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Emory student seeks the cell of origin for childhood leukemia
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Rosemary Pitrone
Image of Ben Babcock in a research lab.

Ben Babcock, a third-year student of the Cancer Biology Graduate Program, is the recipient of the 2022 ASH Graduate Hematology Award. The award will support his research to identify the cell of origin for childhood leukemia.

Emory University student Ben Babcock has been selected by the American Society of Hematology (ASH) to participate as one of seven graduate students in the 2022 ASH Graduate Hematology Award (AGHA). This award aims to encourage graduate students in the United States and Canada to pursue a career in academic hematology. 

From July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2024, AGHA participants selected from a competitive pool of U.S. and Canadian-based applicants will conduct hematology research in one of the following categories: basic, translational, outcomes-based or patient-oriented clinical research. They will each receive an annual $40,000 stipend for a two-year period to fund their research and to share their findings with the field at the ASH Annual Meeting and Exposition.

The award will allow Babcock, a third-year student of the Cancer Biology Graduate Program at Emory’s Laney Graduate School, to identify the cell of origin for B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) in infants and children. 

B-ALL is the most common childhood cancer, but its specific origins remain largely unknown. Using CRISPR, a gene editing technology, Babcock will trace how a single cell evolves into leukemia and identify potential therapeutic targets for patients with B-ALL. The research will be conducted in the Ghosn Lab within the Emory University School of Medicine’s Department of Medicine.

“I’m extremely grateful to ASH for giving me an opportunity to develop my scientific career and investigate such an important question on how developing B cells progress into childhood leukemia,” says Babcock. “I think all of us in the Ghosn Lab are excited to have received such a prestigious endorsement. This project has a real potential to change how we understand the initiation of childhood and infant B-ALL and inform the next generation of cancer therapy. I’m looking forward to completing the work and sharing our findings with the field.”

“With this award, Ben will identify the exact cell of origin, and the subsequent molecular events, that lead to full-blown childhood and infant leukemia at a single-cell level. The multi-omics single-cell technologies we developed in the lab will allow for an unprecedented level of cellular and molecular detail to unravel the mechanisms that lead to blood cancers,” adds Eliver Ghosn, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine Lowance Center for Human Immunology. “I am thrilled that ASH has endorsed this important research and recognized Ben as the next generation of talented young investigators.”

“The ASH Graduate Hematology Award Program is a vital part of the society’s continued efforts to foster the next generation of hematologists by supporting research and mentorship in hematology,” says 2022 ASH President Jane N. Winter, MD, of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “We congratulate the awardees and hope this program will lead them to successful careers in hematology.”

About the American Society of Hematology:

The American Society of Hematology (ASH) is the world’s largest professional society of hematologists dedicated to furthering the understanding, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disorders affecting the blood. For more than 60 years, the Society has led the development of hematology as a discipline by promoting research, patient care, education, training and advocacy in hematology. ASH publishes Blood, the most cited peer-reviewed publication in the field, and Blood Advances, an online, peer-reviewed open-access journal.

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