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Aug 10

Packard Center announces new Scientific Executive Committee

The Packard Center is delighted to announce the appointment of Aaron Gitler, Ph.D., Piera Pasinelli, Ph.D., Sami Barmada, M.D., Ph.D. and Christopher Donnelly, Ph.D.

Earlier this year, the Packard Center introduced a new Scientific Executive Committee to guide the Center's research agenda and mission. Appointed to this committee were four distinguished ALS research scientists; Aaron Gitler, Ph.D. (Stanford University), Piera Pasinelli, Ph.D. (Thomas Jefferson University), Sami Barmada, M.D., Ph.D. (University of Michigan) and Christopher Donnelly, Ph.D. (University of Pittsburgh). Together the team of four will scout out the most promising scientists and projects to drive ALS research and discovery.

“Our new Scientific Executive Committee (SEC) is comprised of four outstanding principal investigators from the field of ALS research," noted Emily Baxi, Ph.D., the Center’s executive director. "In the years to come, this committee will shape the Packard research portfolio to ensure that we embrace the most innovative and promising ALS research projects. We are thrilled to establish a leadership team with the depth of experience and expertise that Drs. Gitler, Pasinelli, Barmada and Donnelly bring”.

Read more about these scientists below:

Aaron Gitler, Ph.D.

Dr. Gitler is the Stanford Medicine Basic Science Professor at Stanford University. He received his B.S. at Penn State University and his Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Pennsylvania. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Whitehead Institute of Biomedical Research. His research focuses on disease mechanisms in ALS, frontotemporal dementia (FTD), and Parkinson's disease. His laboratory uses model systems and genetic screens to discover new ALS genes and to define therapeutic targets. Dr. Gitler has been a Packard Center Investigator since 2009 and has served on the Center’s Scientific Advisory Board since 2013.


Piera Pasinelli, Ph.D.

Dr. Pasinelli is a Professor of Neuroscience at Thomas Jefferson University and the Director of the Jefferson Weinberg ALS Center in Philadelphia, PA. A national leader in ALS research, Dr. Pasinelli received her dual Bachelor and Masters in Science from the University of Milan, Italy, where she studied Chemistry and Technology in the Pharmaceutical Industry. She obtained her Ph.D. in Neuro-biochemistry for the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands (Rudolf Magnus Institute for Neuroscience). After graduating, she moved to the United States where she started her career working on the molecular mechanisms underlying ALS pathogenesis, first as a post-doctoral fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital-Harvard Medical School and, then, as an Instructor in Neurology at Harvard Medical School. Acknowledged as an expert in the cell death processes that overtake the central nervous system in ALS, Dr. Pasinelli has been working on understanding the pathogenic mechanisms that trigger ALS for the past twenty-five years. In 2008, she became the Packard Center’s first science director and now co-chairs the Center’s Scientific Executive Committee.


Sami Barmada, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Barmada is an Associate Professor of Neurology at the University of Michigan. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh and his medical degree and Ph.D. from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO. Supported by local and national foundations as well as the NIH, Dr. Barmada’s research program combines automated microscopy with computational neuroscience, genome modification, optogenetics and optical pulse labeling to uncover pathogenic cascades and develop novel therapeutics for ALS, FTD, and related disorders. A Robert Packard Center Investigator since 2014, Dr. Barmada joined the Scientific Executive Committee as Co-Chair in 2020.


Christopher Donnelly, Ph.D.

Dr. Donnelly is an Assistant Professor of Neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Scientific Director of the LiveLikeLou Center for ALS Research in the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute. Originally from Philadelphia, PA, Dr. Donnelly completed his B.S. in Biosciences at Drexel University and Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Genetics at the University of Delaware. He completed his postdoctoral work under Dr. Jeffrey Rothstein at Johns Hopkins University. His research focus includes: understanding neuronal death observed in ALS and FTD, the molecular triggers that initiate inclusion formation and identifying ways to stop these from forming. Dr. Donnelly has been a Packard Center investigator since 2018 and joined the Center’s Scientific Executive Committee in 2020 as Co-Chair.