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La Jolla Lab

Ze'ev Ronai

Ze'ev Ronai, Profile picture

Ze'ev Ronai obtained his Ph.D. in 1985 from The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel and performed his postdoctoral research with I.B. Weinstein at the Cancer Center of Columbia University in New York. He established the Molecular Carcinogenesis Program at the American Health Foundation in Valhalla, New York, and in 1997 moved to the Ruttenberg Cancer Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, where he was a tenured professor up to 2005. During 2004, Dr. Ronai moved to Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (formerly known as Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute) in La Jolla CA, where he is a Professor. He served as the Director of the Signal Transduction Program (2005-2013), as the Deputy Director for the Cancer Center (2008-2014), and as the Scientific Director for the La Jolla site (2014-2016). Over the past few years, he established a cancer center at the Technion in Israel (Technion Integrated Cancer Center), while maintaining his activities at SBP. He is currently Chief Scientific Advisor and Professor at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP), La Jolla, CA.

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Hyungsoo Kim
Research Assistant Professor
Hyungsoo Kim, profile picture

Hyungsoo obtained is Ph.D. at the Seoul National University and joined the lab in 2007. He has been studying the role of Siah in mitochondrial dynamics and cell motility (Mol Cell 2011, Oncogene 2014) and more recently in melanoma resistance and RNF125 (Cell Rep 2015). Hyungsoo’s recent studies addressed the importance of SHARPIN in the regulation of PRMT5 (J Clin Invest, 2018). Hyungsoo received a R21 from the National Cancer Institute (2015-2017) that focused on the role of RNF125 in melanoma resistance to BRAFi, and is currently studying the link between PRMT5 and the regulation of immune checkpoint.


Yongmei Feng
PhD, Staff Scientist
Yongmei Feng, profile pictur

Yongmei received her Ph.D. from National University of Singapore. In her previous postdoctoral positions, she focused on the transcriptional regulation of Cdk11 and its role in melanoma. She joined the lab in 2011, and is currently working on the screening and characterization of small molecule and peptide inhibitors for the ubiquitin ligases Siah2 and SLC1A5, and the development of novel inhibitors that interfere with the translation initiation complex function.


Ximena Diaz
Graduate Student

Ximena obtained her bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from the University of Santiago of Chile. After graduating, she worked for two years at Fundación Ciencia & Vida, where she studied resident memory CD8 T cells contribution to anti-tumor immunity. Later, she joined the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC), where she studies the role of macrophages in colorectal cancer progression. Currently, she is a PhD student at the GSBS, in Ronai’s Lab. She is investigating the role of microbiota in anti-tumor response.


Namratha Nadig
graduate student

Namratha obtained her Integrated Masters degree in Biological Sciences from Bangalore University, India in 2016. She did her Master thesis work on Gene editing of Merkel Cell Polyoma Virus T antigen using CRISPR/Cas system at National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bangalore, India. After graduating she spent 4 years working on understanding the molecular players in resistance to endocrine therapies and the role of TME on resistance to chemotherapy at Dr. Prathibha Ranganathan’s lab at Centre for Human Genetics (CHG), Bangalore, India. In 2021, she joined Dr. Sonia Sharma’s lab at La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI), San Diego. Her research there focused on identifying the effect of an inherently present bioactive lipid on neutrophil activity. Currently Namratha is enrolled as a PhD student at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at SBP and part of the Ronai lab working on melanoma addiction to GCDH.


Marzia Scortegagna
Research Assistant Professor
Marzia Scortegagna, profile picture

Marzia received her Ph.D. from the University of Padova in Italy and performed her postdoctoral training studying HIF1 proteins in hypoxia, in the context of oxidative stress, inflammation and cancer. She joined the lab in 2009 and has been working on the ubiquitin ligase Siah2, as well as on the role of PDK1 and Siah2 in melanoma using genetic models. She has demonstrated the regulation of Siah2 by the DUB USP13 (J Biol Chem, 2011) and established the role of PDK1 in melanoma development and progression (Oncogene 2014, Cancer Res 2015). Her study on the regulation and function of Siah1/2 by the UPR was published in PLoS Genetics (2014), paving the road for ongoing studies that link Siah with UPR signaling. Her current focus is on the importance of Siah2 in the control of anti-tumor immunity.


