Dr. Mokalled had a highly productive graduate career training with Eric Olson at University of Texas, Southwestern in the topic of transcriptional regulation during mammalian development and regeneration. As a postdoctoral fellow with Ken Poss at Duke University, she initiated studies of spinal cord regeneration in zebrafish, finding in a major paper that production of connective tissue growth factor at the injury site is essential for glial bridging and spinal cord regeneration in zebrafish. Dr. Mokalled has run her own lab at Washington University for 5 years. One of her key early studies demonstrated that epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) of glial progenitors is an important stage in spinal cord regeneration. Using high-throughput CRISPR-Cas9 mutagenesis and transcriptome comparisons between zebrafish and mice, her group identified an EMT-related gene regulatory network that underlies glial bridging and functional regeneration. Dr. Mokalled's cross-species program is making strong inroads into countering the molecular burdens of spinal cord injury.
Dr. Tata received his PhD from University of Ulm for work with Drs. Sirbu and Kuhn on developmental signaling. His first major achievement, as a postdoc with Jay Rajagopal at Massachusetts General Hospital, was to demonstrate that fully differentiated airway epithelial cells can convert into functional stem cells after injury. Soon after starting his own lab at Duke University in 2016, he showed that stem cells of submucosal glands can behave as a reparative population to resurface denuded airways. In the alveolar gas exchange region of the lung, he discovered that the differentiation of cuboidal Type 2 stem cells into large, flat Type I cells involves a novel p53-expressing transitional cell state. These transitional cells produce profibrotic factors, implicating their abnormal persistence in tissue fibrosis, including lethal pulmonary fibrosis. Dr. Tata also solved a longstanding practical problem by identifying culture condition for propagating Type 2 cell stem cells, opening avenues for translational studies, including Sars-Cov-2 infection. Mostly recently, he has identified new cell types and lineage relationships specific to the primate and human distal lung, providing yet another new perspective on human lung biology. Dr. Tata’s innovative work on the lung has broad relevance to other organ systems and to the field of regenerative biology at large.
Dr. Brockes investigated salamander limb regeneration over a period spanning three decades and is recognized for his many groundbreaking contributions to regenerative biology. A few of these discoveries include mechanisms underlying cellular plasticity in the blastema, the determination of positional identity, and the molecular basis for nerve dependence during regeneration. He has shaped ideas within our field on the aforementioned areas and notably on the topic of regeneration as an evolutionary variable, introducing the notion that regeneration may involve a degree of local evolution. Dr. Brockes made pioneering contributions in other fields as well, including the discovery of glial growth factor. He has an outstanding record of sustained mentorship of his trainees, resulting in many successful PIs in developmental and regenerative biology, and he is recognized for his mentorship of scientists outside of his own lab who would go on to prominence. Finally, Dr. Brockes has had a strong commitment to teaching, doing so voluntarily for several decades, and becoming a favourite among UCL undergrads.