Yue Chen, PhD

Yue Chen, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Walter H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. He is also a member of the Discovery and Developmental Therapeutics Research Program at Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute.

Dr. Chen specializes in designing, fabricating, modeling, and controlling medical robotics and devices. The overarching goal of his research lab is to establish the scientific and technical foundations for various robotic systems and apply them in the medical field. These systems include a commercialized robot manipulator and many custom-designed robots, such as concentric tube robots, tendon-driven robots, catheters, and soft robots. Some of his work has been used in clinical trials.

Dr. Chen earned his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and his Master of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Nicholas John Maragakis, M.D.

Dr. Nicholas Maragakis is the Director of the ALS Center for Cell Therapy and Regeneration Research at Johns Hopkins as the Co-Director of the Johns Hopkins ALS Clinic.

Nicholas Maragakis treats patients with motor neuron diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He serves as medical director of the ALS Clinical Trials Unit, an extension of the multidisciplinary clinic that seeks to facilitate opportunities for patients with ALS to participate in clinical trials that could advance the treatment of this disease.

Dr. Maragakis is interested in the basic science of understanding neurodegenerative diseases, as well as the translational potential of therapeutic compounds developed in the laboratory. His fundamental research interest is in using stem cell-derived motor neurons and glia — for understanding the development and propagation of ALS.

His laboratory has been involved in creating and characterizing lines of stem cells from patients with ALS using induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) methodologies. The laboratory has a large library of iPSCs from patients with familial ALS and from patients with sporadic ALS. The utilization of this library of iPSCs has facilitated the development of a spinal cord-specific iPSC-astrocyte/motor neuron co-culture system, which has been leveraged for the development of assays that can be used for both the basic understanding of ALS astrocyte and motor neuron biology as well as, eventually, drug screening for ALS therapeutics.

His laboratory has taken its long-standing interests in astrocyte biology, as it relates to ALS, to develop a program that investigates astrocyte-specific mechanisms as contributors to the progression (both temporally and anatomically) of disease in ALS. In this vein, there is an interest in astrocytic glutamate transporters and, more recently, astrocyte hemichannels and gap junctions.

The second major line of investigation utilizes the understanding about astrocytes and stem cells to develop a translational program developing glial restricted progenitor cells for transplantation into ALS models and, more recently, the potential for transplantation into patients with ALS. The lab is focused on applying their understanding of the disease biology in the laboratory to the translation of these discoveries for ALS patients.

Merit Cudkowicz, MD, MSC

Dr. Merit Cudkowicz is the Director of the Sean M. Healey & AMG Center for ALS, Chief of Neurology at Mass General, Director and the Julieanne Dorn Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Cudkowicz’s research and clinical activities are dedicated to the study and treatment of people with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Dr. Cudkowicz is one of the founders and past Co-Chairs of the Northeast ALS Consortium (NEALS), a group of over 134 clinical sites in the United States, Canada, Europe and the Middle East dedicated to performing collaborative clinical trials and research in ALS. She has brought innovations to accelerate the development of treatments for people with ALS, including senior role in first antisense oligonucleotide treatment for a neurological disorder (SOD1 ALS), adaptive trial designs, central IRB – all with goal to bring the best treatments rapidly. Dr. Cudkowicz is Principal Investigator of the Clinical Coordination Center for the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke’s Neurology Network of Excellence in Clinical Trials (NeuroNEXT). Dr. Cudkowicz is launching the first platform trial initiative in ALS, the HEALEY ALS Platform Trial, a program that will greatly accelerate therapy development in ALS.

Dr. Cudkowicz received the American Academy of Neurology 2009 Sheila Essay ALS award, the 2017 Forbes Norris Award from the International MND Alliance, the 2017 Pinnacle Award from the Boston Chamber of Commerce and the 2019 Ray Adams American Neurological Association Award. A dedicated educator, Dr. Cudkowicz mentors many young neurologists in clinical investigation of ALS and related neurodegenerative disorders. Dr. Cudkowicz completed her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and obtained a medical degree in the Health Science and Technology program of Harvard Medical School. She served her internship at Beth Israel Hospital in New York and her neurology residency and fellowship at MGH. She also obtained a master’s degree in Clinical Epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Robert Bowser, PhD

Chief Scientific Officer of the Barrow Neurological Institute and St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. Also a Professor and Chair of the Department of Translational Neuroscience at the Barrow. Director of the Gregory W. Fulton ALS and Neuromuscular Disease Research Center at the Barrow Neurological Institute. Co-founder of a Pittsburgh based biotechnology company, Knopp Biosciences, that is focused on therapeutics for neurologic diseases. Founder of Iron Horse Diagnostics and nVector, Phoenix based biotechnology companies focused on diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers and AAV vector based gene therapies for neurologic disorders.

Dr. Bowser is an internationally recognized leader in ALS research, contributing pioneering efforts to discover and validate biomarkers for ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases. These biomarkers have been instrumental as diagnostic biomarkers of disease and predictors of disease progression. They are also used to evaluate the effectiveness of drug treatments in clinical trials. Additional research in the Bowser Laboratory includes exploring the mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration, developing new technologies for the delivery of drugs into the central nervous system, and defining the spatial expression of genes relative to neuropathology within human tissue samples. Dr. Bowser is the founder of two biotechnology companies and owner of multiple patents around his scientific discoveries.

As chief scientific officer of Barrow Neurological Institute and St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, Dr. Bowser oversees all research efforts and defines research directions for the institution. Dr. Bowser is also the co-director of a national biorepository of biofluid samples from ALS patients and of a national ALS post-mortem tissue bank. Dr. Bowser participates in many clinical research studies and clinical trials to translate research findings from the bench to patients. He has received numerous awards for his work, including the Sheila Essey Award, which is the highest international award for ALS research.

Dr. Bowser’s research efforts are currently funded by many granting agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Defense, Target ALS, and the ALS Association (ALSA).