The Focused Ultrasound Foundation established the Young Investigator Awards Program to encourage quality research by clinicians and scientists-in-training and support their presentation of meritorious scientific papers at major venues such as the International Symposium on Focused Ultrasound.

Graduate students, research fellows, clinical fellows, and junior faculty members are eligible to apply for the awards, which - due to the transition to a virtual meeting in 2020 - were a $1,000 cash award.

This year, we recognized nine individuals from four countries.

And, for the second time, Bracco Suisse SA elected to sponsor a Young Investigator Award recipient. This year, they selected Avinash Eranki, an Assistant Professor and Principal Investigator of the Medical Ultrasound Research laboratory at the Indian Institute of Technology. Eranki presented his research, titled “Immune sensitization and therapeutic impact of boiling histotripsy in refractory murine neuroblastoma."

2020 Young Investigator Abdul Kareem
Abdul-Kareem Ahmed, MD
Awarded for: Bilateral magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound thalamotomy of the central lateral nucleus for medically-refractory neuropathic pain [CHP-001]

Abdul-Kareem Ahmed is a third-year neurosurgery resident at the University of Maryland. He studied neuroscience and philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh and earned his master's in science writing at MIT. He completed medical school at Brown University, where he was awarded the AANS Medical Student Research Fellowship. He was also awarded the ABTA Medical Student Research Fellowship for studying immune checkpoint blockade for glioblastoma. At the University of Maryland, Dr. Ahmed is invested in focused ultrasound, studying methods to improve eligibility and outcomes in movement disorder patients with Dr. Howard Eisenberg, assisting in a trial to open the blood-brain barrier in glioma patients with Dr. Graeme Woodworth, and working on a trial for treating neuropathic pain with Dr. Dheeraj Gandhi. Dr. Ahmed hopes to one day bring focused ultrasound technology to his home state of Rhode Island.
2020 Young Investigator Ashar  
Harshini Ashar
Awarded for: Immunological and therapeutic effects of focused ultrasound in canine cancer patients [IMM-001]

Harshini K. Ashar is a PhD candidate under the mentorship of Dr. Ashish Ranjan in the Nanomedicine and Targeted Therapy Laboratory at Oklahoma State University. Her research is investigating the effects of focused ultrasound and nanoparticles on chemo-immunotherapy of chronic musculoskeletal infections and spontaneous canine cancers. She earned her bachelor and master of veterinary science (BVSc and MVSc) degrees from Maharashtra Animal & Fishery Sciences University in Maharashtra, India.
2020 Young Investigator Davidson  
Benjamin Davidson, MD
Awarded for: Magnetic Resonance Guided Focuses Ultrasound Capsulotomy for Psychiatric Disorders: Clinical Results and Neuroimaging Analysis [PSY-001]

Benjamin Davidson is a fourth-year neurosurgery resident at the University of Toronto. He is in his final year of graduate studies, completing a PhD under the supervision of Dr. Nir Lipsman and Dr. Clement Hamani. His work focuses on developing novel neurosurgical treatments for treatment-resistant psychiatric disorders and using neuroimaging tools to help predict and explain responses to psychiatric surgery.
2020 Young Investigator DeMaio  
Alessandro De Maio
Awarded for: MR-guided Focused Ultrasound versus External Radiation Therapy for the Treatment of Pain in Bone Metastases, a multicenter open-label phase-two clinical trial [MSK-003]

Alessandro De Maio is a student in his final year of medical school who is active in diagnostic and interventional imaging at La Sapienza University of Rome. He has been working with Dr. Alessandro Napoli and his team since 2017, where he had the opportunity to learn more about the focused ultrasound technologies and become involved in bone metastases clinical trials. His selected honors include a Sapienza Excellence scholarship and research program fellowships with the University of Lund and University of Uppsala, where he worked with experts in the field of neuroimaging and MRI physics. He plans to pursue a career in science and radiology and expresses enthusiasm for focused ultrasound therapies and emerging applications.
2020 Young Investigator Eranki
Avinash Eranki, PhD
Awarded for: Immune sensitization and therapeutic impact of boiling histotripsy in refractory murine neuroblastoma [IMM-006]

