Skip to main content

Scientific Medical Advisory Committee (SMAC)

Dr. David Assis speaking at a microphone behind a podium with a PSC Partners logo on it

Thank you to all our Scientific/Medical Advisory Committee (SMAC) members

for sharing their time and expertise with us to direct the path of our research program

in order to find new treatments and a cure for PSC.

SMAC Members

David Assis, MD
Photo of Dr. David Assis wearing a blue tie and suit, smiling at the camera

Dr. David Assis is an Assistant Professor of Medicine, Section of Digestive Diseases, Medicine Department at the Yale University School of Medicine. He received his M.D. from Jefferson Medical College followed by internship and residency at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, where he was also Chief Resident. He completed training in gastroenterology and hepatology followed by transplant hepatology fellowships at Yale University. His clinical and research interests are in autoimmune liver diseases. Specifically, he focuses on autoimmune hepatitis and primary sclerosing cholangitis through both clinical work and translational and basic research using patient bio specimens and animal models. He currently holds a NIH K08 career development award focusing on translational approaches to autoimmune hepatitis. Dr. Assis is vice-chair of the Special Interest Group (SIG) on Cholestatic and Biliary Diseases of the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease (AASLD), and is a co-leader of the clinical trials working group of the International PSC Study Group. He also serves on the Connecticut Board of the American Liver Foundation.

Annika Bergquist, MD, PhD
Photo of Dr. Annika Bergquist wearing a brightly colored shirt and smiling at the camera

Dr. Annika Bergquist is a adjunct professor and researcher at Karolinska Institutet Stockholm, Sweden. She received her PhD from the Karolinska Institutet in 2001 with the thesis “Cholangiocarcinoma in PSC”. Dr Bergquist became adjunct professor at the Karolinska Institutet in 2013. Dr Bergquist clinical work is being a consultant in Hepatology at the Karolinska University Hospital seeing mainly patients with PSC before liver transplantation. She is leading the research group of PSC studies at Karolinska University Hospital and is the Chair of the national research network for liver disease (www.swehep.se). The research focus is on clinical studies and biomarkers in PSC.

Dennis Black, MD
Photo of Dr. Dennis Black wearing a white lab coat

Dr. Dennis Black, a pediatric hepatologist, is the James Dustin Buckman Professor of Pediatrics and Professor of Physiology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis. Dr. Black serves as Director of the Children’s Foundation Research Institute of Memphis, as well as Vice President for Research for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and Vice Chair for Research for the Department of Pediatrics. His research and clinical interests are neonatal lipid metabolism and disorders, as well as pediatric liver disease and transplantation with a focus on pediatric PSC. He has received research funding from the NIH, FDA, industry and other sources. He has served as chair/member of several grant review committees, including those for the NIH, American Liver Foundation, NASPGHAN, and the American Heart Association. He served as a member of the Editorial Board of the American Journal of Physiology: GI and Liver Physiology from 2003 to 2009. He was Vice Chair and Chair of the American Gastroenterological Association Council Section on Obesity, Metabolism and Nutrition from 2013 to 2018 and was recipient of the Section’s Research Mentor of the Year Award in 2020. He was awarded the NASPGHAN Gerard Odell Prize for Excellence in Hepatology Research in 2018.

Christopher L. Bowlus, MD (Co-chair)
Photo of Dr. Christopher Bowlus wearing a blue tie, black suit, and smiling at the camera

Dr. Bowlus is the Lena Valente Professor of Medicine and the Chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University of California Davis School of Medicine. He received his medical degree from St. Louis University and completed his post-graduate training in Internal Medicine at the University of California Davis and in Gastroenterology at Yale University before returning to UC Davis as a faculty member in 1998. His research in autoimmune liver diseases includes the first published study of a biologic for the treatment of primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) as well as key studies of the immunopathogenesis of primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). He is a member of the Steering Committees for the International PSC Study Group and Chairs the Consortium for Autoimmune Liver Disease (CALiD), a group which he founded and now includes over 20 active institutions studying PSC. He leads multiple clinical trials has been funded by the NIH, CDC, and industry. Dr. Bowlus is a Fellow of the AASLD, AGA, ACP, and RCPE.

