Allison Brashear, Jian Feng and Suzanne G. Laychock, PhD.

Jian Feng, PhD, center, accepts the 2024 Stockton Kimball Award from Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, left, and Suzanne G. Laychock, PhD.

Feng Named 2024 Stockton Kimball Award Winner

By Dirk Hoffman

Published June 6, 2024

Jian Feng, PhD, UB Distinguished Professor of physiology and biophysics, an internationally renowned scientist who has dedicated his life to studying Parkinson’s disease, has received the 2024 Stockton Kimball Award for outstanding scientific achievement and service.

“His exceptional contributions to the field of Parkinson’s disease research have garnered widespread recognition and paved the way for significant advances in understanding and potentially treating this challenging condition. ”
Senior associate dean for faculty affairs

In addition to his long-term research focus on finding the cause and a cure for Parkinson’s disease, he has also contributed to the fields of Alzheimer’s disease and autism research in collaborative investigations.

Feng’s research has centered on elucidating the molecular and cellular mechanisms of Parkinson’s disease using patient-derived neurons.

Exceptional Contributions to Parkinson’s Research

“His exceptional contributions to the field of Parkinson’s disease research have garnered widespread recognition and paved the way for significant advances in understanding and potentially treating this challenging condition,” said Suzanne G. Laychock, PhD, senior associate dean for faculty affairs, in announcing the award.

Feng’s groundbreaking work includes understanding how parkin mutations disrupt the function of dopaminergic neurons in Parkinson’s disease.

“Dr. Feng has become a leader in the use of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) which have allowed him to generate patient-specific human A9 dopaminergic neurons in vitro to study Parkinson’s disease and to uncover the role of parkin in the pathophysiologic molecular mechanisms of the disease,” Laychock said.

Seminal Work Recognized as a Disease Cause

Laychock cited Feng’s “outstanding” publication record, noting his research is highly innovative and has led to seminal findings published in high impact journals. His several patents are evidence for the high degree of innovation that his research involves, she said.

Feng’s seminal work characterized parkin as binding to cellular microtubules in brain cells and suggested that parkin binding may protect neurons from toxins that cause Parkinson’s disease, and identified Parkinson’s disease-linked mutations of parkin that abrogated the protective effect of wild-type parkin and its ability to reduce cell oxidative stress and cell death pathways.

“Dr. Feng’s seminal work on parkin mutations is now widely recognized as a cause of Parkinson’s disease,” Laychock noted.

Feng’s interest also includes developing novel stem cell technologies to generate patient-derived neurons for mechanistic studies of various brain disorders, ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to autism. And, throughout his career he has had robust research collaborations on other neuroscience topics.

“Dr. Feng’s breakthroughs in neuroscience research have had a far-reaching influence,” Laychock said.

His research has been consistently funded over the years to the total of $22 million.

Consistent, Impactful Service to University

Feng has received prestigious accolades for his outstanding achievements, including the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities, and the UB Exceptional Scholars – Sustained Achievement Award.

His reputation as a respected scholar in his field is supported by his many invited international and national presentations and keynotes.

In addition, as an expert in his field, Feng has been called upon to serve his profession as associate editor for six journals and Advisory Board member. In addition, he has provided extensive grant review service on National Institutes of Health Study Sections and Special Emphasis Panels, the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, among many others.

His academic journey includes a doctoral degree in biochemistry from the University of Tennessee and a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry from Nanjing University.

Feng joined the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in 2000, rising through the ranks, culminating in his current role as UB Distinguished Professor.

Feng’s service to UB, the Jacobs School, and his department has been consistent and impactful, Layhock said, noting his contributions as member of faculty mentoring committees, member and chair of one of the school’s ad hoc promotions committees, elected member of the Faculty Senate, and member of numerous search, organizing and steering committees. 

In addition, he has provided service to the public and community through public lectures, patient support group presentations, and as a repeat participant over the years on Capitol Hill Day to visit with local representatives and senators to urge support of biomedical research.

“He has been a valuable colleague and consistent contributor to teaching in our undergraduate and graduate physiology and neuroscience courses,” Laychock said. “In addition, one of Dr. Feng’s strengths in education is his training and mentoring of undergraduate, master’s, doctoral, and postdoctoral trainees in his laboratory.”

“During over 20 years at UB, Dr. Feng has established himself as one of the Jacobs School’s outstanding scholars, valued colleague, and highly respected member of the academy.”

“He fulfills all of the criteria expected of a Stockton Kimball Lecturer — a national and international reputation in his field, evidence of significant research contributions, identification with Buffalo as a substantial portion of his academic accomplishments, evidence of concern for and contributions to the progress of the University at Buffalo and Jacobs School, and exemplification of excellence in its broadest sense.”

Award Named for Former Medical School Dean

Feng was honored May 30 during the Jacobs School’s Faculty and Staff Recognition Awards celebration.

He will deliver the Stockton Kimball Lecture in 2025.

The award and lecture recognize an outstanding scholar and researcher who has also contributed significantly to the university, school and community. It is named in memory of Stockton Kimball, MD ’29, dean of the medical school from 1946 to 1958.