June 16, 2020—(BRONX, NY)—Juan Carlos Balandrán, Ph.D., of Albert Einstein College of Medicine has been named a 2020 Pew Latin American Fellow in the Biomedical Sciences by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Dr. Balandrán, who studies how leukemic cells escape detection by the immune system, is preparing to conduct his research in the lab of Paul Frenette, M.D. A native of Mexico, Dr. Balandrán is one of only 10 scientists awarded the fellowship.
Dr. Balandrán, 31, earned graduate degrees at the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (CINVESTAV), National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico City in collaboration with the Centro de Investigacion Biomedica de Oriente from the Mexican Institute of Social Security in Puebla, Mexico. He is currently a principal investigator in a private laboratory in Oaxaca. He also holds part-time professorships at two Mexican universities and has been a visiting Ph.D. student at Weill Cornell Medicine, New York.
The Pew Latin American Fellows Program in the Biomedical Sciences provides two years of funding for postdoctoral researchers to work under leading scientists in the United States. At the end of the training period, the Pew Trust grants additional funds for researchers to purchase equipment and establish labs in their home countries, which the organization hopes will help develop strong biomedical research communities across Latin America.
Dr. Balandrán has focused his research on childhood leukemias, which he said has been deemed a national health priority in Mexico. He was due to begin working at Einstein in March but his arrival has been delayed until August due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Postdoctoral training in Dr. Frenette’s laboratory will give me critical knowledge and next-generation tools to address our poor prognosis and high mortality rates of leukemic Mexican children.
Juan Carlos Balandrán, Ph.D.
“Postdoctoral training in Dr. Frenette’s laboratory will give me critical knowledge and next-generation tools to address our poor prognosis and high mortality rates of leukemic Mexican children,” Dr. Balandrán said. “I am committed to research that will help discover new treatments and improve survival rates for this disease in Mexico.”
At Einstein, Dr. Balandrán will study the bone marrow microenvironment where leukemia starts and progresses. A rare population of hematopoietic stem cells, which renew or form other blood cells, are involved in leukemia and work in concert with the Vascular Cell Adhesion Molecule-1 (VCAM1) to evade the immune system’s detection. Dr. Balandrán plans to investigate how VCAM1 works to advance leukemia and whether it can be inhibited.
“Juan Carlos impressed me with his high energy and enthusiasm,” said Dr. Frenette, chair and director of the Ruth L. and David S. Gottesman Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, and professor of medicine and of cell biology. “His project will be based on emerging work in my lab, which he has planned to expand on. We are both very excited about it and look forward to working together.”