John Eaton, MD
Photo of Dr. John Eaton wearing a red tie, black suit, and smiling at the camera

Dr. John Eaton is an Associate Professor of Medicine and Transplant Hepatologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Eaton completed his internal medicine residency training, Chief Medical residency, Gastroenterology & Hepatology fellowship and an advanced liver transplant fellowship at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Eaton also designed and completed a unique one year training program that enabled him to focus on cholestatic liver diseases and cholangiocarcinoma prior to joining the staff at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Eaton’s clinical efforts are focused on seeing patients with PSC, PBC, and cholangiocarcinoma. His research focuses on clinical trials, advanced imaging studies, and improving our understanding of the natural history of PSC and methods to predict key outcomes.

Bertus Eksteen, PhD, MBChB, FRCP
Photo of Dr. Bertus Eksteen smiling at the camera

Dr. Bertus Eksteen is director of the Calgary PSC clinic at the Aspen Woods Clinic and a transplant hepatologist at the Southern Alberta Transplant Clinic based at the University of Calgary and Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary. He was born in South Africa where he completed his basic medical degree before moving to Birmingham in the UK in 1996 where he completed his training in gastroenterology and transplant hepatology. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London, UK in 2011. He spent 10 years on the Birmingham liver transplant unit before moving to the University of Calgary in 2011. His main interests are liver transplantation and autoimmune liver diseases such as Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC). He runs a dedicated multidisciplinary PSC clinic at the Aspen Woods Clinic which provides state of the art care for patients from southern Alberta, western Saskatchewan and eastern British Columbia. The clinic is closely aligned with his PSC research program which aims to evaluate new medications for PSC in clinical trials, novel imaging of the colon and bile ducts and the genetics of PSC.

Heather Francis, PhD
Photo of Dr. Heather Francis wearing a white lab coat and smiling at the camera

The goal of my laboratory is to investigate synergistic role that cholangiocytes and mast cells during cholestatic liver injury, specifically Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC), cholangiocarcinoma and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). My lab is currently funded by both the NIH and the VA and these studies examine the link between cholangiocytes, mast cells and hepatic stellate cells during liver disease focusing primarily on PSC. In addition, we recently found that using OTC drugs that block histamine receptors (H1HR and H2HR inhibitors) decreases both PSC and cholangiocarcinoma. Further, we are particularly interested in the HDC/histamine/histamine receptor axis and the autocrine (from cholangiocytes) and paracrine (mast cells) role this axis plays in PSC, cholangiocarcinoma and NAFLD. Using genetic knockout mice, we have demonstrated that loss of HDC and/or loss of mast cell activation ameliorates liver damage including biliary hyperplasia and hepatic fibrosis that are send during PSC. Our recent studies have demonstrated that there is a synergistic relationship between cholangiocytes and mast cells and damaged, senescent cholangiocytes may be the cause for mast cell infiltration during liver damage. Our studies are clinically relevant since mast cells are found surrounding bile ducts and are activated during liver damage. In addition, we have shown that histamine levels are increased in patients with PSC, cholangiocarcinoma, NAFLD, NASH and end-stage liver disease. We are aiming to fully exploit the role of mast cells during liver disease progression using a number of approaches including genetic models and pharmaceutical targeting. Our goal includes defining molecular targets that might be translated into therapeutic options for patients suffering from liver disease.

Richard Green, MD (Co-chair)
Photo of Dr. Richard Green smiling at the camera

Dr. Richard Green is a Professor of Medicine in the Section of Hepatology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. He graduated with an undergraduate degree from Duke University and subsequently graduated from the Duke University Medical School with a degree in Medicine. He undertook his Internal Medicine training at Northwestern University, where he also served as the Chief Medical Resident. His Gastroenterology and Hepatology Fellowship training was at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA. Prior to working at Northwestern, he served as an Instructor of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and as an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

Dr. Green has been actively involved in clinical, translational and basic science investigations of cholestatic liver disease and fatty liver disorders. His current research efforts focus on the unfolded protein response (UPR) in the pathogenesis of cholestatic and fatty liver diseases. He is applying UPR-based approaches to develop novel therapies for PSC and other cholestatic diseases. He is the former Chair of the Cholestatic Liver Disorders Special Interest Group (SIG) of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD), and the former Chair of the Liver-Biliary Council of the American Gastroenterological Association. He also served as an Associate Editor for the journal Hepatology from 2001-2006 and from 2016-2021. He has authored over 100 original articles, book chapters and reviews on a wide range of hepatic disorders.

Denise M. Harnois, D.O.
Photo of Denise M. Harnois wearing a black turtleneck sweater and a red jacket. She is smiling at the camera.

