About Heading

Our Research

All of our projects depend on the creation and advancement of direct infusion of drugs and therapies into the brain. We have developed a technique in which nanoparticles, including viral vectors and liposomes can be infused directly into brain tumors to give enhanced drug efficacy. For many years, and continuing still, we have been working on development of direct drug delivery into the brain including cell transplantation, gene transfer and growth factor infusions for Parkinson's disease. Through gene therapy, we are working to eliminate the gene responsible for Niemann-Pick (acid sphingomyelinase). By studying the effects of L-Dopa on the brain, we are developing gene therapy for L-Dopa-induced dyskinesia.

The Members Of Our Lab

Krystof Bankiewicz
Krystof Bankiewicz

Krystof Bankiewicz, MD, PhD

Professor of Neurosurgery and Neurology

Dr. Bankiewicz received his MD degree from Jagiellonian University in Crakow and his PhD degree from the Institute of Neurology and Psychiatry in Warsaw, Poland. After his residency and an appointment as Assistant Professor with the Post-graduate Medical Center in Warsaw, he received a Fogarty Fellowship and became a Visiting Fellow and then Visiting Associate Scientist with the Surgical Neurology Branch of the NINDS at the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland. There, he became Chief of the Central Nervous System (CNS) Implantation Unit in 1991. Shortly afterward, he came to California to serve as Chief of Preclinical Studies with the Somatix Therapy Corporation in Alameda; the Director of the Division of CNS Implantation and Regeneration with The Parkinson's Institute in Sunnyvale, and from 1994-1998, a Visiting Scientist with the Laboratory for Functional Imaging of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. From 1997-2001 he returned to the NIH as Acting Chief of the Molecular Therapeutics Section of NINDS. He has been Professor of Neurological Surgery and a Principal Investigator with the Movement Disorders Research Program and the Brain Tumor Research Center at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) since 1998. Dr. Bankiewicz is a inventor of 8 patents, and has published more than 100 peer-reviewed research articles. Dr. Bankiewicz has considerable experience in supervising multi-investigator translational programs. He is a Principal Investigator on several multi-center, multi-investigator grants. He has supervised a total of 25 post-doctoral fellows, and manages a core research group of 20 individuals including technicians, post-doctoral fellows, and a senior scientist. He is currently Professor (In Residence) in the Neurosurgery and Neurology Departments at UCSF (San Francisco, CA). Throughout his career, he has maintained a strong focus on the development of practical approaches to gene and cell replacement therapies, and has displayed a remarkable ability to synthesize several individual technologies into powerful new approaches to the treatment of such serious disease as brain cancer and neurodegenerative disorders of the brain, including Parkinson's disease. Dr. Bankiewicz was instrumental at every stage of the Phase-1 clinical trial for AAV-hAADC gene therapy, now underway at UCSF, in resolving technical and scientific issues with respect to filing an IND application with the FDA, and also in recruiting a clinical team to undertake the clinical trial.
John Forsayeth
John Forsayeth

John Forsayeth, PhD

Adjunct Professor

Dr. John Forsayeth, PhD, was a member of the faculty of the Department of Anesthesia at UCSF from 1994-1996. He then held a number of senior positions in several biotechnology Companies with a neurological focus. He has a significant background in molecular neurobiology and in pre-clinical studies designed to lead to Investigational New Drug applications. He has been a member of the Bankiewicz Group since 2004, and plays a central role in the design of experiments, writing and submission of grants and manuscripts. He is a named inventor on 4 patents, and has published more than 40 peer-reviewed research articles. He plays an important role in the coordination of basic translational research programs focused on neuro-inflammation and the role of the immune system in PD.

Piotr Hadaczek, PhD

Associate Research Scientist and Laboratory Manager

Dr. Piotr Hadaczek, PhD, joined the Department of Neurosurgery at UCSF in September 2001. He previously worked as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Genetics and Pathology of Pomeranian Academy of Medicine in Szczecin, Poland. Since his arrival to UCSF, he has been a key member of the Bankiewicz group, helping both to establish the lab and to introduce many essential methods and research techniques.

Dr. Hadaczek's contributions to the field of gene therapy for the central nervous system are already well recognized. His studies have focused on mechanisms for distributing gene therapy drugs within the brain. He evaluates different strategies that enhance the delivery of therapeutic genes and drugs for the treatment of a wide range of neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson's disease. His research is fundamental for pre-clinical studies and uses non-human primates to serve as the best models for human brain disorders. He has published more than 32 per-reviewed research articles and 3 book chapters.

Dali Yin, MD, PhD

Assistant Research Scientist

Dali got his MD in Henan Medical University, China, and PhD in Kobe University School of Medicine, Japan. He has worked on brain tumor research, and published 36 papers, which are cited more than 300 times. In Dr. Bankiewicz's lab, he investigates delivery of growth factors and cytokines into the brain of animal models of Parkinson's disease and gene transfer approaches for treating Parkinson's disease. He does research to evaluate novel therapeutic approaches for the treatment of brain tumors.

