Harvard Catalyst Program for Faculty Development and Diversity Inclusion (PFDD) Faculty Fellowship

Harvard Catalyst Program for Faculty Development and Diversity Inclusion (PFDD) Faculty Fellowship (formerly PFDD Faculty Fellowship) is a two-year, non-degree Faculty Fellowship Program for Harvard junior faculty designed to address faculty need for additional support to conduct clinical and/or translational research and to free junior faculty from clinical and teaching demands at a key point in their career development. Each Faculty Fellow will receive $100,000 over a two-year period to support their scholarly efforts. Faculty Fellows are required to devote appropriate time toward the development of their academic career, to meet regularly with their mentors, and to present at the annual Minority Health Policy Meeting. For more information about Catalyst see: http://catalyst.harvard.edu


Doctoral degree (e.g. MD, PhD, DO, DMD, DDS). Harvard appointment at the level of instructor or assistant professor. Applications will also be considered from clinical or research fellows who are in the process of appointment/promotion to instructor and/or assistant professor at Harvard. U.S. Citizenship or Permanent Residency.

Harvard Catalyst PFDD Faculty Fellowship application deadline for 2018 has passed.


2017-2018 PFDD Faculty Fellows


Steven Rodriguez

Steven Rodriguez, PhD, Instructor, Massachusetts General Hospital, Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

Mentor: Mark W. Albers, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Frank Wilkens Jr. and Family Endowed Scholar in Alzheimer’s Disease Research, Massachusetts General Hospital
Department Chair: Merit Cudkowicz, MD, Julieanne Dorn Professor of Neurology, Head of the Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital
Project Title: “Preclinical identification and validation of a novel inflammatory signature as biomarkers for the treatment of ALS”
Project Description: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a devastating neurodegenerative disease that progressively erodes neurons in the brain and spinal cord. Current therapies only offer modest benefits to ALS patients, necessitating a better understanding of the mechanisms of neurodegeneration. We have identified a novel mechanism in ALS that is initiated by genomeencoded dsRNA that activates a neuroinflammatory antiviral innate immune pathway, leading to neurodegeneration. We developed and screened a neural culture model system of dsRNAmediated neurotoxicity and we identified an FDA-approved drug that rescues neurotoxicity. We will determine if this drug can reduce neurodegeneration in an animal model before it can be tested in a clinical trial for ALS. Additionally, it will be essential to identify mechanistic biomarkers for efficacy of this drug in patients. Based on work in the literature and our work, we initially propose to test if a panel of 4 biomarkers found in the CSF of ALS patients that are elevated by dsRNA-mediated signaling. We will examine the effectiveness of the drug to decrease the expression of these biomarkers in our culture model. Working with collaboration with computational scientist we identified an additional 25 secreted proteins by mass-spec based proteomics, whose expression is increased by dsRNA. We will further test if these can be novel mechanistic biomarkers for drug activity. This study will help determine if an FDA-approved drug we found to rescue dsRNA-mediated toxicity is a viable option as a therapeutic drug for ALS patients.
Biography: Steven Rodriguez, Ph.D., is an Instructor in the Department of Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital. Steven was born and raised in Bronx, NY. He completed his B.A. from Queen's Collage CUNY. Steven got his Ph.D. studying the development and connectivity of neurons in the mouse olfactory neural circuit in the lab of David Lin at Cornell University. During his work he elucidated a non‐cell‐autonomous role for Notch2, a gene known for its role in development, in maintaining neuronal viability in adult mice. This work got him interested in studying mechanisms of neurodegeneration. He did a postdoctoral fellowship under the guidance of Dr. Mark Albers at the Institute for Neurodegenerative disease at MGH. In Mark’s lab, he uses the main olfactory system and human cultured neurons to study mechanisms of neurodegeneration. He found a novel mechanism of neurotoxicity mediated by DNA damage induced activation of antiviral innate immune pathways. Steven also became a member of the Lab of Systems Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School where he continues to work on the role of antiviral signaling in neurodegeneration and on identifying therapeutic approaches to treat neurodegenerative disease.


Mélissa Léger-Abraham, PhD, Instructor, Harvard Medical School, Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

Mentor:  Gerhard Wagner, PhD, Elkan Rogers Blout Professor, Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School

Department Chair: Stephen Blacklow, PhD, MD, Gustavus Adolphus Pfeiffer Professor; Chair, Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School

Project Title:“Structure-Function Analysis of Translation Initiation Using CRISPR/Cas9 in the Human Parasite Leishmania”

Project Description: Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease that affects more than 350 million people worldwide and is endemic in vast areas of the tropics, subtropics, and the Mediterranean basin. Native populations, travelers, and military personnel who spend time in affected areas are most at risk. Parasites cause four clinical syndromes; these include a visceral form of the disease, which is lethal, and a cutaneous form, which is the most widespread. The goal of our research project is to validate translation initiation factors in parasites, as targets for specific anti-parasitic drugs against Leishmaniasis. We are establishing a CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing platform to knockout specific translation initiation factors in Leishmania and will use a quantitative proteomic technique (SILAC labeling coupled to mass spectrometry analysis) to monitor changes in Leishmania protein expression induced by knockout or overexpression of translation initiation factors. We will also use biophysical techniques, such as X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance, to determine the molecular structures of candidate translation initiation factors (and their associated protein complexes), to identify differences and similarities between the factors found in human cells and their orthologs in parasites. We expect our findings to translate into novel anti-parasitic drugs. They will also offer a proof of concept for this approach in treating other parasitic infections that significantly burden human health but currently have limited treatment options.

Biography: Mélissa Léger-Abraham, PhD, is an Instructor at Harvard Medical School in the Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology. Her research focuses on understanding the structural basis for protein translation in parasites that cause two important human diseases, Leishmaniasis and Malaria. Dr. Léger-Abraham was originally born in Montreal, Canada. She is the daughter of a French-Canadian father and a Haitian mother. She obtained her PhD in Biochemistry at the Université de Montréal. She conducted her postdoctoral studies in the laboratory of Professor Gerhard Wagner at Harvard Medical School. Her research combines techniques in molecular biology (including CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing), protein biochemistry, and structural biology (X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance). Her goal is to identify and structurally characterize key components in the parasite protein translation machinery to develop a new class of ­­specific anti-parasitic agents.

PFDD Faculty Fellows Alumni

2016 | Natasha M. Archer, MD, MPH

2015 | Kathryn T. Hall, PhD, MPH, MA

2014 | Abner Louissaint, Jr., MD, PhD

2012 | William Curry, MD

2012 | Elsie M. Taveras, MD, MPH

2011 | Patricia Sylla, MD

2010 | Arachu Castro, PhD, MPH

2010 | Lucia Sobrin, MD, MPH

2009 | Carlos R. Estrada, MD

2009 | Camilia R. Martin, MD, MS


In the News

Growing Talent: Fellowships help diverse junior faculty thrive

Recipients of the 2016-2018 HMS Office for Diversity Inclusion and Community Partnership Faculty Fellowship and the Harvard Catalyst Program for Faculty Development and Diversity Inclusion Faculty Fellowship were celebrated at a breakfast in March at Harvard Medical School.

The fellows are accomplished HMS junior faculty who will spend a portion of their time over the next two years conducting individual mentored research projects at their respective HMS-affiliated institutions. They will receive $100,000 over the two-year fellowship to support their scholarly research and fellowship-related activities.

HMS News | May 18, 2016 | More...