New York, NY (May 7, 2020) — The Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2020 Donald A. King Summer Research Fellowships, a vital program to train the next-generation of scientists with research expertise in Huntington’s disease. Huntington’s disease is a rare, hereditary neurodegenerative disorder currently affecting approximately 41,000 Americans. 

The purpose of this fellowship program is two-fold:  first, to attract the brightest young scientists into the field of Huntington’s disease research and second, to facilitate meaningful HD research to clarify the biological mechanisms underlying HD pathology.  Applicants are evaluated by the quality of their personal academic achievements, mentoring plan, experimental design, and the feasibility of achieving their scientific goals in a short summer timeframe.   

After rigorous review by the HDSA’s Scientific Advisory Board, five young scientists, the most in the history of this program, were awarded 2020 Donald A. King Summer Research Fellowships.

  • Sophia Friedman (Wellesley College) will complete her project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with David Housman, PhD, exploring genes known to alter the onset of HD symptoms.
  • Amber Keith (University of California at Irvine) will be working under the guidance of Sarah Hernandez, PhD, a 2017 HDSA Berman-Topper Career Development Fellowship recipient, in the laboratory of Dr. Leslie Thompson, to develop a model of the blood-brain barrier derived from human cells.
  • Lav Patel (Ohio State University) will spend time in the laboratory of Richard Fishel, PhD, to visualize DNA repair proteins that affect the expansion of CAG repeats.
  • Tasneem Sadok (University of California at Los Angeles) will work with Lindsay DeBiase, PhD, to study how changes in energy production affect the brain’s support cells in areas vulnerable to HD.
  • Kadambari Vyas (University of Central Florida) will be mentored by former HDSA Human Biology Fellow Dr. Amber Southwell and will study aggression in mouse models of HD.

HDSA established the Donald A. King Summer Research Fellowship program in 2005 in honor of Donald King who passed away in 2004.  Don was a tireless advocate for HD families and served as HDSA’s Chairman of the Board from 1999 to 2003. Click here to learn more about HDSA’s Donald A. King Summer Research Fellowship.

Funding for this year’s Don King Fellows was made possible, in part, by a generous gift from Hal and Isabelle Pilskaln.  Funding HD research has been a life-long passion for the Pilskaln’s and HDSA is indebted to them for their support.


Huntington’s disease is a fatal genetic disorder that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. It deteriorates a person’s physical and mental abilities during their prime working years and has no cure. Every child of a parent with HD has a 50/50 chance of carrying the faulty gene. Today, there are approximately 41,000 symptomatic Americans and more than 200,000 at-risk of inheriting the disease.

The symptoms of HD are described as having ALS, Parkinson’s & Alzheimer’s – simultaneously.

The Huntington’s Disease Society of America is the premier nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of everyone affected by HD.  From community services and education to advocacy and research, HDSA is the world’s leader in providing help for today and hope for tomorrow for people with HD and their families.

To learn more about Huntington’s disease and the work of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, visit or call (800)345-HDSA.