Mark Richardson, MD, PhD

Neurosurgery Resident

Dr. Richardson is a resident in the Department of Neurological Surgery at UCSF and received an MD/PhD from the Medical College of Virginia. His graduate work, funded by a pre-doctoral National Research Service Award (NRSA) from NINDS, explored the isolation of neural progenitor cells from the adult human brain, and focused on the transplantation of adult rodent subventricular zone neural progenitors to the hippocampus and lesioned striatum. Mark joined the Bankiewicz lab to further his training in translational neuroscience aimed at developing restorative neurosurgical therapies. He was awarded a post-doctoral NRSA from NINDS to investigate the role of putamenal AADC expression in L-dopa induced dyskinesia and is also interested in the direct delivery of GDNF to the basal ganglia.
Massimo Fiandaca
Massimo Fiandaca

Massimo Fiandaca, MD, MBA

Assistant Research Scientist

Dr. Massimo Fiandaca is a board-certified neurosurgeon with extensive research experience with non-human primate models of human neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease, having collaborated with colleagues at Emory University, the University of Rochester, University of Illinois, and UCSF. He has extensive clinical experience with stereotactic neurosurgery and radiosurgery, and neurosurgical oncology. Currently in private neurosurgical practice, Dr. Fiandaca was Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center (1988-1991) and the University of Maryland (1991-1993), and has served on the volunteer teaching faculty at both the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins (1993-2000). Dr. Fiandaca attended medical school at the Oregon Health Sciences University, and did his surgical internship and neurosurgical residency at the Emory University affilliated hospitals. Dr. Fiandaca received an MBA from Loyola College in Maryland. Drawn to the leadership in translational research in neurodegenerative diseases and neuro-oncology of the Bankiewicz laboratory and the UCSF Department of Neurosurgery, Dr. Fiandaca hopes to provide experience and perspective in the design and implementation of relevant preclinical studies that will lead to IDE and IND applications and clinical trials.

Adrian Kells, PhD

Postdoctoral Employee

Adrian joined the Bankiewicz Laboratory in 2008 as a Postdoctoral Fellow having obtained his PhD at The University of Auckland, New Zealand following postgraduate research investigating AAV vector delivery for Huntington's Disease. With an interest in translational neuroscience, Adrian is involved in performing IND-enabling research studies and regulatory affairs associated with these lab-to-clinic translational projects.

Xiaomin Su, PhD

Postdoctoral Scholar

Xiaomin earned her bachelor degree in Biological Engineering from the South China University of Technology, Master of Science in Biological Resources Engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2003 and Ph.D in Immunology from the University of Rochester in 2007. Her Ph.D thesis research focused on neuro-inflammation in Parkinsons disease. She joined Dr. Bankiewiczs laboratory in 2008 and works on projects related to gene transfer into the central nervous system, with special emphasis on neurodegenerative diseases.

Ernesto Aguilar Salegio, PhD

Postdoctoral Scholar

Ernesto is a postdoctoral employee with a background in neurosurgery, neuroinflammation and behavioral science. His PhD thesis investigated the effects of inflammation on CNS regeneration following a spinal cord and optic nerve injury. He joined the lab in 2009 and has since been working on surgical procedures to deliver therapeutic vectors to difficult to reach regions of the CNS. Currently, he is conducting work on Lysosomal Storage Disorders as well as in other Parkinson related projects.

Hanna Mirek, PhD

Staff Research Associate

Hanna was born and raised in Poland, where she attended the Wroclaw University of Technology, earning a Masters Degree in civil engineering and graduating with a strong background in mathematics. After realizing it was her calling, she pursued a doctoral study in biochemistry at medical school, also in Wroclaw. She received her PhD right before immigrating to the United States in 1980. In the meanwhile, Hanna was involved in research in physiology and biochemistry in the field of physical therapy at the Academy of Physical Education. It was there that she also taught anatomy and biochemistry. After immigrating to the US, Hanna took time to establish her new life, raise her daughters, and learn English. She started her professional life in the US as a licensed clinical exercise specialist in 1998. In 2002, Hanna joined the UCSF Neurosurgery Department as a Research Associate and became involved in histology, which she enjoys very much. Apart from work, mathematics and fitness are a big part of her life. Her philosophy is "there are no shortcuts".

Phil Pivirotto, B.S.

Research Specialist

Phil is an expert in primate research and has been working with the PI for the last 15 years on projects involving MPTP-treated NHPs. He is responsible for overseeing projects, including logistics of MRI and surgical procedures. He performs clinical assessments and activity monitoring to document gross behavioral changes after gene and nanoparticles administration into the brain.

John Bringas, B.S.

Staff Research Associate

John has been involved in all of the aspects of local brain delivery of therapeutics and neuroimaging experiments for more than 10 years. He is responsible for all aspects of the surgical protocols, including MRI and PET imaging and assisting PI in brain surgeries.