Avinash Eranki is an Assistant Professor and Principal Investigator of the Medical Ultrasound Research laboratory within the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Hyderabad, India. He has been working on therapeutic ultrasound for more than six years and on medical ultrasound for over a decade. He worked with Prof. Chrit T.W. Moonen and Dr. Mario Riesat at University Medical Center in Utrecht, Netherlands, where he received his PhD. He also worked with Dr. Bradford J. Wood at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center and the IGNITE group at Children's National Hospital on developing novel therapeutic ultrasound techniques for solid tumor therapy in combination with immunotherapy and chemotherapy. Dr. Eranki is currently the Editorial Board Member of the journal Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology and serves as a reviewer for several other ultrasound and imaging journals.
2020 Young Investigator Kim
Kisoo Kim, PhD
Awarded for: Sonication strategies for delivery of volumetric ultrasound hyperthermia using the ExAblate body array [TEC-008]

Kisoo Kim received his BS and MS degrees in biomedical engineering at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, Korea, and earned his PhD at Strasbourg University, France, in 2019. His dissertation work involved the development of quantitative MRI techniques (simultaneous MR elastography and MR thermometry) for the evaluation of MR-guided ultrasound thermal therapy. He currently works as a postdoctoral scholar under the mentorship of Drs. Chris Diederich and Eugene Ozhinsky at the University of California, San Francisco, to develop motion-robust, multi-slice, real-time MR thermometry for MR-guided ultrasound thermal therapy in abdominal organs (e.g., pancreas, liver, and kidney). Additionally, Dr. Kim is working to develop a beamforming strategy for volumetric hyperthermia using the Exablate body system. He pursues a long-term research interest in developing relevant MR/ultrasound techniques for MR-guided ultrasound thermal therapy and achieving great growth in the field.
2020 Young Investigator Ozdas
Mehmet Ozdas, PhD
Awarded for: Non-invasive receptor-specific millimeter-precision manipulation of brain circuits by ultrasound-mediated aggregation and uncaging of drug carriers: in-vivo results [NMD-007]

Mehmet S. Ozdas received his MSc in Analogue and Digital Integrated Circuit Design from Imperial College London and his PhD from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich) in 2019. During his PhD dissertation research at the Neurotechnology Laboratory of Prof. Mehmet Fatih Yanik, he worked on focused ultrasound and ultrasound-sensitive drug carriers to remotely concentrate drugs in the brain with millimeter resolution and orders of magnitude higher efficiency than systemic drug delivery. Dr. Ozdas and colleagues demonstrated that blood-brain barrier (BBB) penetrating drugs can be focally delivered to specific brain regions without the need for BBB disruption, via a novel focused ultrasound sequence, ultrasound-sensitive drug carriers, and in-vivo electrophysiology. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Diffuse Midline Glioma Research Center of the University Children’s Hospital Zurich and the Neurotechnology Laboratory of ETH Zurich, where he is focused on developing novel tools for therapeutic interventions specifically for CNS disorders, including intractable childhood brain tumors. His research employs focused ultrasound, in-vivo electrophysiology, ultrasound-sensitive drug carriers, and in-vivo micro-dialysis.
2020 Young Investigator Singh
Mohit Pratap Singh, PhD
Awarded for: Boiling histotripsy and CD40 activation re-sensitize the immunologically “cold” tumor to checkpoint blockade therapy [IMM-017]

Mohit Pratap Singh, PhD, received his Bachelor of Veterinary Science degree (DVM equivalent) from Madras Veterinary College, India, and MS in Veterinary Surgery from G B Pant University of Agriculture and Technology in Pantnagar, India. He began work on his PhD in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the Oklahoma State University in 2015, where he worked in Dr. Ashish Ranjan’s laboratory. Dr. Singh explored the role of combining focused ultrasound therapy with gene-delivering nanoparticles and anti-CD40 agonistic antibodies in improving the tumor microenvironment in a poorly immunogenic model of melanoma. His interest lies in exploring novel ways of applying focused ultrasound therapy with various immune modulators, such as nanomedicine and biologics, and shaping patient’s immune system to fight cancer.
2020 Young Investigator Xhima
Kristiana Xhima, PhD
Awarded for: Delivery of a selective TrkA agonist to the brain using transcranial focused ultrasound enhances cholinergic function and rescues cognition in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease [NDG-008]

Kristiana Xhima is a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Isabelle Aubert’s lab at Sunnybrook Research Institute. She recently completed her PhD in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology and Collaborative Program in Neuroscience at the University of Toronto. Her research centers on focused ultrasound applications for neurodegenerative diseases, including ultrasound-mediated delivery of neurotrophic factors and gene therapies. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a BSc in pathobiology and neuroscience (with honors) in 2015.