fellowship

Collin Tokheim, PhD, a postdoc in the X. Shirley Liu lab, has been awarded a Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation Quantitative Biology Fellowship. Dr. Tokheim’s mentors are X. Shirley Liu, PhD, and Eric S. Fischer, PhD, at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston.

“The first class of Damon Runyon Quantitative Biology Fellowship Awardees launched their research in novel directions that may lead to the next breakthroughs in cancer research. Nine brilliant young scientists will apply their quantitative skills to design innovative experiments and interpret massive data sets that may help solve important biological and clinical problems. The awardees were selected by a distinguished committee of leaders in the field.

Dr. Tokheim is developing computational models that can identify degradable proteins that are linked to the development of human cancers. Unlike traditional drugs that bind and block the activity of key proteins in cancer cells, a new generation of drugs can eliminate proteins by hijacking the protein degradation machinery within cells. By leveraging big data from thousands of tumor profiles and a novel statistical and deep learning model, he will conduct an unbiased search for candidate proteins that can be verified experimentally. This research may lead to the development of drugs targeting protein degradation as a potent and selective way to treat a variety of human cancers.

Each postdoctoral scientist selected for this unique three-year award will receive independent funding ($240,000 total) to train under the joint mentorship of an established computational scientist and a cancer biologist. Damon Runyon has created this new funding mechanism to encourage quantitative scientists (from fields such as mathematics, physics, computer science and engineering) to pursue careers in cancer research. This support will help create an elite cadre of computational biology leaders trained in quantitative and biological sciences—scientists who are capable of traversing both worlds with ease and are comfortable speaking both languages fluently.

“Because this is in essence a new field at the nexus of traditional cancer research and data science, it is critical to draw fearless and brilliant young computational scientists to these problems to drive the field forward,” said Aviv Regev, PhD, of the Broad Institute and inaugural Chair of the Quantitative Biology Fellowship Award Committee.”

Full release: Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation

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