17 May 2024

This year’s winner of the LEO Foundation Award in Region Americas, Dr. Shruti Naik, is recognized for her transformative contributions to skin science. Dr. Naik has been awarded USD 100,000 to further advance her pioneering research on skin health and disease.

Dr. Shruti Naik, currently an Associate Professor at the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology and Associate Director of the Colton Center for Autoimmunity at NYU Langone Health, and soon-to-be Associate Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, has been announced as the winner of the LEO Foundation Award 2024 in Region Americas.

She received the award – worth USD 100,000 – in recognition of her exceptional scientific achievements, clear long-term career objectives, and innovative vision for skin research. All of which set her apart and put her on track to becoming a global leader in dermatology.

The LEO Foundation Award aims to advance the understanding and treatment of skin diseases by strengthening the much-needed pipeline of excellent dermatology researchers worldwide. In doing so, it recognizes and encourages promising young talents, such as Dr. Naik, and hopefully provides a boost to their future careers.

Anne-Marie Engel, Chief Scientific Officer at the LEO Foundation, expressed her enthusiasm for the Foundation to be able to support Dr. Naik’s work:

“Dr. Naik is an exceptionally talented basic and translational researcher. Her relentless pursuit of knowledge, commitment to top-tier science, and dedication to outreach and media engagement make her a deserving recipient of the LEO Foundation Award, promising further advancements in our understanding and treatment of skin diseases,” she said.

The award was formally presented during the SID Annual Meeting in Dallas yesterday 16 May 2024 by last year’s Region Americas award winner, William Damsky, on behalf of the LEO Foundation. Upon receiving the LEO Foundation Award, Dr. Naik expressed her gratitude and excitement:

“I am very honored to receive the prestigious LEO Foundation Award, which has an important aim of ensuring a continuous pipeline of future skin science researchers. Receiving the award is a huge endorsement of my systems-based approach to skin science. The award will allow me and my team to take greater risks, with matched rewards in advancing our fundamental understanding of the skin,” Dr. Naik stated.

Journey inspired by a fascination with skin

Before her current roles, Dr. Naik’s career included positions as a Damon Runyon Postdoctoral Fellow at Rockefeller University and Assistant Professor at NYU, following her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and the National Institutes of Health.

“For nearly two decades, the skin has captivated my imagination. My initial exposure to this remarkable organ was when I began working as a research technician focused on advancing wound care in military medical research. This experience sparked my curiosity and inspired me to pursue a PhD to study skin science,” Dr. Naik shared.

Shruti Naik

Associate Professor, Ronald O Perelman Department of Dermatology, NYU Langone Health, New York, USA

July 2024-present: Associate Professor, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY

2023-2024: Associate Professor, NYU Grossman School of Medicine, New York, NY

2018-2023: Assistant Professor, NYU Grossman School of Medicine, New York, NY

2013-2018: Damon Runyon Postdoctoral Fellow, the Rockefeller University, New York, NY

2012: PhD, the University of Pennsylvania and National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland

Listening to the mysterious conversations between cells

Today, Dr. Naik’s research delves into the complex interactions between immune cells, surrounding skin cells, and skin-dwelling microbes to understand the origins and progression of skin diseases. Her lab employs a blend of immunology, microbiology, stem cell biology, and cancer biology with cutting-edge imaging and sequencing technologies to discover new ways of treating inflammatory skin diseases.

“The skin has over 56 different cell types that all work in concert to ensure its function. Instead of focusing on one or two favorite cell types, my lab studies cellular ecosystems in the skin and how they change with disease. We take a technology-forward approach to unravel these fascinating interactions and can eavesdrop on the conversations between cells in different areas of the skin,” Dr. Naik explained.

Notable findings and a strong vision for the future

Among Dr. Naik’s notable findings is the discovery that interleukin-17A, known for its pathogenic role in psoriasis, prompts HIF1 alpha expression in epidermal stem cells, challenging existing beliefs about hypoxia’s role in skin healing.  This insight is part of Dr. Naik’s broader research utilizing cutting-edge technologies like single-cell omics and spatial transcriptomics, which have already led to the creation of the first comprehensive transcriptomics atlas of psoriasis.

When asked about her research vision, Dr. Naik emphasizes how through basic and translational science she hopes to develop therapies that not only halt disease but also restore skin to its pre-diseased healthy state.

“My work explores new frontiers in skin biology and seeks to understand the factors that control skin health and disease. Ultimately, I aim to manipulate immune-tissue crosstalk to develop next-generation precision therapies for inflammatory skin diseases and to heal damaged skin. Through the integration of advanced technologies and interdisciplinary collaboration, my team’s research will significantly enhance both fundamental knowledge about skin biology and our ability to treat and manage inflammatory skin diseases, thereby improving the life of patients worldwide,” Dr. Naik shared.

About the LEO Foundation Award

The LEO Foundation Award – worth USD 100,000 – recognizes outstanding young researchers and scientists from around the world whose work represents an extraordinary contribution to skin research and has the potential to pave the way for new and improved treatments for skin diseases. 

The award is given three times annually, one in each of the three regions: the Americas, EMEA and Asia-Pacific. It is granted in open competition with all award applications being evaluated by an independent and international Global Review Panel. The panel members are appointed annually by their respective dermatology societies in the three regions. 

Learn more about the award