Our Team

Philip J Horner | Center for Neuroregeneration | Houston Methodist

Philip J. Horner, PhD
Scientific Director, Neuroregeneration
Co-Director, Regenerative & Restorative Neurosurgery
Vice Chairman-Research, Neurosurgery
Houston Methodist Research Institute
6670 Bertner Ave, MSR10-112
Houston, Texas 77030

Our Team

Philip J Horner, PhD, Director

Dr Horner received a Ph.D. in physiology from Ohio State University in 1995. He did his post-doctoral training with Dr. Fred H. Gage and became a staff scientist in the Lab of Genetics at the Salk Institute in 1998. In 2001, Dr. Horner joined the faculty of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Washington in Seattle. He directed a laboratory at the UW South Lake Union Campus and was a member of the Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine. In 2015, Dr. Horner became the Scientific Director of the Center for Neuroregeneration and the Co-Director, Center for Regenerative and Restorative Neurosurgery at the Houston Methodist Research Institute. He also holds a faculty position at the Weill Cornell Medical College, New York. Dr. Horner’s research focuses on the role of glial and neural progenitor cells in the regeneration of the injured and aging nervous system. During his free time, he likes to smoke salmon, cook paella and play with his Australian Shepherd.

Robert Krencik, PhD, Scientist

Dr. Krencik studied neuroscience as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he devised the first cellular system for the efficient generation of human glial progenitors and astrocyte subtypes from pluripotent stem cells and characterized their functionality. This system has been experimentally utilized for cellular replacement therapy to promote learning and memory and to improve the maturity of neuronal subtypes. He conducted research as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California-San Francisco where his studies led to several novel and important discoveries including the identification of a mechanism for astrocytes in controlling the timing of synaptic plasticity. More recently, he has been optimizing three dimensional in vitro co-cultures of the human nervous system for an improved disease model. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his little son and practicing martial arts.

Sid Gunamalai, MS, Research Laboratory Manager

Sid Gunamalai graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Bioengineering in India and decided to further his education with a Master’s Degree before beginning his scientific career at the Baylor College of Medicine in 2011 before joining the Houston Methodist Research Institute in 2012. He has been working with various different animal models using mice and rats, performing various surgical techniques, breeding, blood draws, and organ collection. He also manages the laboratory and trains users on multiple techniques. His expertise includes various cell culture assays, extensive molecular biology techniques, genetics, cloning, immunohistochemistry and protein engineering. Outside of work, he is always ready to go on hikes, fishing trips and camping or play cricket. In his spare time, he also loves to build computers, furniture, paint and play video games.

Dee Woodson, Program Manager

Dee has hands-on involvement in supporting robust medical institutions with expertise in office and program management including program building, strategic planning and providing leadership to growing and developing teams. In her role with the Center for Neuroregeneration Dee will aid in planning, development and growth of resources commiserate with Houston Methodist’s interdisciplinary approach to collaborative research. In her spare time, Dee enjoys cooking, reading and spending time with her two children.

Matthew Hogan, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow

Matt is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Neuroregeneration at Houston Methodist Research Institute. He is focusing on semi-high throughput methods for optogenetic interrogation of neurons. He hopes to elucidate the role, if any, of neurons in spinal regeneration. Prior to joining Dr. Horner’s lab, Matt completed his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Houston under the mentorship of Dr. Ravi K. Birla. He participated in the development of multiple engineered cardiac tissue models including heart muscle, ventricle and whole heart models. He also deployed several novel bioreactors for the conditioning and maintenance of in vitro tissue mimetic cultures. Matt enjoys woodworking, guitar, coding, cooking and sports. Most weekends find him tinkering in his workshop at home or being forcibly cultured by his more sophisticated significant other.

Tae Hoon Lee, PhD, Research Associate 

Dr. Lee is developing a Maloney viral packaging system for neuroregeneration after spinal cord injury. He majored in biochemistry and earned his PhD at Yonsei University, South Korea. He has broad experience with 10 publications in biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, immunology, and translational imaging. 

Tatiana Wolfe, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Wolfe is a medical physicist postdoctoral fellow working on the development of new imaging techniques and processes to undermine soft-tissue features non-invasively. She is focusing on magnetic signatures of myelin in the central nervous system (CNS) under Dr. Philip Horner’s mentorship. She has experience in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and clinical radiation physics. Imaging reconstruction and signal decomposition are her areas of  interest. Dr. Wolfe also has experience with biological assays at the basic science level, preclinical level and, more recently, has initiated studies in human subjects. Her favorite hobbies are cooking, reading and writing. Currently, she has a new book under pre-edition themed on the pleasure of cooking healthy, which blends bold recipes from the Brazilian, Portuguese and American cuisines. In the book she discusses the multi-sensorial experimentation of food texture, flavor and aroma. Tatiana is a very nurturing mother and wife, and she likes to spend the weekends outdoors with her husband and lovely two year old son and her little princess.

