2023 Fishman Fund Award ceremony celebrates postdoctoral scholars

| Written by Susan Gammon
From left to right: Brad Benter, Cheng-Ju Kuo, Ph.D., Theo Tzaridis, M.D., Reena Horowitz and Sam Horowitz
From left to right: Brad Benter, Cheng-Ju Kuo, Ph.D., Theo Tzaridis, M.D., Reena Horowitz and Sam Horowitz. (not shown: Alicia Llorente, Ph.D.)

Three talented early-career researchers were presented with prestigious Fishman Fund Awards at the 22nd annual ceremony on September 20.

More than 100 generous benefactors, past award winners, and family and friends joined the celebration held at the Sanford Consortium.

Fishman Fund co-founder Reena Horowitz greeted the audience and shared how she, along with Mary Bradley, established the Fishman Fund Awards in 2001 to honor Dr. William and Lillian Fishman, founders of Sanford Burnham Prebys.

The Fishmans were committed to fostering the careers of young scientists. The award ceremony honors our founders’ dedication to furthering the careers of promising scientists by gathering each autumn to celebrate exceptional postdocs.

Before the awards were presented to the winners, David Brenner, M.D., CEO of Sanford Burnham Prebys, described how important postdocs are to scientific discovery and why investing in their careers is a vital step toward improving human health.

“The postdoc experience is important, as it provides more training, experience and skills, before entering a more permanent science career,” said Brenner. “Postdocs represent the next generation of imagination and innovation, which much be recognized, encouraged and emboldened.”

Meet this year’s Fishman Fund Award winners


Cheng-Ju Kuo, Ph.D.

The Reena Horowitz & Mary Bradley Fishman Fund Founders Prize

Cheng-Ju Kuo, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Dr. Caroline Kumsta, is studying the biology of aging. Dr. Kuo is unraveling the molecular mechanisms linked to a cellular recycling process that declines with age. His findings could open up new possibilities to treat age-released diseases. Dr. Kuo’s goal is to establish his own laboratory where he will study aging and train the next generation of scientists.

Alicia Llorente, Ph.D.

Jeanne Jones and Kathryn Fishback Fishman Fund Prize

Alicia Llorente, Ph.D., a postdoctoral associate in the lab of Dr. Brooke Emerling, is investigating how breast cancer cells become resistant to therapy. Dr. Llorente combines her expertise in lipid kinases with cancer biology to open possibilities for novel therapeutics for therapy-resistant breast cancer. Her career goal is to combine research with teaching by obtaining a faculty position at a university.

Theo Tzaridis, M.D.

Lenka Finci and Erna Viterbi Fishman Fund Prize

Theo Tzaridis, M.D., is a postdoctoral associate in the lab of Dr. Peter Adams, where he focuses on aggressive brain tumors. His research led to the identification of a key checkpoint molecule widely expressed in brain tumors, which is a significant step toward improving immunotherapy as a treatment for brain tumors. Dr. Tzaridis plans to become a leader in translating research findings into clinical trials.

Fishman Fund winners undergo a rigorous selection process that includes a personal interview and a presentation to the selection committee. All winners receive a $10,000 career development award that can be used to attend workshops, network and travel to national and international conferences to learn about the latest developments in their research fields.

A special thank-you to the Fishman Fund donors who make these awards possible.

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