Sky has so far funded researchers in Michigan, California Pennsylvania and Texas.





Howard Crawford, PhD

University of Michigan

Ann Arbor

Crawford holds joint appointments in the Department Molecular and Integrative Physiology and the Department of Internal Medicine, division of gastroenterology. He directs the Pancreas Research Program and the Genetically Engineered Mouse Models of the Pancreatic Cancer Core in the Translational Oncology Program and the Cancer Center.

His research aims to understanding molecular pathways in pancreatic adenocarcinoma and pancreatitis or the molecular connection between chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. This research may lead to treatments that could potentially prevent pancreatic cancer.




Asfar S. Azmi, PhD

Wayne State University


Azmi is an assistant professor in the Department of Oncology at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine. In collaboration with Ramzi Mohammad (below), he has worked extensively in the area of small-molecule-inhibitor drug development. This has led to rapid clinical translation of Selinexor, a new drug in Phase Ib/II trials at Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit.

Azmi has published more than 90 peer-reviewed articles and numerous editorials in journals.




Rafael A. Fridman, PhD

Wayne State University, Karmanos Cancer Institute


Fridman is a scientific member of the Tumor and Microenvironment Program at the Karmanos Cancer Institute and a professor in the Department of Pathology at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine. Fridman’s research, in collaboration with Howard Crawford (above), is to investigate the role of fibrosis in pancreatic cancer with a focus on cancer cell-collagen interactions. The project is expected to explain the regulation and role of the Discoidin Domain Receptors (DDRs).

In addition, the study is expected to uncover the likely major contribution of collagen to tumor behavior and progression. Fibrosis and the associated collagen have been shown to act as critical barriers to delivery of therapeutic drugs.




Ramzi M. Mohammad, PhD

Wayne State University


Mohammad is the director of the Gastroenterology Cancer Research Center and Scientific Member of the Developmental Therapeutics Program at Wayne State University. Mohammad has more than 30 years of cancer research experience and publications exceeding 150 in peer-reviewed journals, reviewed papers and book chapters.

He has established a number pancreatic cancer cell lines and was among the first to develop orthotropic models in animals. He has studying the effects of new anticancer agents and marine products as well as standard chemotherapeutic drugs.



Pamela Itkin-Ansari, PhD

Sanford-Burnham-Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

University of California, San Diego

My lab recently found that a single gene reprograms pancreatic cancer cells back to their original cell type, halting tumor growth in animals. There is precedent for a cell reprogramming strategy in cancer treatment; this approach changed a once lethal leukemia, acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), into a curable disease. To exploit the previously unrecognized plasticity of pancreatic cancer cells, we developed a drug screening platform. From a screen of 4300 known drugs we have identified several compounds that appear to regulate the pathway of interest.  With help from the Sky Foundation we propose to evaluate the potential ‘hits’ in mechanistic studies in cells and in an animal model of pancreatic cancer. Our ultimate goal is to identify a drug, or drug combination, that can be translated to the clinic as a novel reprogramming therapy for pancreatic cancer.


Aatur Singhi, PhD, MD

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

Dr. Singhi is a surgical pathologist with sub-specialty training in gastrointestinal, liver, and pancreatobiliary pathology. His diagnostic expertise includes both neoplastic and non-neoplastic diseases of the gastrointestinal system, liver, biliary tract, pancreas and peritoneum.

His current research focus is primarily translational in the area of gastrointestinal, pancreatic, hepatobiliary and peritoneal pathology



Matthew H.G. Katz, MD

University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center


Katz is an associate professor in the department of Surgical Oncology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. His clinical and research interests focus on patients with pancreatic cancer. He has extensive experience in the design and conduct of clinical trials and is currently the national principal investigator for an intergroup cooperative group study of the effects of preoperative therapy on patients with advanced pancreatic cancer.

He has published more than 90 articles that have described novel multi-modality treatment approaches for patients with this disease. He maintains a pancreatic surgery clinical practice.