Parinaz Bina
Research Assistant

Parinaz holds a master’s degree in Molecular Genetics from Tarbiat Modares University, specializing in the molecular pathology of multiple sclerosis. Her research in the USA, while at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, focused on the pathology of a rhodopsin mutant (D190N-Rho) linked to progressive photoreceptor cell death. She furthered her expertise with a second master's degree in animal science at the University of Maryland, concentrating on the development of sensory neurons within the chick trigeminal ganglion. In 2023, she joined the Ronai laboratory at SBP as a research assistant, working on genetic models of genes underlying melanoma development.


Hyunjeong Joo
Post Doctoral Trainee

Hyunjeong Joo received her M.S. degree and Ph. D. From Sookmyung Women’s University in South Korea. She studied cancer cell metabolism during her M.S. work and focused on energy metabolic regulation of the E3 ligase β-TrCP during her Ph. D. program. She joined Ronai’s lab in 2023 as a postdoctoral associate and is exploring new research projects in melanoma.


Ronai Lab Alumni - Where are they now?
Benjamin Van Espen

Ben completed his graduate studies in the Ronai lab and obtained his PhD in September 2023. He joined a law firm I early 2024.

Carolina Silva

following a short training in the Ronai lab, Carolina returned to her home lab to pursue her PhD in Brasil.

Ali Khateb, Ph.D., NGM

Ali earned his Ph.D. degree from the Technion studying the role of RNF5 in AML (2019). He extended his studies on RNF5 in AML during his post-doctoral training, which resulted in his publication in Nat. Comm 2021. He is currently at NGM in south San Francisco

Stefania Tocci, Ph.D. – Post doc UCSD

Stefania Tocci completed her M.Sc. studies in Medical Biotechnology in Italy, after training in E. Wagner’s lab at CNIO in Madrid. After graduating in the Signgene program at Max Plank Berlin (MDC) and Technion and studying Sharpin/PRMT5 control of melanoma development in our lab, Stefania got PhD degree and now performing post doc in UCSD.

Erez Hasnis, MD at Rambam Health Campus System

Erez joined the lab from his post at the Rambam Hospital where he was attending physician in the GI department. He developed a project on the ubiquitin ligase RNF125 in pancreatic cancer, which reveals the importantce of this ubiquitin ligase in acinar cells of the normal pancreas, where it regulates HDAC2 activity with concomitant effects on gene transcription, including PDX1. Erez return to a position of physician scientist at the Rambam Health Care Campus in the summer of 2020.

Yu Fujita, MD

Yu Fujuta was a postdoctoral training studying the role of RNF5 in intestinal inflammation. Following his training, supported in part by Japanese Fellowship, he returned to Jikei University School of Medicine, Division of Respiratory Medicine, Tokyo, Japan where he is establishing his research laboratory and practicing as MD.

Giuseppina Claps, Ph.D.

Giusy completed her Ph.D. in our lab in 2015 and after a year of postdoctoral training she moved to extend her training in INSERM Paris with Drs. Carolin Robert and Stephan Vagner. Giusy was the recipient of a Joanna M. Nicolay Melanoma Foundation Research Scholar Award (2013).

Daniela Senft, Ph.D.

Daniela received her Ph.D. from Ludwig Maximilian University Munich, Germany in 2012. She joined the lab to further elucidate the roles of the transcription factor ATF2 in melanocyte biology, melanoma genesis and melanoma progression in response to UV-irradiation. Currently back at her homeland, she co-authors many of our review articles.

Ersheng Kuang, Ph.D.

Ersheng worked as a postdoc in our lab. He has established his laboratory at the Institute of Human Virology, Zhangshan School of Medicine, Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China.

Pablo Lopez-Bergami, Ph.D.

Pablo joined our group in 2002 to study the role of MAP kinases in melanoma development and progression. Pablo's work provided the foundation for understanding the nature of re-wired signal transduction pathways in melanoma, with particular attention to ERK-JNK and PKC-JNK cross-talk. In 2008, Pablo assumed an assistant professor position at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Begona Diaz Fernandez, Ph.D.

Begona spent a short time in our laboratory studying novel aspects for the PDK1 kinase, as she transitioned from Dr. Sara Courtneidge’s lab to her own lab at the LA BioMed at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Torrance CA.

Chelsea Ruller, M.Sc.

