- David Fajgenbaum, MD, MBA, MSC, FCPP
- Sheila K Pierson, MS
- Michael Gonzalez, PhD
- Tracey Sikora
- Melanie Mumau, PhD
- Amber Cohen
- Ania Korsunska, MA
- Stacy Guzman
- Bridget Austin, MS
- Mateo Sarmiento
- Criswell Lavery
- Hemi Park, MPH
- 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.
Associate Director of Basic and Translational Research
Michael V. Gonzalez, PhD, is the Associate Director of Basic and Translational Research at the Center for Cytokine Storm Treatment and Laboratory (CSTL) within the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He obtained his PhD in Immunology and Infectious Diseases from Washington State University and was a postdoctoral fellow and bioinformatics scientist at the Center for Applied Genomics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia before coming to the CSTL. His research focuses on utilizing novel ’omics technologies to gain insights into the genetic and cellular architectures of Castleman Disease and other disorders involving autoimmunity.
Associate Director, CORONA Project & RAPid Clinical Trial
Tracey Sikora is the Associate Director of the CORONA project and the RAPid 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 COVID-19 and Castleman Disease, she has previous experience in high-risk, multi-site clinical trials, gene therapy trials, and orphan disease research.
Senior Research Investigator
Melanie Mumau, PhD, is Senior Research Investigator at the Center for Cytokine Storm Treatment & Laboratory (CSTL) at the University of Pennsylvania. Melanie is an experimental immunologist by training and oversees all research related to the translational laboratory. She is currently working on understanding the mechanisms that drive cytokine storms and developing new treatments for patients. Melanie earned her PhD in Microbiology & Immunology from Columbia University and prior to joining the CSTL, her research focused on how the immune system regulates the development of blood cells. Melanie enjoys playing soccer, skiing, and making pizza.
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.
Biomedical Leadership Fellow for the CDCN
Ania Korsunska is the 2021-2022 Biomedical Leadership Fellow at the Castleman Disease Collaborative Network and a PhD candidate in the Syracuse University iSchool’s Information Science and Technology program. Ania is leading multiple drug repurposing efforts including the ROADMAP project, which aims to not only answer some fundamental questions about drug repurposing, but to also design a solution to some of the challenges rare disease organizations are facing through the creation of an interactive tool. Ania is also supporting the CORONA Project, which aims to identify and track all treatments reported to be used for COVID-19 in an open-source data repository.
PhD Student in Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics
Stacy is a doctoral student in the Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics (BMB) graduate program at the University of Pennsylvania. She has worked in many areas of research from organic synthesis, cancer biology, prion disease, to vaccine immunology. Stacy looks forward to helping accelerate research efforts that will find missing links and identify the drivers of immunological responses that lead to Castleman Disease. Stacy graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a BS in Biochemistry. Her dream is to open her own foundation or clinic in the future to help underserved communities. In her free time, Stacy enjoys cooking, reading, making boba drinks, painting with gouache or acrylic, sewing, and hiking.
Bridget Austin is the Biobank Coordinator for the Center for Cytokine Storm Treatment & Laboratory (CSTL) at the University of Pennsylvania. As such, Bridget 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 biological sample donation to the CSTL's Castlebank. Bridget earned her MS in Psychology from Villanova University.
Mateo Sarmiento is a Data Analyst for the Center for Cytokine Storm Treatment & Laboratory (CSTL) at the Perelman School of Medicine. He synthesizes and analyzes information across a Castleman patient’s medical history to gain insight on things such as the wide spectrum of symptoms and the effectiveness of treatment regimens that Castleman patients experience. Mateo looks forward to spending his gap years at the CSTL before applying to medical school. Prior to joining the CSTL, Mateo earned his BA in Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania where he researched the epigenetics of drug addiction.
Research Administration Coordinator
Criswell Lavery is the Research Administration Coordinator for the Center for Cytokine Storm Treatment & Laboratory (CSTL) at the University of Pennsylvania. She leads the front-end of the ACCELERATE natural history registry, working to compile accurate and comprehensive data on diagnosis and treatment processes for patients with Castleman Disease. Criswell earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Rochester and is currently pursuing her MPH degree at Penn.
Hemi Park is a Data Coordinator for the Center for Cytokine Storm Treatment & Laboratory (CSTL) at the University of Pennsylvania. She supports the CORONA project by reviewing and extracting clinical trial data to identify potential pharmaceutical treatments for COVID-19. She completed her Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in Epidemiology from Temple University. With her research experience in substance misuse and reproductive health, she is interested in health equity, and social determinants of health, and clinical epidemiology. Outside of work, she enjoys biking around the city, going to Chinatown, drinking coffee, and reading.
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.
Rozena Rasheed. Currently central laboratory specialist for portfolio sourcing and relationship management at Merck Pharmaceuticals.
Alexis Phillips. Currently a medical student at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Ruth-Anne Pai, PhD. Currently a Director of Research Strategy at PSC Partners Seeking a Cure.
Johnson Khor. Currently a healthcare consultant for the CDCN ROADMAP project (Repurposing Of All Drugs, Mapping All Paths).
Freda Coren. Currently a medical student at the University of Texas at Austin.
Reece Williams. Currently a medical student at Emory University.
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