Maria Bartola Mejia

Staff Research Associate

In her career as a histologist, Maria has worked and taught in several settings: hospitals, for-profit laboratories, and universities specializing in several areas of histology. Before coming to work at UCSF, Maria worked 18 years for a private institute performing a wide range of histology techniques on the visual system of the brain and the retina to increase the understanding of normal vision and of eye disorders. Now,she's here working in the Bankiewicz lab and finds the research focus in models of Parkinson's disease and brain tumors undoubtedly one of the best experiences of her histology career. Maria manages histology group.

Yuying Zhai, B.S.

Staff Research Associate

Yuying graduated from the Nursing college, Henan Medical University in China. She has done brain tumor research for three years. She works in Dr. Bankiewicz's lab to do research on Parkinson's disease and brain tumors.

Janine Beyer, B.S.

Staff Research Associate

Originally from Long Island, New York, Janine graduated with a BS in Biochemistry from New York University at Stony Brook in 1994. After graduation she was offered a job in the Neurobiology and Behavior Department at Stony Brook University. Under the guidance of her mentor, Janine worked with experimental models where the lab identified corticotectal neurons in the parietal cortex, and determined whether depth related activity in the intraparietal sulcus is transmitted to the superior colliculus (One of the areas found in the visual pathways of mammals). In 2003 Janine moved to California and was offered a job at a laboratory in UC Berkeley specializing in the hearing pathway of mammals specifically focusing on the connections of the inferior colliculus. Currently Janine is a Staff Research Associate working in an experimental Parkinsonian model and conducting brain tumor experiments in rats. Her hobby outside of the lab is riding her horse in the equestrian sport of Dressage.

Francisco Gimenez

Staff Research Associate

Francisco is an undergraduate studying Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of California at Berkeley. He works on MRI image analysis, predictive flow models for infusions, development of cannula targeting methods, as well as handling general lab IT work.

Bankiewicz Lab Alumni

Jamie Eberling, PhD

Adjunct Associate Professor

Jamie is a Faculty Medical Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and an Associate Adjunct Professor of Neurology at UCSF and UC Davis. Dr. Eberling has been involved in research on neuroimaging of aging and neurodegeneration for more than 15 years. She has expertise in the technical aspects of PET imaging. and contributed to the development of techniques for the kinetic analysis of PET data using various radiotracers. Her recent work uses neuroimaging to monitor gene therapy for Parkinson's disease in both monkeys and humans.

Louisa Johnston, PhD

Senior Postdoctoral Fellow

Louisa graduated with a First Class Bachelor of Science in Psychoogical Sciences from the University of Westminster in London (1999) and received her PhD in Pharmacology following her postgraduate work using the MPTP-treated common marmoset model of Parkinson's Disease in Professor Peter Jenner at King's College London (2004). Dr. Johnston worked at the Parkinson's instutute in Sunnyvale, California for just over two years before joining Dr. Bankiewicz's lab as a senior postdoctoral fellow.

Francisco Valles, B.S.

Junior Specialist

Francisco grew up in Los Angeles where he attended the two schools: Occidental College and California Institute of Technology. He obtained a BA in Biochemistry from Occidental and a Chemical Engineering BS from Caltech. He worked at Genentech for five years: first as a Research Assistant optimizing Phase I processes and then as an Engineer evaluating new manufacturing technology. He is currently attending UCSF Medical school, where he has completed his first year and is postponing his second year to do research with the Bankiewicz Laboratory. He's working on developing a purification protocol for Neurturin and GDNF proteins as well as developing a bioassay to determine their bioactivity. He's also working on developing a predictive fluid flow model of CED infusions.

Vanja Varenika, B.S.

Junior Specialist

Vanja grew up in New York City and came to the West Coast to attend Stanford University. At Stanford he researched the mechanisms involved in the development and maintenance of cellular polarity, focusing on the Septin family of proteins. He graduated in 2006 with a B.S. in Biology and joined the Bankiewicz Laboratory as a Junior Specialist. During his year at the lab,Vanja worked on testing novel therapeutics for the treatment of brain tumors, developing real-time imaging of convection-enhanced delivery, and delivering gene therapy to the brain. He is now attending UCSF School of Medicine and remains involved in the lab. In his current project he is examining the possibility of utilizing thalamocortical projections for the delivery of gene therapy to the cerebral cortex.

Marina Mendiburu-Elicabe, B.S.

Junior Specialist

Marina was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She graduated in biochemistry in the Universidad Autonoma of Madrid. She is currently a PhD student working in the lab in therapies against brain tumors.

Kate Fiandaca, B.S.


Kate is a Graduate of Boston University's School of Management with a B.S. in Business Administration. Drawing from previous management and project coordination experiences, she provides project management support to the lab. Kate has special interests in nonprofit management, entrepreneurial ventures, and health-science technology.

Janine Penticuff

Staff Research Associate

Janine is a San Francisco native. Formerly a machinist and exhibit builder at the Exploratorium, Janine is currently focusing her studies towards neuroscience and is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology with an emphasis in Neurobiology. She joined the Bankiewicz lab in 2007 and provides support in histology, stereology, and Microscope imaging.