Chelsea worked as our lab coordinator from 2010 to 2013. Following a 2-year tenure at the University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus, and more recently at the Moffitt Cancer Center.

Agnes Delaunay, Ph.D.

Agnes moved to our lab in 2005 as a postdoctoral fellow. She studied the role of RNF5 in mouse models, using Tg and KO mice. Her work established a link between RNF5, ER stress and muscular disorders, in particularly the inclusion in body myosities. In 2008, Agnes assumed an independent position as a principal investigator at the CEA in Paris.

Serge Y Fuchs, M.D.

Serge was a postdoctoral fellow in the lab from 1994 to 1997, exploring the kinaseless role of JNK in mediating the ubiquitination-dependent degradation of its non phosphorylated substrates c-Jun, ATF2 and p53. Serge was among the first to discover bTrCP as the E3 ligase for IkB and b-catenin. He is currently a Professor at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Christine Didier, Ph.D.

Christine studied the ubiquitin ligase RNF5, a RING finger protein that regulates cell motility by targeting paxillin ubiquitination and altered localization. Christine is currently at the Centre de Recherche en Pharmacologie-Sante, UMR 2587 CNRS in Toulouse France.

Dania Alarcon-Vargas

Dania performed her Ph.D. thesis in our lab, studying the mechanisms underlying the regulation of c-myc stability. She completed her requirements for her Ph.D. at MSSM/NYU in 2004. She continued her research as a postdoctoral fellow at Albert Einstein School of Medicine in NYC.

Ssang Goo Cho, Ph.D.

Ssang Goo was a postdoctoral fellow in the lab from 2000-2001 and worked on the regulation of ATF2 by TIP49b. Ssang Goo returned to Korea where he is Professor at Konkuk University.

Shoichi Takahashi, M.D./Ph.D.

Shoichi discovered that ATF2 can also be phosphorylated by ATM, a finding that led to the characterization of ATF2 in DNA damage response. He returned to Japan where he serves a clinical function and performs research in parallel at Hiroshima University.

Aaron Laine

Aaron received his B.S. in chemistry from Arizona State University and joined our lab as an M.D./Ph.D. student. As part of his Ph.D. thesis, he explored the novel mechanisms underlying the regulation of p53 activity, and the role of ubiquitin in regulation of p53 localization, rather than stability.

Toshinari Minamoto, M.D.

Toshinari was trained as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab from 1996-1998. At present, Toshinari is a Professor and Head of the Division of Oncology at Kanazawa University in Japan.

Thomas Buschmann, Ph.D.

Thomas was a postdoctoral trainee from 1997 till 2001. Thomas assumed the position of a Research Administrator at the Europroteorue Institute in Berlin Germany.

Yuanning Du

Yuanning worked as a research assistant in the Ronai lab and has moved to Purdue University to pursue a PhD program.

Sachin Verma, PhD., AMGEN

Sachin performed his first postdoc at the Salk Institute, studying BRCA1 in cell growth control using breast cancer. His postdoc training in our lab led to the discovery of melanoma addiction to GCDH, which was published in Nat. Cell Biol (2022) and serves as a novel therapeutic modality that is being explored. Sachin is currently at Amgen in Thousand Oaks, CA.

Stephanie Myers, MS.C.

Stephanie graduated from the University of California, San Diego in 2016 with a B.S. in Neuroscience. She worked as a Lab Assistant in the Ju Chen Lab at UCSD while earning her B.S. Stephanie joined the lab in 2016 as research coordinator and in 2018 joined the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at SBP. Her PhD thesis was focused on the role of Siah2 in neurodegenerative disorders, in collaboration with Huaxi Xu, Ph.D. as her co-mentor. Completed MSC and now working in biotech in La Jolla CA.

Gaurav Pathria, Scientist at Genentech

Gaurav joined the lab and have set to understand metabolic rewiring in melanoma and pancreatic cancer cells. Gaurav studies led to clinical evaluation of a combination therapy in pancreatic cancer and in melanoma, having identified the synthetic lethal action of ASNS and MEK inhibition. He is currently a scientist at Genentech.

Eric Lau, Ph.D.

Eric received his Ph.D. from UCSD in 2008 and performed postdoctoral training that focused on the regulation and function of ATF2. Eric demonstrated the role of subcellular localization in ATF2 function, as the role of FUK in control of melanoma metastasis. He was awarded K00/99 for his work and is currently an Assistant Member at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa Florida.