Dr. Denise Harnois received her medical degree from the medical school at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, and then received Internal Medicine training at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. After completing a fellowship in Hepatology and Transplant Medicine at Mayo Clinic, she joined the staff at Mayo Clinic Florida in 1998. Dr. Harnois is board certified in Transplant Hepatology and Gastroenterology and focuses her interest in the areas of cholestatic liver diseases (including primary sclerosing cholangitis) and hepatobiliary malignancies. She has been a well-recognized resource for patients and physicians in her region through her efforts in outreach and academic work in these areas.

Gideon Hirschfield, MA(Oxon), MB, BChir (Cantab), FRCP, PhD
Photo of Dr. Gideon Hirschfield wearing a white lab coat and a red tie

Dr. Gideon Hirschfield is the inaugural Lily and Terry Horner Chair in Autoimmune Liver Disease Research at the Toronto Centre for Liver Disease, Toronto General Hospital and Professor of Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology at the University of Toronto. As a clinician-scientist, Dr. Hirschfield manages a broad platform of translational and trials based clinical science with the goal of advancing therapies for patients with inflammatory liver disease that prevent the need for transplantation. Dr. Hirschfield graduated from the Universities of Oxford (1994) and Cambridge (1996) and was awarded a PhD from the University of London (2006). Prior to holding his current position, he was Professor of Autoimmune Liver Disease at the University of Birmingham, and Transplant Hepatologist at University Hospitals Birmingham, UK, where he led services for autoimmune liver disease, pregnancy-associated liver disease, and Wilson disease.

Johannes R. Hov, MD
Photo of Dr. Johannes Hov wearing a white lab coat

Dr. Johannes R. Hov is professor of gastroenterology and senior consultant at Department of Transplantation Medicine, Oslo University Hospital (Rikshospitalet) and University of Oslo. He received his MD from University of Oslo 2003 and a PhD on the genetics of PSC in 2011. Hov is leading the research group entitled  Genomics and Metagenomics in Inflammatory Diseases. The main focus is the role of gut microbiota in PSC and how it can be utilized clinically. He is currently holding an ERC Starting Grant awarded to the project "StopAutoimmunity" and he is actively promoting clinical applications of microbiota medicine as a leader of a strategic research area on this topic at the hospital. 

Dr. Hov photo credit: Oystein Horgmo, University of Oslo

Josh Korzenik, MD

Photo of Dr. Josh Korzenik wearing a tie, smiling at the camera

Dr. Joshua R. Korzenik is the director of the Resnek Family Center for Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis Research as well as Brigham and Women’s Hospital Crohn’s and Colitis Center and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. He was an undergraduate at Harvard University before receiving his M.D. from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1987. He completed internship and residency at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. After a period involved in clinical research in India, he completed his fellowship at Yale School of Medicine where he remained on faculty before going to Washington University in St. Louis in 1997.  He directed the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at Washington University in St Louis before coming to Massachusetts General Hospital where he co-directed the MGH IBD Center for a decade. He then moved to BWH to develop the BWH Crohn’s and Colitis, the leading IBD Center in New England and the Resnek Family Center for PSC Research. He directs an extensive research program including clinical, epidemiologic and translational research focused on the microbiome and immunology to improve our understanding of the pathophysiology of PSC in order to develop and test better, innovative therapies.

Cynthia Levy, MD
Photo of Dr. Cynthia Levy wearing a red dress, black jacket and smiling at the camera

Dr. Cynthia Levy is a Professor of Medicine, board-certified in Gastroenterology (recertified in 2016) and Transplant Hepatology (certified in 2012). Dr. Levy is the Associate Director of the Schiff Center for Liver Diseases and was awarded the Arthur Hertz Endowed Chair in Liver Diseases.

Dr. Levy’s clinical research program focuses on cholestatic and autoimmune liver diseases, with emphasis on clinical trial design and conduct. She is a member of the steering committee for the International Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis Study group (IPSCSG) and serves as the Chair for the TARGET-Primary Biliary Cholangitis (PBC) national registry. Dr. Levy currently serves as a member of the Practice Guidelines Committee for the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD). She co-authored the new AASLD Practice Guidance document for PBC, is a member of the writing group for the EASL PSC guidance document, and has published over 120 original articles, reviews and editorials, in addition to book chapters. Dr Levy is also a site-PI for the NIH Porphyrias Consortium and a founding member of the APEX (American Porphyria Experts Collaborative).

Previously, Dr. Levy served as an Assistant Professor of Medicine with the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at the University of Florida and the Malcolm Randall VAMC in Gainesville, FL. She was the Program Director for Transplant Hepatology Fellowship at University of Miami between 2012 and 2019.

