Our Team

David S. Baskin, MD
Dr. Baskin began his research career while still a resident at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). In 1982, he spent a year as a Research Associate at the University of Capetown Medical School and Groote Schuur Hospital in Capetown, South Africa. The following year, Dr. Baskin returned to UCSF and served as a Research Associate in the Hormone Research Laboratory. After completing his residency, Dr. Baskin was appointed as Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery and Assistant Professor of the Center for Biotechnology at Baylor College of Medicine, with a joint appointment as Chief of Neurological Surgery at the VA Hospital. In 1994 he was promoted to Professor at Baylor College of Medicine in the departments of Neurosurgery and Anesthesiology, positions he held until 2005 when his academic career transitioned to Methodist.

Dr. Baskin has received many national and international honors and awards. He has served as principal investigator on numerous research projects funded by private, state and federal sources, resulting in multiple patents and patent applications. He has also chaired or served on review panels and advisory councils for private, state and federal agencies. Dr. Baskin has published over 100 scientific manuscripts and book chapters and currently serves as Program Director in Houston Methodist Neurological Institute, as well as Professor of Neurosurgery at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Research Professor at the University of Houston in both the Cullen College of Engineering's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the School of Pharmacy.

Martyn Sharpe, PhD
Head of Research, Kenneth R. Peak Brain and Pituitary Tumor Treatment Center  
Martyn A. Sharpe is a classically trained biochemist and bioenergeticist with a strong background in chemistry and the reactions of both reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. As a chemistry-based biochemist and pharmacologist, he investigates the role of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species in pathophysiology. His interest in mitochondrial oxidative/nitrositive stress led him to design and synthesize a range of small, superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase mimetics. He is currently developing novel technologies and drugs to treat glioma and other cancers such as the use of nanosyringes as targeted therapy to fight brain cancer. In addition to this he is also developing prodrugs to target gliomas that are based on their maturation by monoamine oxidase B (MAOB).  In recent years, he has also studied cellular pathology in autism, looking at the role of genes and environmental toxins. 
He has authored 65 peer-reviewed articles and has been the referee for several prestigious medical journals and grants, and is often called on as an expert reviewer for grants involving oxidative stress.
Martyn is deeply committed to neuro-oncology and is determined to develop a therapy to treat the 220,000 people, worldwide, who develop gliomas each year.

Assistant Professor, Department of Neurosurgery, Kenneth R. Peak Brain and Pituitary Tumor Treatment Cente
Dr. Yun is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at the Houston Methodist Research Institute and the Weill Cornell Medical College.  She is an independent faculty member in the Peak Center and her research interest is focused on understanding underlying causes of therapy failure and tumor recurrence in brain cancers. Dr. Yun is an American Cancer Society research scholar and formerly a faculty member at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor Maine.  While there, her laboratory started studying the function of tumor suppressor genes/oncogenes and stem cell signaling pathways important for brain cancer stem cell self-renewal and differentiation. She uses mouse models of brain cancer to gain novel insights into fundamental biology of cancer stem cells and uses patient-derived tumor cells and PDX models of GBM and medulloblastoma to validate the clinical relevance of her discoveries.  Her laboratory has shown a critical role of the cell of origin in determining the molecular and cellular phenotypes of cancer stem cells, leading to identification of a novel mechanism of therapy resistance to a targeted therapy.  Her laboratory also identified novel regulators of GBM stem cells and epigenetic mechanisms that confer therapy resistance to glioma cells. At the HMRI/Peak Center, a major focus of her laboratory is to develop new therapies to target brain cancer stem cells and block tumor recurrence.

Kumar Pichumani, PhD
Cancer Metabolic Analysis, Kenneth R. Peak Brain and Pituitary Tumor Treatment Center 
Kumar Pichumani, PhD, is a research scientist and research associate professor at the Neurosurgery Research Laboratory and Houston Methodist Research Institute. Dr. Pichumani is an NMR physicist and has worked in NMR spectroscopy since 1990. He developed new methods using first principles of NMR spin relaxation to increase both resolution and sensitivity so that complex bio macromolecules of larger molecular mass can be studied by NMR Spectroscopy. These research publications were cited by two Nobel Laureates in NMR spectroscopy. 
His most recent research involves investigating in-vivo cancer metabolism using non- radioactive 13C enriched nutrients as infusion substrates (glucose, acetate, fatty acids), studying the fate of these substrates via high-resolution 13C NMR spectroscopy of surgically resected tumor tissues extracts. In a recent article published in CELL, he demonstrated that acetate acts as an alternate energy source for cancer cells in human glioblastoma patients and mouse models. He studied in India, Sweden and the US, gaining a diverse background spanning physics, mathematics, electronics, physical chemistry, NMR, Cancer Metabolism and biophysics.

