Current Fellows

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Get to know our current fellows, and learn how IOTF is helping them achieve their professional goals in oncology product research and regulatory review.

Ekaterina Allen, Ph.D.

The IOTF fellowship is a top notch opportunity for regulatory training and I greatly enjoy the collaborative and diverse nature of a reviewer’s work as well as the environment at the FDA.

Dr. Allen received her Master’s degree in Medical Science from Novosibirsk State University in Novosibirsk, Russia, and her Doctoral degree in Pharmacology from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She conducted 2½ years of post-doctoral training at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Frederick, Maryland. Dr. Allen joined the NCI-FDA Interagency Oncology Task Force Fellowship in September 2015 as a product quality research/review fellow.

Research Interests

Cell signaling pathways and role of protein-protein interactions in heath and disease have been a long standing interest of Dr. Allen. Since starting her research career in 2004 she investigated molecular mechanisms of cardiovascular and neurological disease as well as cancer. The focus of her graduate research was on RGS proteins and their role in regulation of G protein signaling pathways critical for motor control, addiction and drug abuse, heart rate and its variability. As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Allen studied cancer microenvironment and angiogenesis. She identified an orphan G protein coupled receptor, GPR124, as a Wnt7-specific coactivator of canonical β-catenin signaling crucial for angiogenesis in embryonic brain. Dr. Allen’s research during her IOTF fellowship is focused on identification of Hepatitis C virus mutations responsible for the disease chronicity and the role of such mutations in control of viral replication.

Fellowship Experiences

"The IOTF fellowship is a top notch opportunity for regulatory training and I greatly enjoy the collaborative and diverse nature of a reviewer’s work as well as the environment at the FDA. Not only has this experience expanded my knowledge of current regulations of drug development and licensure, but it has given me an understanding of how submissions are evaluated by the FDA and allowed to access a wealth of institutional knowledge, which would not be possible outside of the agency. The training opportunities in this fellowship are abound and I have learned a lot from attending regulatory conferences and formal courses offered at FDA, as well as through interactions with experienced reviewers from all disciplines. In addition to performing CMC review, I was able to join a senior product reviewer on a manufacturing facility inspection, which has definitely enhanced my fellowship experience."

Career Goals

"It is my first-hand experience at the agency that made me want to pursue a career of a full time product quality reviewer at the FDA, with advancement into a management position as a five year goal. That being said, I believe that the IOTF experience prepares fellows well for a transition into regulatory affairs in pharmaceutical industry or a consulting firm."


Aysegul Ergen, M.S., Ph.D.

I have gained invaluable experience in the review process; participitated in regulatory meetings, working groups and attended FDA courses.

Dr. Ergen received her Master’s degree in Biological Sciences and Bioengineering from Sabanci University, Istanbul, Turkey, and her Doctoral degree in Developmental Biology from Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas. She conducted three and half years of post-doctoral training at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) on the campus of the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland. Dr. Ergen joined the NCI-FDA Interagency Oncology Task Force Fellowship in September 2015 as a product quality research/review fellow.

Research Interests

Dr. Ergen’s overall research interest is centered on identification of cancer stem cells and characterizations of new therapeutic targets using pre-clinical cancer models. Her graduate studies focused on identification of biomarkers that are elevated in the aged bone marrow and tested whether these biomarkers have an effect on hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) aging. As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Ergen studied the effect of DNA repair proteins on leukemia progression and investigated the role of Mixed Lineage Leukemia 4 (MLL4) in normal HSCs as well as cancer stem cells. Dr. Ergen’s postdoctoral studies also focused on identifying new therapeutic targets for treatment of acute myeloid leukemia. As an IOTF fellow, her current research focuses on how different manufacturing methods affect the genomic integrity of cultured human mesenchymal stromal cells (hMSCs), an important issue in the approval of safe and stable cell therapy products.

Fellowship Experiences

"The IOTF fellowship has allowed me to advance my knowledge on stem cells and their usage as cell and gene therapy products. It gave me a better understanding of what it takes for production and characterization of a biologics from its discovery into clinical trials and ultimately licensure. I have gained invaluable experience in the review process; participitated in regulatory meetings, working groups and attended FDA courses. My experience through IOTF fellowship will definitely assist me to become a qualified candidate for a career in regulatory sciences."

