- David Fajgenbaum, MD, MBA, MSC, FCPP
- Sheila K Pierson, MS
- Patricia Tsao, MD, PhD
- Amber Cohen
- Rozena Rasheed
- Ruth-Anne Langan Pai
- Alexis Phillips
- Johnson Khor
- Tracey Sikora
- Kunfeng Sun, PhD
- Daniel J. Arenas, PhD
- Former Team Members
Founding Director of the Center for Cytokine Storm Treatment & Laboratory
Dr. David Fajgenbaum, MD, MBA, MSc, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in Translational Medicine & Human Genetics at the University of Pennsylvania, Executive Director of the Castleman Disease Collaborative Network, Associate Director of Patient Impact for the Penn Orphan Disease Center, and national bestselling author of Chasing My Cure: A Doctor's Race to Turn Hope Into Action. He is also a patient battling idiopathic multicentric Castleman disease (iMCD). Penn Medicine Faculty Profile.
Associate Director, Clinical Research
Sheila Pierson, MS, is the Associate Director for Clinical Research at the CSTL. She oversees the current clinical research projects and works on the planning and development of new projects. She leads all aspects of the ACCELERATE registry, a natural history study of Castleman disease. In addition, she oversees and executes statistical analyses for CSTL clinical and translational research. She received her MS from Columbia University.
Director of Basic & Translational Research
Dr. Patricia Y. Tsao MD, PhD, is the Director of Basic and Translational Research of the Center for Cytokine Storm Treatment & Laboratory (CSTL). Dr. Tsao oversees and executes all basic and translational studies that include elucidating the etiology, pathogenesis, diagnostic biomarkers, and life-saving therapeutics for Castleman disease. Under Dr. Fajgenbaum’s leadership, Dr. Tsao hopes to make an impact with the research and treatment of Castleman disease, which sits at the intersection of autoimmunity and cancer, and also to gain insights into human immunology.
Amber Cohen is the Executive Administrator for the Center for Cytokine Storm Treatment & Laboratory (CSTL) at the Perelman School of Medicine. She provides direct support for the Director of the CSTL and overseas the administrative functions of the CSTL’s various projects and events. Prior to her work for the CSTL, Amber was the executive coordinator for the Department of Biostatics, Epidemiology, and Informatics and the Center for Health Behavior Research. Amber earned her BA in Psychology from the University of Richmond.
Rozena Rasheed is the Biobank Coordinator for the Castleman disease research team here at the University of Penn. Her role is to work closely with patients of CD and related diseases in order to obtain tissue samples that are vital for research expansion. She is also working on building the infrastructure for a CD biobank (Castlebank). She makes sure all prospective tissue samples collected are properly preserved for current and future research. Rozena graduated from Penn State and previously worked as the senior research technician for the Translational and Human Genetics Penn Medicine Biobank.
PhD Student in Immunology
Ruth-Anne is a PhD candidate in the Immunology Graduate Group at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to graduate school, Ruth-Anne completed her undergraduate degree at Cornell University and then spent two years in Manhattan studying autoimmunity. She is the first doctoral student in David Fajgenbaum’s laboratory and a core part of the Castleman Disease research team. Through her research, Ruth-Anne hopes to improve our understanding of the mechanisms that regulate T cell activation and drive the development of immunotherapeutics for Castleman Disease.
Ruth-Anne received a 2019 ASH Abstract Achievement Award for her study: "Single-Cell Analysis of PBMCs in idiopathic multicentric Castleman disease identifies a Type I interferon response associated with increased mTOR activation". Check out the ASH Abstract here. Her amazing work was highlighted by the organization Check Rare. Check out their interview video here!
Biomedical Leadership Fellow for the CDCN
Alexis Phillips is the 2020-2021 Biomedical Leadership Fellow for the Castleman Disease Collaborative Network (CDCN). Alexis is excited about advancing the mission of the CDCN by working on collaborative projects that support patients and loved ones, raise awareness of Castleman disease, and spread the CDCN's innovative approach to rare disease research. She is taking an extra year between her third and fourth year of medical school at the Perelman School of Medicine (University of Pennsylvania) to fill this role full-time. Previously, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from the University of Pennsylvania.
CSTL Center Coordinator & ACCELERATE Registry Coordinator
Johnson Khor is the Center Coordinator for the Center for Cytokine Storm Treatment & Laboratory (CSTL) at the University of Pennsylvania as well as the On-Boarding Officer for the CDCN. As such, Johnson works as a clinical liaison between the research and clinical sides of the CSTL, assists with various research projects such as the ACCELERATE Natural History Registry, and coordinates the day-to-day needs of the CSTL. He is currently working on a Masters of Health Care Innovation at the Perelman School of Medicine after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley where he studied Microbial Biology and Education. In his free time, Johnson enjoys making music as a Baritone vocalist, baking treats for the CSTL, and reading a good book with a hot cup of coffee.
Research Project Manager
Tracey Sikora is a research project manager working on the clinical trial evaluating sirolimus in patients with iMCD. Tracey received a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University and spent several years studying inherited rare diseases before working in clinical research. In addition to her work on Castleman Disease, she specializes in high-risk, multi-site clinical trials, gene therapy trials, and orphan disease trials.
Post Doctoral Fellow
Dr. Kunfeng Sun, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow of Basic and Translational Research at CSTL. Previously, his research interests have spanned the fields of veterinary medicine, microbiology, and virology. Now he is studying the etiology and pathogenesis of iMCD. Through elucidating the etiology in iMCD, he hopes to bring something new to the treatment of iMCD patients in the future.
Medical Student & Data Scientist
Daniel is a Colombian immigrant, medical student, and researcher. He received a BS in physics a long, long time ago. He received a Physics PhD in 2009 from University of Florida and subsequently became a faculty member at the University of North Florida. In 2016 he began medical school at the University of Pennsylvania and is currently on a research gap year working at the CDCN. He hopes to contribute the research skills he obtained in physics to the fight against Castleman Disease.
Jasira Ziglar. Currently a medical student at Tulane School of Medicine.
Helen Partridge, MD. Currently a resident in psychiatry at Perelman School of Medicine.
Dustin Shilling, PhD. Currently a senior associate at Spark Therapeutics.
Faizaan Ahkter, Currently a medical student at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Erin Napier, Currently a medical student at John A Burns School of Medicine.
Alexander Suarez, MD. Currently a resident in neurosurgery at Duke School of Medicine.
Dale Kobrin, MD. Currently a resident in internal medicine at Allegheny General Hospital.
Eric Haljasmaa. Currently a medical student at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Katherine Floess. Currently a medical student at University of Illinois Medical School at Peoria.
Sophia Parente. Currently a medical student at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Mark-Avery Tamakloe. Currently a medical student at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
Victoria (Tori) Powers. Currently a medical student at Sidney Kimmel Medical College.
Alexander (Alek) Gorzewski. Currently a medical student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Click here if you are interested in joining our team!