Jianfei Qi, Ph.D.

Jianfei trained as a postdoc and later as a staff scientist focusing his studies on the role of the ubiquitin ligase Siah1/2 in prostate cancer. He was awarded a K99/R01 and has established his own laboratory at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Young Joo Jeon, Ph.D.

Young Joo joined the lab from the School of Biological Sciences, Seoul National University in Seoul, Korea and studied the role of RNF5 in the control of glutamine metabolism in breast cancer and melanoma. She published a landmark paper in Cancer Cell (2015) and is currently setting her own laboratory at the Chungnam National University Korea.

Gustavo Gutierrez, Ph.D.

Gustavo completed postdoctoral training in our lab, during which he first-authored two studies concerning the regulation and function of JNK in cell cycle. He is currently at the Laboratory of Cell Genetics, Department of Biology, Vrije Universiteit, Brussels, Belgium.

Limor Broday, Ph.D.

Limor studied the ubiquitin ligase RNF5 using C. elegans as a model system and also explored the function of SUMO during postembryoinic development. She is currently a faculty member at the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University in Israel, where she is currently studying RNF5 and related proteins in C. elegans.

Marilyn Leonard, Ph.D.

Marilyn was our lab manager, overseeing the mice colony and managed our lab's day-to-day operation. She is currently working at UCSD.

Adrienne Crown, J.D.

Adrienne oversaw the operation of the lab and the office of the Scientific Director (2011–2015). She currently manages the cancer center grant administration.

Mei-Fan Chen, Ph.D.

Mei-Fan performed her graduate studies in our lab, with a focus on the cross-talk between ER stress and cell cycle. She moved to perform a postdoctoral training in neurobiology at UCSD, La Jolla, CA, and is now Assistant Professor at University of Kentucky.

Koh Nakayama, Ph.D.

Koh joined the lab in 2002 as a postdoctoral fellow. He established the line of research concerning the role of the Siah2 ubiquitin ligase in hypoxia. Koh is currently an Associate Professor at the Tokyo Medical and Dental University in Tokyo, Japan.

Marianna Tcherpakov, Ph.D.

Marianna received her Ph.D. from the Weizmann Institute in Israel and joined the lab in 2005. She worked on a novel protein identified in our lab, which was designated JAMP, an anchor for proteasomes recruitment to the ER. Marianna is currently a Manager, Head of Business Development at a local San Diego biotech company.

Hasem Hapahake

Hasem joined the lab as a postdoc after he received his Ph.D. in Japan. In our lab, he studied the ubiquitin ligase Siah and its role in the degradation of TRAF2 and ODGC-E2. In 2005, Hasem moved to the University of Iowa, where he is currently an Associate Professor. He continues to study post-translational modifications underlying the regulation of TRAF2 functions.

Vladimir Ivanov, Ph.D.

Vladimir was a Research Assistant Professor in our lab. Vladimir studied the regulation of apoptosis in melanoma, with focus on TRAF, NFkB and Fas signaling pathways. He currently is an Associate Research Professor at the Center for Radiological research at Columbia University NY.

Philip Lazarus, P.h.D.

Philip was training in our lab from 1991-1992. Philip currently serves as the Boeing Professor and Chair, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Washington State University, Spokane.

Takayuki Kadoya, M.D.

Takayuki performed a post doctoral training in our lab, studying the protein JAMP – JNK associated membrane protein which Takayuki found to be implicated in ERAD and ER stress. He is currently an Associate Professor at the Research Institute for Radiation Biology and Medicine, Hiroshima University.

Anindita Bhoumik

Anindita worked in our lab for over 8 years, making major contributions to our studies with ATF2 and melanoma. Anindita is currently working for a biotech company in San Diego, specializing in stem cells.

Susan Rutberg, Ph.D.

Susan was postdoctoral trainee in our lab from 1991-1995, when she moved to a scientist position at NCI. Susan moved from NCI to work as a senior scientist at Gillette Corporation. Recently, Susan has relocated to Boston where she serves as a senior scientist in a startup company.

Boris Fichtman, Ph.D.

Boris performed an 18-month training in our lab with a focus on ATF2 and moved for a second post doc at UCSD followed by positions at the Technion and Bar Ilan School of Medicine in Israel.

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