Career Goals

"After completion of my IOTF fellowship, I plan to pursue a career at the FDA as a full-time product quality reviewer. My long term goal is to either continue to work at the FDA in a supervisory role or transition into industry to support regulatory sciences and proper drug development process."


Sandhya Sanduja, Ph.D.

I feel that this experience will help me reach my long-term goal of advancing regulatory science for safe and effective oncology drug products.

Dr. Sanduja received her Master’s degree in Biotechnology from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, and her Doctoral degree in Biological Sciences from University of South Carolina at Columbia, South Carolina. She conducted three years of post-doctoral training at the Whitehead Institute of MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Dr. Sanduja joined the NCI-NIH-FDA Interagency Oncology Task Force Fellowship in October 2015 as a product quality research/review fellow.

Research Interests

Dr. Sanduja’s overall research interest is centered on understanding cancer signal transduction pathways and identifying novel targets for early detection and therapeutic intervention.

Dr. Sanduja’s doctoral research focused on investigating the role of the RNA-binding protein, Tristetraprolin (TTP), in inflammation and tumorigenesis. Her research revealed how expression and activity of TTP impact tumor-associated gene expression and malignancy in cervical, colon and breast cancers, and can serve as a prognostic biomarker.

Dr. Sanduja’s postdoctoral research focused on investigating drug-tolerance in cellular and preclinical models of BRAF-mutant melanomas. Using genome-wide RNAi and proteomics-based approaches, she discovered that autophagy is a key mechanism of drug tolerance in melanomas and other Ras/Raf-driven cancers. In addition, she worked on multiple collaborations including the ER-stress pathway in breast cancer stem cells; novel regulators of human mammary stem cell differentiation, and breast cancer metastasis.

Fellowship Experiences

"The IOTF fellowship has been an invaluable training experience to understand the process of drug development. It allowed me to utilize my oncology research experience in assessing the safety and efficacy of products during pre-clinical and clinical phases of development. My work has been hugely facilitated through intramural FDA training/courses, attending national regulatory conferences, and interacting with experienced product quality reviewers across the various FDA centers. I feel that this experience will help me reach my long-term goal of advancing regulatory science for safe and effective oncology drug products."

Career Goals

“Upon completion of the IOTF fellowship, I plan to pursue a career with FDA as a full-time product quality reviewer of oncology products including biologics and small molecules. As my regulatory experience expands, I would like to take on more challenging supervisory roles of Review Team Leader at the FDA or Regulatory Affairs Lead with pharmaceutical industry. Overall, it would be most gratifying to have a positive impact on human health by ensuring safe and effective therapeutics from bench-to-bedside and reducing the burden of devastating illnesses.”


Nailing Zhang, Ph.D.

The IOTF fellowship is a top notch opportunity for regulatory training and I greatly enjoy the collaborative and diverse nature of a reviewer’s work as well as the environment at the FDA.

Dr. Zhang received her Ph.D. in the Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology Program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She conducted four years of post-doctoral training in the Mouse Cancer Genetics Program at National Cancer Institute. Dr. Zhang joined the NCI-FDA Interagency Oncology Task Force Fellowship in October 2015 as a product quality research/review fellow.

Research Interests

Dr. Zhang's research interest is to understand molecular mechanisms that underlie cancer development. Her graduate studies focused on dissecting the roles of Hippo tumor suppressor pathway in tissue homeostasis and tumorigenesis. As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Zhang studied mechanisms of human glioblastoma and performed RNAi screening to identify new therapeutic targets for glioblastoma using pre-clinical cancer models. As an IOTF fellow, her current research focuses on the crosstalk between Wnt and EGFR signaling in the context of both normal development and cancer.

Fellowship Experiences

"The IOTF fellowship program has provided me the exact training I desire to build up a skill set for bridging cutting-edge cancer research and research-related regulatory review. It helps me to gain insights from the perspective of regulatory review and learn how to integrate regulatory requirements into early stages of cancer research, which will guide the development of medical product and help ensure a smooth and speedy delivery of safe and effective treatments from research to patients."

Career Goals

"My long term career goal is to help with the bench-to-bedside development of effective therapeutics for human diseases. Obtaining trainings from the IOTF program is a critical step toward that goal. Upon completion of the fellowship, I plan to pursue a career in FDA as a product quality reviewer of biologics or small molecules, and contribute to the protection of public health by ensuring drug safety and efficacy."

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