Cinzia Stigliano, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Stigliano is a postdoctoral fellow in Neuroregenerative medicine at Houston Methodist Research Institute. Her work is focused on the delivery of therapeutic agents with nanoparticles to spinal cord injury in mouse and rat models. She completed her PhD in Biotechnology at University of Bari in Italy and she has worked as post-doctoral fellow at the department of Nanomedicine at Houston Methodist Research Institute. Cinzia loves travel and have fun with yoga and spinning classes in the free time.

Zonia Barbosa, MD, Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Barbosa completed her medical education in Bogota, Colombia. She graduated from the San Martin University and moved to New York City in 2013 to expand her horizons and continue her professional medical training. She joined the Houston Methodist Research Institute in 2015 as a postdoctoral research fellow in the department of Regenerative Medicine, where she worked with animals and learned different laboratory techniques. She joined the Center of Neuroregeneration in 2016 and she is working in spinal cord injury and regeneration in animal models. Zonia likes handicrafts and is always trying different techniques including encaustic photography, knitting and hand lettering, and she enjoys her free time exploring nature with her French bulldog.

Nupur Basu, Research Assistant

Nupur graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from the University of Texas at Austin. Nupur joined the pharmaceutical stem cell industry, where she worked as a Quality Control personnel. Here, she acquired knowledge and experience on GMP standards, FDA regulations, and clinical trials of adipose-derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) for therapeutic usage. With a specific interest in stem cells, she moved to the Regenerative Medicine department at the HMRI. Here, she worked on 3D materials to differentiate MSCs for tissue regeneration as well as some cancer platforms to increase efficacy of drug delivery methods. She is currently working in the Neuroregeneration department on experiments dealing with astrocyte differentiation from Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (IPSCs) and the regeneration of the nervous system to find novel therapies for neuropathologies. For leisure, she loves to travel, explore local food, and engage in cultural activities.

Sean M. Barber, MD, Resident Physician, Neurosurgery

Dr. Barber is a native Houstonian who received his two undergraduate degrees from the University of Texas: Austin and his medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch. He is a resident physician in the department of Neurosurgery at Houston Methodist Hospital. Sean's academic interests include the treatment of complex spinal pathology, neuroregenerative medicine and spinal cord injury research. Dr. Barber is also a Storm Trooper at heart and attends many different conventions with Carolyn, his beloved Jawa wife.

Meng Huang, MD, Resident Physician, Neurosurgery

Dr. Huang received his undergraduate degree from Washington University in St. Louis and subsequently his medical degree from University of Texas Medical Branch. He is a resident physician in the Department of Neurosurgery at Houston Methodist Hospital with a special interest in surgical treatment of complex spinal pathology, neuroregenerative medicine and spinal cord injury research. He is also interested in the development of novel translational neurologic disease models using the surgical application of burgeoning technology. In his free time, he enjoys running, weight training, golf, and spending time with his wife and two precious cats.

Viren Desai, MD, Resident Physician, Neurosurgery

Dr. Desai is a neurosurgery resident at Houston Methodist Hospital. He received his BA in Economics and Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania and MD from University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. He was born and raised in Houston before moving away for education. He was thrilled to return for his residency. Currently he is working on an intracranial hemorrhage model in swine to better define myelin injury, repair and regeneration. He hopes to pursue pediatric neurosurgery longterm. His hobbies include running, lifting weights, cooking and traveling. 

Bethany Kondiles, MD, Graduate Student

Bethany is a graduate student enrolled at the University of Washington, Seattle, where is co-mentored by Dr. Horner and Dr. Steve Perlmutter. She is a visiting fellow at HMRI to pursue her work in spinal cord injury. She is interested in the ways neural activity influences white matter remodeling following spinal cord injury. Prior to graduate school, she conducted research at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago’s Brain Injury Program, which inspired her to pursue her graduate studies in traumatic neural injuries. She hopes to pursue a career in academic research and translational research, with the goal of improving outcomes for patients who have suffered traumatic injuries.
When not in lab, she enjoys partner acrobatics, rock climbing, and skiing.

Past Members of Dr. Horner’s Lab

Don Maris, Operations Manager
Robert Scranton, MD, Neurosurgery Resident, Houston Methodist Hospital
Sam Emerson, MD, PhD: 2nd Year resident, Dept. of Neurosurgery, University of Washington
Denise Inman, PhD: Assistant Professor, Dept. of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Northeast Ohio Medical University
Jurate Lasiente, PhD: Clinical Trial Lead, PSI CRO AG, Oxford, United Kingdom
Audrey Petit, PhD: Medical Student, University of Montreal
Berit Powers, PhD: Senior Scientist, Isis Pharmaceuticals, Carlsbad, CA
Drew Sellers, PhD: Research Assistant Professor, Dept. of Bioengineering, University of Washington
Wendi Lambert, PhD: Senior Staff Scientist, Vanderbilt Eye Institute, Vanderbilt University