JANUARY 09-10TH, 2017

Smilow Center for Translational Research

Rubenstein Auditorium and Lobby
3400 Civic Center Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19104






Huda Zoghbi, M.D.

Baylor College

Huda Zoghbi is Professor of Pediatrics, Neurology, Neuroscience, and Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine and serves as an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She is also the founding Director of the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital.
Zoghbi’s interests range from neurodevelopment to neurodegeneration.  Her discovery (with Harry Orr) that Spinocerebellar Ataxia type 1 is caused by expansion of a polyglutamine tract and her subsequent studies that such expansion leads to accumulation of the mutant protein in neurons has had profound ramifications since many late-onset neurological disorders involve similar accumulations of disease-driving proteins.  Zoghbi’s work in neurodevelopment led to the discovery of the gene Math1/Atoh1 and to showing that it governs the development of several components of the proprioceptive, balance, hearing, vestibular, and breathing pathways. Zoghbi’s group also discovered that mutations in MECP2 cause the postnatal neurological disorder Rett syndrome and revealed the importance of this gene for various neuropsychiatric features. Zoghbi trained many scientists and physician-scientists and is a member of several professional organizations and boards. In 2000 she was elected to the Institute of Medicine, and in 2004 she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Among Dr. Zoghbi’s recent honors are the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize from Rockefeller University, the March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology, and the Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine.
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Michael Greenberg, Ph.D.

Harvard University

Mike Greenberg grew up in Brooklyn and attended Wesleyan University.  He received his PhD from The Rockefeller University in 1982, and conducted postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Edward Ziff at New York University Medical Center.  In 1986, Greenberg joined the faculty at Harvard Medical School where he and his colleagues have investigated how synaptic activity controls gene transcription, thus revealing the mechanism by which the external environment modifies the output of the neuronal genome, and how nature and nurture are mechanistically intertwined. His discovery of a genetic program underlying the development and function of brain synapses has transformed both our understanding of nervous system function and our ability to treat neurological and psychiatric diseases.  Current research in the Greenberg laboratory has focused on the mechanisms of signal transduction that carry the neuronal activity-dependent signal from the membrane to the nucleus to activate gene transcription. In addition, Greenberg and his colleagues are investigating how this experience-dependent process controls neural circuit development and plasticity.  This work involves the integrated use of mouse models, traditional cell biological, biochemical, and electrophysiological methods, as well as next-generation sequencing technologies to analyze activity-dependent gene regulation and function. These studies seek to both elucidate the mechanisms by which neuronal activity shapes the development of the central nervous system and provide new insight into the etiology of various human cognitive disorders.
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Schedule subject to change. Final schedule will be available week before symposium.
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Smilow Center for Translational Research

Rubenstein Auditorium and Lobby
3400 Civic Center Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Date & Time

Event Info

January 9th, 2017 8:30 am


January 9th, 2017 9:00 am

Welcome and Introductions

John A. Dani, Ph.D.
David J. Mahoney Professor of Neurological Sciences Chair, Department of Neuroscience at PSOM
J Larry Jameson, M.D., Ph.D.
Robert G. Dunlop Professor of Medicine Executive Vice President, University of Pennsylvania Health System Dean, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
Shelley L. Berger, Ph.D.
Daniel S. Och University Professor PIK Professor, Depts., of Cell and Developmental Biology; Biology; Genetics Director, Epigenetics Program,

January 9th, 2017 9:15 am

Sprague Lecture

Michael Greenberg, Ph.D.
Nathan Marsh Pusey Professor of Neurobiology
Harvard Medical School
Activity Dependent Plasticity

January 9th, 2017 Session One

Chair: Marisa Bartolomei, Ph.D

Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology
Co-Director, Epigenetics Program, PSOM

January 9th, 2017 10:05 am

Epigenetic regulation of axonal regeneration

Guo-Li Ming, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience, Institute for Cell Engineering, Johns Hopkins University

January 9th, 2017 10:40 am


January 9th, 2017 11:00 am

Epigenetics Mechanisms in Memory Formation

J. David Sweatt, Ph.D., Professor and Chairman, Department of Pharmacology; Allan D. Bass Chair in Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