Research Associate I, Kenneth R. Peak Brain and Pituitary Tumor Treatment Center 
Omkar Ijare, PhD is an analytical chemist trained in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and mass spectrometry (MS) techniques. His research is centered on applying NMR and MS techniques to biomedical problems. Previously he worked on the detection of hepatobiliary and pancreatic malignancies through the analysis of pancreaticobiliary fluids such as bile and pancreatic juice using NMR spectroscopy. He has also worked on the analysis of sputum and exhaled breath condensate to detect lung cancer. At the Kenneth R. Peak Brain and Pituitary Tumor Treatment Center, he is working with Dr. Kumar Pichumani, studying the metabolism of pituitary tumors and gliomas using NMR and MS technologies. He is also interested in developing new diagnostic methods for the early detection of human cancers.

Postdoctoral Fellow, Kenneth R. Peak Brain and Pituitary Tumor Treatment Center 
Sudhir Raghavan, PhD is a postdoctoral fellow who received a doctorate in Medicinal Chemistry from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh and has completed postdoctoral fellowships at Duquesne University and at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. His research areas of interest include developing drugs against cancers and opportunistic infections, deciphering cancer development pathways, drug delivery systems and drug metabolism. At Houston Methodist research Institute, he works with Martyn Sharpe, PhD to develop MAOB activated prodrugs, platinum containing ‘smart drugs’ and delivery systems that target glioblastomas.

Bikesh Kumar Nirala, PhD
Postdoc Research Fellow 1, Kenneth R. Peak Brain and Pituitary Tumor Treatment Cente
Dr. Nirala, obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Microbiology and Masters in Industrial Biotechnology. Afterward, he fascinated towards Biomedical research and obtained his doctoral degree in Biomedical Engineering from IIT Delhi, India in 2015. During his doctorate he worked on diabetes, the main focus of his research was to understand the vascular changes taking place during diabetes. He investigated the interaction of metabolic stress simulated by advanced glycation end products of human serum albumin (AGE-HSA) and disturbed flow simulated by orbital shear stress (OSS) in modulating endothelial cell (EC) function pertaining to vascular health. He is also interested towards natural medicine and he demonstrated the molecular mechanism behind the anti-diabetic activity of S-allyl cysteine sulphoxide (SACSO) or alliin, the main sulfur-containing bioactive constituent of garlic. After his doctorate, he moved to Germany and worked as a postdoctoral fellow with Prof. Michael Sturzl at the University Clinic, Friedrich Alexander University, Erlangen, Germany. During his postdoc tenure, he investigated the role of guanylate binding proteins (GBPs) in age-associated diseases, particularly diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. Nirala’s research areas of interest include vascular biology, aging associated diseases, diabetes, cancer, signal transduction, and protein glycation. He joined the Houston Methodist Research Institute in June 2017 as a postdoc research fellow and working with Kyuson Yun, Ph.D., group. The main focus of his current research is to find out a robust molecular marker and develop new drugs for the Glioblastoma, one of the deadliest brain cancer. He is technically skilled with several biological techniques including animal cell culture techniques (Primary cells and cell lines including endothelial cells, suspension cells, cancer cells and Stem cell), molecular biology techniques, biochemical techniques, immunological techniques, exposing cells to different biomechanical forces, glycation biology and microscopic techniques.

Yaohui Chen, Ph.D. 
Research Associate, Kenneth R. Peak Brain and Pituitary Tumor Treatment Center 
Dr. Yaohui Chen is a research associate who received a doctorate from Fudan University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Chen’s research areas of interest include metabolism, cancer, signal transduction, epigenetics and protein translational modifications. At Houston Methodist, Chen will be working with Dr. Kyuson Yun to focus on signal transduction pathways in cancer stem cells and how the Hippo Pathway regulates immune system in medullablastoma.

Tanvi Kumar, MS
Research Assistant II, Kenneth R. Peak Brain & Pituitary Tumor Treatment Center
Tanvi Kumar graduated with a master’s degree in Biotechnology from the University of Queensland, Australia. Her research focus in grad school was drug pharmacokinetic profiling at a preclinical drug development and testing center where she gained hands on experience in the animal research setting. She joined Houston Methodist Research Institute in 2012 in the diabetes and metabolism animal core group, where she continued to work on animal models and drug treatment studies. In 2013 she joined Kenneth R. Peak Brain & Pituitary Tumor Treatment Center as a Research Assistant II to be a part of an exciting translational research work aimed towards fighting cancer and improving treatment outcomes. Her work with Dr. Baskin & Dr. Sharpe is focused on developing brain tumor and metastasis animal models and use of these models to test various drugs and treatment alternatives to find the most effective method of treating brain tumor. Her laboratory duties include animal model development, tumor injections and transplants, drug administration, tumor growth monitoring and analysis and general welfare of experimental animals as well as other basic science research work.  

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