Dale Haines, PhD and Andrei Thomas-Tikhonenko, PhD have been a great addition to our office.
Dale Haines is an Associate Professor of Medical Genetics and Molecular Biochemistry at Temple University School of Medicine. Andrei is Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the Chief of the Division of Cancer Pathobiology at CHOP. Both graciously answered some questions about their work, their sabbaticals and the contributions they are making at ALSF.
|Dale Haines, PhD in the lab at Temple University|
In Dale’s professional work at Temple, he directs a required 6 credit graduate level course in the fall at the medical school for PhD students. It covers topics in biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology and immunology. He also runs a grant writing course in the spring and gives numerous lectures to medical students on molecular biology and recombinant DNA technology and their applications to modern medicine. He is also a member of numerous grant review panels, including for the National Cancer Institute. In between, “I also do some lab work myself, pushing projects forward in the lab as well as writing grants.”
Andrei runs a very active and busy lab of about 10 researchers who are mainly, though not exclusively, focused on pediatric cancers, in particular lymphomas and leukemias. "Recently, we began to investigate the broad problem of treatment failure," Andrei said. "Why do some tumors respond to drugs and some don't? And why do some treatments work at first, but ultimately fail, leaving patients with few, if any, therapeutic options?"
This summer, Dale and Andrei will bring their perspectives as researchers to an analysis of ALSF’s grants program. They’ll judge the success of ALSF’s funded projects and how well they align with ALSF’s mission of finding new treatments and cures by getting new therapies into the clinic quickly. So far Dale is favorably impressed with the productivity of ALSF’s funded researchers.
“I’ve been able to....follow the paper trail – the publications that cite Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for supporting the work, and then really judge the impact of those papers in the scientific community.” -Dale Haines, PhD
For well-established ALSF grant categories like the Innovation, “A” Award, Springboard and Bridge grants, “I’ve been able to track those investigators and determine whether or not they’re currently successful and have NIH and National Cancer Institute funding, and also follow the paper trail – the publications that cite Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for supporting the work, and then really judge the impact of those papers in the scientific community.”
Among the strengths of ALSF’s grants program he singled out the peer review process, ALSF’s success at identifying good projects and investigators, and the high number of investigators who have gone on to leverage other funding sources as a result of their research, such as subsequent NIH grants.
“Right now we are trying to assess what grant mechanisms work particularly well and how good ones could be made even better." - Andrei Thomas-Tikhonenko, PhD
"I am very impressed by the breadth of the grants program," said Andrei, and "how ALSF, while focused on cancer cures, maintains a diverse portfolio of not only clinical but also basic research grants, where the payoff might be years away. I think that in the field of cancer research it takes courage and conviction to play the long game."
Dale describes ALSF’s current grantmaking approach as a broad-based funding portfolio, with long term investment in promising projects and investigators as well as “high risk, more aggressive” grants. He’s working on a set of recommendations to maximize future impact and get the most value from every dollar. Andrei summarizes their work this way, "Right now we are trying to assess what grant mechanisms work particularly well and how good ones could be made even better."
A Personal ConnectionDale has contributed to ALSF’s work as a grant reviewer for the past eight years, but he also has a more personal connection to the Foundation – his daughter was a classmate of ALSF founder Alexandra “Alex” Scott’s, and his wife Jen has been involved as a volunteer and supporter of the Foundation for many years.
|Dr. Andrei Thomas-Tikhonenko, PhD, cancer researcher, with soccer star Messi.|
Andrei's experience as a principal investigator is helping to inform his recommendations: "It helps putting my researcher hat back on and think hard: if I were to apply for this grant, would it help me do my best science?" He has enjoyed the change of pace: "Working at ALSF is a very gratifying experience. When you toil in the lab, 90% of time things go in the wrong direction. Here I feel I am making a positive impact every week."
We are so grateful to be able to tap into Andrei and Dale’s knowledge and perspective this summer and are glad they are spending their sabbaticals with us at ALSF. Thank you to you both!