January 9th, 2017 11:35 am

Elucidating the function of epigenetic remodeling in reward pathology

Elizabeth Heller, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at PSOM

January 9th, 2017 12:00 pm

Speed talks

1 Alejando Monteys (CHOP- Davidson Lab)
2 Dylan Marchlone (PSOM- Garcia Lab)
3 Erica Boetefuer (PSOM- Fan Lab)
4 Janine Lamonica
5 Ying-Tao Zhao (PSOM- Zhou Lab)
6 Priyalakshmi Panikker (Drexel University- Elefant Lab)
7 Renee Jean-Tooussaint (Drexel University- Ajit Lab)

January 9th, 2017 12:30 pm

Lunch and Poster Session

January 9th, 2017 Session Two

Chair: Tracey L. Bale, Ph.D.

Professor of Neuroscience in Psychiatry at Penn Vet School

January 9th, 2017 2:00 pm

Ephemeral regulatory state of programmed neurons

Hynek Wichterle, Ph.D., Jerry and Emily Spiegel Associate Professor of Pathology and Cell Biology and Neuroscience (in Neurology) at Columbia University

January 9th, 2017 2:35 pm

3D genome reconfiguration during mammalian brain development

Jennifer E. Phillips-Cremins, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at Penn Engineering

January 9th, 2017 3:00 pm

Molecular regulation of a behavioral switch in ants

Roberto Bonasio, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology at PSOM

January 9th, 2017 3:25 pm


January 9th, 2017 3:45 pm

Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) silences genes responsible for neurodegeneration

Anne Schaefer, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Psychiatry, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

January 9th, 2017 4:20 pm

“Seq-ing” Insights into Rett Syndrome Transcriptome

Zhaolan (Joe) Zhou, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Genetics at PSOM

January 9th, 2017 4:45 pm

Panel Discussion

Moderator: Dr. Gerd Blobel, M.D., Ph.D.

Frank E. Weise III Professor of Pediatrics
Co-Director, Epigenetics Program

Panelists: Drs. Michael Greenberg, David Sweatt, Anne Schaefer, Zhaolan Zhou, Jennifer Phillips-Cremins, Elizabeth Heller

January 9th, 2017 5:15 pm

Poster Awards

January 9th, 2017 5:20 pm


January 9th, 2017 6:15 pm

Reception Ends

January 9th, 2017 7:00 pm

Speaker Dinner

January 10th, 2017 8:30 am


January 10th, 2017 9:00 am

Adler Lecture

Huda Zoghbi, Ph.D.
Professor of Pediatrics, Neurology, Neuroscience, and Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine; Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Director of the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital
Rett syndrome: From the clinic to genomes, epigenomes, and neural circuits

January 10th, 2017 Session Three

Chair: Robert Christopher Pierce, Ph.D

Professor of Neuroscience in Psychiatry, PSOM

January 10th, 2017 9:50 am

Epigenetics regulation of neuronal connectivity in the brain

Azad Bonni, M.D., Ph.D., Edison Professor of Neuroscience and Chairman, Department of Neuroscience; Director, McDonnell Center for Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology at Washington University in St. Louis

January 10th, 2017 10:25 am

Placental H3K27me3 determines increased female resilience to gestational insults

Bridget M. Nugent, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher in Dr. Tracy L. Bale’s lab, PSOM

January 10th, 2017 10:45 am

Fueling the memory machine: a novel function for ACSS2 on hippocampal chromatin

Philipp Mews, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher in Dr. Eric Nestler’s lab, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

January 10th, 2017 11:05 am

Drosophila as a model for human neurodegenerative disease: Impact of transcription and chromatin modifiers

Nancy Bonini, Ph.D., Florence R.C. Murray Professor of Biology; Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Penn Arts & Sciences