Dr. Levy received her M.D. from Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). She completed house staff training both at her home University and subsequently at University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital, in Miami, FL. Dr. Levy completed her 3-year Gastroenterology Fellowship at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and a 1-year Transplant Hepatology Fellowship at University of Florida, in Gainesville, FL.

Cara Mack, MD
Photo of Dr. Cara Mack wearing a black jacket, smiling at the camera

Dr. Cara Mack is a Professor of Pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Division Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition at Children’s Wisconsin. As a physician scientist, she has focused her basic science research studies on immune-mediated liver diseases, with a vested effort on deciphering the role of the immune system in the pathogenesis of biliary atresia (BA). Her clinical research efforts include clinical and translational studies pertaining to diagnosis and outcomes in BA and other pediatric liver diseases, including primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), through the NIH-funded Childhood Liver Disease Research Network (ChiLDReN). She is the Chair of the ChiLDReN PSC Working Group aimed at creating 2 studies, an observational study and a treatment trial. The overarching goal of her research endeavors is to utilize her immunology expertise to explore mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis and treatment of immune-mediated pediatric biliary and liver diseases.

Stephen Miller, MD
Photo of Dr. Stephen Miller wearing an olive-colored shirt

Dr. Stephen Miller received an MD degree from the University of The Witwatersrand in South Africa. He completed his post-graduate training at Northwestern University, Chicago and is board-certified in Internal Medicine. He also completed a fellowship in Clinical Pharmacology at the Chicago Medical School. He served as an Attending Physician at the VA Hospital, North Chicago, and was an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine and Pharmacology at the Chicago Medical School.

Dr. Miller was then appointed Executive Director, R&D, at GD Searle in Chicago, IL. He led the development of several drugs, including celexocib (Celebrex™), misoprostol (Cytotec™) and spironolactone (Aldactone™). He then co-founded and served as the Chief Medical Officer of Atlantic Pharmaceuticals, a publicly traded biotechnology company. He developed programs focused on gene therapy, synthetic cannabinoids, anti-restenosis drugs, vascular stents and ophthalmic surgical devices. Atlantic was acquired in 2000. Dr. Miller then relocated to San Diego where he continues to work in biotechnology and clinical medicine.

He was diagnosed with PSC in 2009 and received a liver transplant in 2014.

Ruth-Anne Pai, PhD

Dr. Ruth-Anne Pai is the Director of Research Strategy at PSC Partners Seeking a Cure. She was an undergraduate at Cornell University before receiving her PhD in Immunology from the University of Pennsylvania. During her PhD thesis, Ruth-Anne led efforts to identify and repurpose drugs to treat Castleman disease through her work with the Castleman Disease Collaborative Network. Now she is a member of the International Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis Study Group (IPSCSG) and is honored to have the privilege of presenting research findings driven by the PSC patient community at international scientific conferences. At PSC Partners, Ruth-Anne focuses on all areas of basic, translational, and clinical research needed to identify therapeutic targets and propel drug development forward. Her work includes leading the development of a PSC Partners Strategic Research Plan (SRP) and the establishment of an international collaborative research network (ICRN) for PSC. Through this work, Ruth-Anne provides a channel for PSC patients to prioritize and drive forward the most important research projects towards treatments and a cure for PSC.

Cyriel Ponsioen, Prof., MD, PhD
Photo of Dr. Cyriel Ponsioen wearing a white lab coat

Dr. Cyriel Ponsioen was trained as Internist at the Free University Medical Center in Amsterdam from 1989 to 1995. Thereafter he trained as gastroenterologist at the Academic Medical Center (AMC) in Amsterdam from 1995 till 1998. In 2000 he defended his doctoral thesis on Etiological and Clinical Studies in Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis. From 2000-2006 he worked as consultant gastroenterologist in a large teaching hospital. In 2007 he was appointed senior staff member at the Department of Gastroenterology & Hepatology at the AMC. The focus of his clinical as well as research activities lie in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). The former mainly focuses on microbiota research in IBD. As for PSC, he has built up a research line in epidemiology, disease course, and biomarkers, and he leads a research line looking into the relationship between the gut and the biliary tree. He is currently PI of 4 international research projects in PSC including the DILSTENT trial, a randomized trial comparing balloon dilatation versus short-term stenting for dominant strictures in PSC. Within the international PSC Study Group he currently chairs the Clinical Working Group.

Complete your profile and join PSC Partners Seeking a Cure in advancing PSC research towards a cure.