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Ola A. Awad, PhD

Academic Title:

Assistant Professor

Primary Appointment:

Microbiology and Immunology


660 West Redwood Street, 319C Howard Hall

Phone (Primary):

(410) 706-1394


(410) 706-2129

Education and Training

  • Suez Canal University, School of Medicine, Egypt, MBBCh, Medicine and Surgery, 1992
  • Suez Canal University, School of Medicine, Egypt, M.Sc, Histology and Cell Biology, 2001
  • University of Iowa, School of Medicine, IA, PhD, Anatomy and Cell Biology, 2007
  • Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, MD, Postdoctoral training, Pediatric Oncology, 2009
  • University of Maryland School of Medicine, MD, Postdoctoral training, Neurodegeneration, 2014




Dr Awad’s research focuses on the use of human stem cells for regenerative medicine and disease modeling. Her previous work aimed at optimizing the use of hematopoietic stem cells for treatment of diabetic vascular complications, which uncovered a new mechanism of diabetes-induced stem cell dysfunction through modulation of inflammatory response. During her postdoctoral studies, Dr Awad’s research led to the identification of a cancer stem cell population in Ewing’s sarcomas (EWS), the second most common bone tumors in children and young adults. She also tested the use of novel therapeutic molecules against EWS/FLI1 oncogene to overcome EWS stem cell chemo-resistance.

Currently, Dr Awad’s work in Dr Ricardo Feldman’s laboratory focuses on the use of human induced-pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to investigate mechanisms responsible for neurodegeneration in Gaucher disease (GD), the most common lysosomal storage disorder. Her research uncovered a novel mechanism by which GBA1 mutations that cause GD, lead to lysosomal dysfunction, through deregulation of the transcription factor EB (TFEB), the master regulator of lysosomal biogenesis and autophagy. This study points to the important role of TFEB alterations in GBA1- associated neurodegeneration and identifies TFEB as a novel therapeutic target in neuropathic GD. GBA1 mutation is also a major risk factor for Parkinson’s disease (PD); therefore these results can have significant implications on understanding PD pathogenesis. Dr Awad was recently awarded a grant from The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease Research to further investigate the mechanisms of GBA1-mediated TFEB dysfunction in GD iPSC-derived dopaminergic neurons.

Research/Clinical Keywords

Lysosomal storage disorders, GBA1 mutations, Parkinson's disease, Induced-pluripotent stem cells, autophagy, lysosomal biogenesis, transcription factor EB (TFEB).

Highlighted Publications

  • Awad O, Sarkar C, Panicker LM, Miller D, Zeng X, Sgambato JA, Lipinski MM, Feldman RA. (2015) Altered TFEB-mediated lysosomal biogenesis in Gaucher disease iPSC-derived neuronal cells. Hum Mol Genet. 15;24(20):5775-88.
  • Panicker LM, Miller D, Park TS, Patel B, Azevedo JL, Awad O, Masood MA, Veenstra TD, Goldin E, Stubblefield BK, Tayebi N, Polumuri SK, Vogel SN, Sidransky E, Zambidis ET, Feldman RA. (2012). Induced pluripotent stem cell model recapitulates pathologic hallmarks of Gaucher disease. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 30; 109 (44): 18054-9.
  • Awad O, Yustein JT, Shah P, Gul N, Katuri V, O'Neill A, Kong Y, Brown ML, Toretsky JA, Loeb DM. (2010) High Aldehyde Dehydrogenase Activity Identifies Chemotherapy-Resistant Ewing’s Sarcoma Cells with a Stem Cell Phenotype that Retain Sensitivity to EWS-FLI1 Inhibition. PLoS One.11;5(11):e13943.
  • Awad O, Jiao C, Ma N, Dunnwald M, and Schatteman GC. (2005) The Obese Diabetic Mouse Environment Differentially Affects Primitive and Monocytic Endothelial Cell Progenitors. Stem Cells. 23:575-583.
  • Schatteman GC, Awad O, Nau E, Wang C, Jiao C, Tomanek RJ, Dunnwald M. (2010) Lin- cells mediate tissue repair by regulating MCP-1/CCL-2. Am J Pathol. 2010 Oct; 177(4):2002-10.

Awards and Affiliations

  • Tung-Yang Wing Award for superior achievements in graduate education, University of Iowa, 2006
  • Post-doctoral Fellowship, Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund (TEDCO/MSCRF), 2012
  • The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, Priority Target Award, 2016