January 10th, 2017 11:30 pm

Closing Remarks

January 10th, 2017 12:00 pm

Symposium Ends


Azad Bonni

Washington University St. Louis
Dr. Azad Bonni is currently the Edison Professor of Neuroscience and Chairman in the Department of Neuroscience at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. He is also Director of the McDonnell Center for Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology at Washington University. Dr. Bonni is also Adjunct Professor in the Division of Neurology at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Previously, Dr. Bonni was Professor of Neurobiology and Professor ofPathology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Bonni received his MD and completed internship in medicine at Queen’s University, then completed residency in neurology at McGill University. He was chief resident in neurology at the Montreal Neurological Institute. Dr. Bonni received his PhD degree from Harvard University and performed postdoctoral studies at Boston Children’s Hospital.
The chief goal of research in the Bonni laboratory is to identify the principles and mechanisms that govern the assembly and function of neural circuits in the brain and to determine how these mechanisms are deregulated in neurological diseases.
Dr. Bonni has discovered fundamental transcriptional, epigenetic, and ubiquitin-signaling networks that control distinct aspects of neuronal connectivity in the brain. The Bonni laboratory deploys a diverse set of tools and approaches from biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, imaging and electrophysiology to the study of circuit assembly and function in the mouse and rat brain. In addition to continuing to advance the field of neural circuit assembly and function, Dr. Bonni is investigating the neurobiological basis of neurological diseases based on the hypothesis that deregulation of neural circuit assembly and function contributes to the pathogenesis of these diseases. Ultimately, these studies will lay the foundation for the development of new therapeutic approaches in the treatment of neurological diseases.
Dr. Bonni has received numerous honors and awards including the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Award, Burroughs Wellcome Award, and Robert H. Ebert Clinical Scholar Award from the Esther and Joseph Klingenstein Foundation. Dr. Bonni is also Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
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Guo-Li Ming, M.D., Ph.D.

Johns Hopkins University
Dr. Guo-li Ming is currently a Professor of Neurology, Neuroscience, and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.  She also serves as the Director of Human Stem Cells and Education in the Institute for Cell Engineering. She received her medical training on Child and Maternal Care from Tongji Medical University in China in 1994 and Ph.D. from University of California, San Diego in 2002. After her postdoctoral training at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, she started became assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University in 2003. The research in her laboratory centers on understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying neuronal development and its dysregulation using mouse systems and patient derived induced pluripotent stem cells. She has received a number of awards, including Charles E. Culpeper Scholarship in Medical Science inn 2003, Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow in 2005, Young investigator award from Society for Neuroscience in 2012 and A. E. Bennett Research Award in 2014. She is a member of Society for Neuroscience and American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.
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Anne Schaefer, Ph.D.

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Dr. Anne Schaefer is an Associate Professor of Neuroscience at the Friedman Brain Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York. She did her graduate studies at the Charité University Berlin and The Rockefeller University in New York. In 2004, Dr. Anne Schaefer became a postdoctoral fellow and later Research Associate at the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience (Head-Prof. Paul Greengard) at the Rockefeller University. In 2011 she has been appointed as an Assistant Professor and Head of the Laboratory for Brain Epigenetics at the Friedman Brain Institute and The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Dr. Schaefer’s lab focuses on the epigenetic control of neuronal function in the adult brain. Dr. Schaefer identified epigenetic regulators that contribute critically to addictive behavior, autism and neurodegeneration. Recently Dr. Schaefer’s lab pioneered studies of epigenetic control of brain-region specific microglia diversification and its role in specialized neuronal function.
Dr. Schaefer has been awarded the German Research Foundation (DFG) Research Fellowship, German National Academic Foundation (Studienstiftung) Scholarship, NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, NARSAD Young Investigator Award, Cure Challenge Award, and was named a 2014 Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).
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J. David Sweatt, Ph.D.

