Patrizia Casaccia, MD, PhD, has been named the founding director of the CUNY Advanced Science Research Center’s (ASRC) Neuroscience Initiative following an international search, bringing to the university a highly regarded scientist whose expansive and collaboratively-focused research with real-world impact dovetails neatly with that of the Center.
The announcement was made by CUNY Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost Vita C. Rabinowitz. In addition to her appointment at the ASRC, Casaccia will be Einstein Professor of Biology at Hunter College.
“I am delighted to welcome Dr. Casaccia to the ASRC. Her successful recruitment underscores CUNY’s strong commitment to neuroscience as epitomized by our outstanding cadre of neuroscientists situated across multiple CUNY institutions,” Rabinowitz said. “The multifaceted nature of Dr. Casaccia’s work positions her to engage in interdisciplinary collaborations both within the ASRC and across the university as a whole. She is an accomplished scientist and leader who brings a wealth of expertise and a galvanizing plan for the future of the ASRC Neuroscience initiative.”
Casaccia comes to the ASRC from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where she has served as professor with the Department of Neuroscience, Neurology and Department of Genomics and Multiscale Biology and will continue to maintain an affiliation. She also directed the Center of Excellence for Myelin Repair within the Friedman Brain Institute.
She will continue to maintain important ties with the Institute, in terms of established scientific collaborations and ongoing clinically relevant research programs that will ultimately enhance knowledge on brain repair. Her lab’s work at Mount Sinai focused on developing interdisciplinary approaches to slow, and ultimately stop, the progression of neurodegenerative and demyelinating diseases, with a focus on Multiple Sclerosis.
Casaccia’s research at the ASRC will focus on glial biology, with an emphasis on the effect of environmental exposure on brain health and disease. This research will promote discoveries of new treatments for healthy aging, neurodegenerative disorders and glial tumors. The work done by her lab will utilize state-of-the art molecular and cellular techniques to define key questions in developmental neurobiology and understand the effect of the environment on brain activity and function.
“The ASRC Neuroscience Initiative will be the first—and only—glial biology center in New York City and will become part of the research infrastructure of the city, seeking collaborations with other established institutions throughout New York,” Casaccia said. “The emphasis of the initiative to become a hub for advanced technology in glial cell biology research fully supports the overall mission of the ASRC to promote innovative science addressing complex scientific challenges.”
Casaccia is the fourth internationally-recognized scientist to be named a founding initiative director at the Advanced Science Research Center. She joins Kevin H. Gardner (Structural Biology), Rein V. Ulijn (Nanoscience) and Charles J. Vörösmarty (Environmental Sciences) as the leaders of the research groups housed at the center, which opened in October 2014.
In addition to developing links with the other initiatives at the ASRC, Casaccia will follow the lead of the other initiative directors, working toward a goal of serving as a hub for neuroscience research within the CUNY system. She will build on the progress made by CUNY researchers such as Jack H. Martin (Medical Professor at the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education, The City College of New York) and Lucas Parra (Herbert Kayser Professor of Biomedical Engineering, CCNY), who have been instrumental in elevating the University’s reputation in the national and international scientific community.
“Within the ASRC, the Neuroscience Initiative will provide a link between particles measured in nanometers and even femtometers—those studied by the Structural Biology Initiative—and large geographical distances, as researched by the Environmental Sciences Initiative,” Casaccia said. “This intermediate scale will be used in focusing on nervous system cells and analyzing human specimens and animal models, with the goal of elucidating the environmental effects on behavioral changes and incidence of neurological disorders. The emphasis on environmental studies will integrate with the research conducted by the environmental sciences team, while analysis at the molecular level and development of new technologies will directly interface with nanoscience and structural biology.”
Casaccia received her MD in Italy from the Catholic University of Rome and her PhD in Neurobiology from State University of New York (SUNY) Health and Science Center Brooklyn. She then trained at Cornell Weill Medical Center in New York and at the Skirball Institute for Molecular Medicine at NYU. In 1999, she became Assistant and then Associate Professor at UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and since 2008 she has been working at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
The City University of New York’s Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) is a University-wide venture that elevates CUNY’s legacy of scientific research and education through initiatives in five distinctive, but increasingly interconnected disciplines: Nanoscience, Photonics, Structural Biology, Neuroscience and Environmental Sciences. The center is designed to promote a unique, interdisciplinary research culture with researchers from each of the initiatives working side by side in the ASRC’s core facilities, sharing equipment that is among the most advanced available.