Vanderbilt University
David Sweatt obtained his B.S. in Chemistry from the University of South Alabama before attending Vanderbilt University, where he was awarded a Ph.D. in Pharmacology for studies of intracellular signaling mechanisms.  He then did a post-doctoral Fellowship at the Columbia University Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, working on memory mechanisms in the laboratory of Nobel laureate Eric Kandel.  From 1989 to 2006 he was a member of the Neuroscience faculty at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, rising through the ranks there to Professor and Director of the Neuroscience Ph.D. program.  In 2006 he moved to the University of Alabama at Birmingham where he served for ten years as the Evelyn F. McKnight endowed Chairman of the Department of Neurobiology at UAB Medical School, and the Director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at UAB.
Dr. Sweatt’s laboratory studies biochemical mechanisms of learning and memory, most recently focusing on the role of epigenetic mechanisms in memory formation.  In addition, his research program also investigates mechanisms of learning and memory disorders, such as intellectual disabilities, Alzheimer’s Disease, and aging-related memory dysfunction.   He is currently the Allan D. Bass endowed Chairman of the Department of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University Medical School, and has expanded his research program to include developing PharmacoEpigenetic approaches to enable new treatments for cognitive dysfunction.
Dr. Sweatt has won numerous awards and honors, including an Ellison Medical Foundation Senior Scholar Award, and election as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  In 2013 he won the Ipsen Foundation International Prize in Neural Plasticity, one of the most prestigious awards in his scientific field.  In 2014 he was the recipient of the PROSE Award for the most outstanding reference volume published in 2013, for his book Epigenetic Mechanisms in the Nervous System.  The book was also one of five finalists for the 2014 Dawkins Award for the most outstanding academic book published in 2013.  In 2014, 2015 and 2016 Thomson-Reuters named him as a “Highly Cited Researcher” and as one of the “World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds”.
From 1998 until 2002 he attended drawing and painting classes at the Glassell School of Art of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.  As an artist he explores the use of painting as a medium for expressing topics of interest in contemporary biomedical research.  In 2009 he published a textbook, Mechanisms of Memory, which is illustrated with original paintings and describes current models for the molecular and cellular basis of memory formation.
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Hynek Wichterle, Ph.D.

Columbia University
Hynek Wichterle is an Associate Professor holding a joint appointment in the Departments of Pathology & Cell Biology and Neuroscience (in Neurology) at Columbia University Medical center. He received his M.S. degree from Charles University in Prague and his Ph.D. degree from The Rockefeller University. He trained at Columbia University, where he became assistant professor in 2004 and associate professor in 2012.  He serves as a co-director of the Center for Motor Neuron Biology and Disease, a co-director of Columbia Stem Cell Initiative and as a Vice-Chief of the Division of Regenerative Medicine in the Department of Rehabilitation & Regenerative Medicine.
Dr. Wichterle developed groundbreaking methods for producing spinal cord neurons from pluripotent embryonic stem cells in a culture dish.   The process faithfully recapitulates normal embryonic development, providing a unique opportunity to study and experimentally probe nerve cells in a controlled environment outside of the embryo.   He is using the system to decode transcriptional programs that control genes important for neuronal differentiation, maturation, and function.  His lab also capitalizes on the unlimited source of spinal neurons to study motor neuron degenerative diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), with the goal of discovering new drugs for these currently untreatable, devastating conditions.
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Roberto Bonasio, Ph.D.

University of Pennsylvania
Roberto Bonasio did his undergraduate studies at the University of Milan and received his Ph.D. in immunology from Harvard in 2006. He obtained further postodctoral training at NYU in the laboratory of Danny Reinberg, studying chromatin biochemistry and functional genomics. At NYU, Roberto studied the function of noncoding that RNAs that interact with epigenetic regulators in embryonic stem cells. He also led an international team that sequenced and analyzed the first ant genomes and methylomes, laying the foundations for using social ants as a model system to study the epigenetics of behavior. In 2014, Roberto joined the Epigenetics Program at the University of Pennsylvania, where his laboratory studies the molecular mechanisms of epigenetics in conventional systems and emerging model organisms, such as ants.
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Nancy Bonini, Ph.D.

University of Pennsylvania
The laboratory focuses on using Drosophila melanogaster to a tool to define genes important for human brain disease. A class of human neurodegenerative diseases involves expansion of a polyglutamine repeat within the various disease proteins. This polyglutamine expansion results in a dominant, toxic property of the disease protein, leading to neural degeneration. Huntington’s disease is of this class. We have recreated this class of human neurodegenerative disease in Drosophila by expressing in flies one of these human disease proteins with an expanded polyglutamine run. Whereas expression of the protein with a normal polyglutamine repeat has no effect, expression of the protein with an expanded polyglutamine repeat results in late onset, progressive degeneration in the nervous system. This indicates that the molecular mechanisms of human polyglutamine disease are conserved in Drosophila. Hence, we are now using Drosophila in order to define genes involved in the mechanisms and progression of polyglutamine disease, identify suppressor mutations that can prevent or delay brain degeneration, and extending these studies to additional diseases like Parkinson’s disease and motor neuron diseases. We are also expanding into neural injury and aging models in Drosophila by analyzing the nervous system with age. We hope that these studies will lead insight into neural decline with aging, providing an approach for new treatments.
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Elizabeth Heller, Ph.D

University of Pennsylvania
Elizabeth A Heller, PhD joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics in January 2016. The Heller Lab research program is focused on elucidating the causal mechanisms by which drug-induced epigenetic reprogramming contributes to neuropsychiatric disease. To this end, Dr. Heller utilizes her primary expertise in molecular biology, rodent behavioral assays, and gene-targeting technology development, to better understand how changes in the chromatin landscape are affected by and contribute to the pathologies of addiction and depression.
Dr. Heller received her PhD at the Rockefeller University under the mentorship of Dr. Nathaniel Heintz.  Dr. Heller’s postdoctoral work under Dr. Eric Nestler at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine was supported by both NIDA and The Robin Chemers Neustein postdoctoral fellowship. Dr. Heller pioneered the use of engineered transcription in the brain in vivo, discovering that targeted histone methylation on the Fosb gene is sufficient to interfere with drug-activated transcription via the transcription factor pCREB.
Dr. Heller is the recent recipient of the Charles E Kaufman Foundation New Investigator Award, through which the laboratory will examine neuronal mechanisms of chromatin-directed alternative splicing.  A second project, which is supported by the NARSAD Young Investigator Grant, will examine mechanisms of transcriptional regulation of cyclin dependent kinase 5 following stress.
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Jennifer Phillips-Cremins, Ph.D.

University of Pennsylvania
Jennifer E. Phillips-Cremins, Ph.D., joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania in 2014 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Bioengineering and a core member of the Epigenetics Program in the Perelman School of Medicine. Dr. Cremins obtained her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in the laboratory of Andres Garcia. She then conducted a unique multi-disciplinary postdoc in the laboratories of Victor Corces and Job Dekker with the goal of generating the first high-resolution 3-D genome architecture maps during the differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells along the neuroectoderm lineage. Dr. Cremins now runs the 3-D Epigenomics and Systems Neurobiology laboratory at UPenn. Her primary research interests lie in understanding the 3D architecture of the genome and unraveling long-range epigenetic mechanisms that govern phenotype commitment in healthy neurons and how these epigenetic mechanisms go awry during the onset of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases. She has been selected as a 2014 New York Stem Cell Foundation – Robertson Investigator, a 2015 Albert P. Sloan Foundation Fellow, a 2015 NIH Director’s New Innovator and a 2016 Kavli Foundation Frontiers of Science Fellow.
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Zhaolan Zhou, Ph.D.

University of Pennsylvania
Zhaolan (Joe) Zhou, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Genetics at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. He is a Pew Scholar in Biomedical Sciences and a recipient of the BRAINS award from NIH. After receiving a BS degree from Nankai University and a PhD from Harvard University under the joint mentorship of Drs. Robin Reed and Tom Maniatis, he carried out postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School in the laboratory of Dr. Michael Greenberg. Since joining the faculty at University of Pennsylvania, his research has been focused on modeling neurodevelopmental disorders with known genetic cause and interrogating epigenetic mechanisms underlying major depressive disorder using genetically modified mice. Recently, his laboratory generated an allelic series of mouse models recapitulating Rett syndrome mutations and developed a tagging strategy overcoming cellular heterogeneity in X-linked mosaicism. Results from this study identified cell autonomous gene expression deficits as key contributing factors to Rett syndrome and revealed new molecular targets for personalized therapeutic intervention. His research team also developed knockout and knockin mouse models of CDKL5 disorder. By using a combination of genetic and genomic approaches together with cellular and behavioral assays in model systems, his laboratory aims to understand the pathophysiology underlying neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders, and to uncover new therapeutic avenues.
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