News Release

Cedars-Sinai Cancer appoints new biobank director

Karine Sargsyan, MD, to further develop institution’s cancer biobank; she formerly led one of the world’s largest clinical biobanks

Grant and Award Announcement

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Karine Sargsyan, MD

image: Karine Sargsyan, MD view more 

Credit: Cedars-Sinai

Cedars-Sinai Cancer welcomes Karine Sargsyan, MD, formerly director of one of the world’s largest clinical biobanks, as scientific director of its OncoBiobank. Sargsyan is charged with leading biobank development and creating new strategies for the optimal deployment and use of the Cedars-Sinai Cancer Molecular Twin Precision Oncology Platform for both research and clinical practice. She will work collaboratively with Nicholas Tatonetti, PhD, associate director of Computational Oncology, on the latter project. She also will lead specific aspects of cancer research project protocol development, including overseeing biospecimen procurement, processing and storage, as well as distribution to investigators.

“Cancer is a huge part of our health system at Cedars-Sinai,” Sargsyan said. “Cancer research has its own specific needs, which the cancer biobank is there to address. It’s exciting to continue elevating the status and quality of Cedars-Sinai Cancer research, and it’s a pleasure to know that we’re all working together toward that common goal.”  

The biobank exists to meet the needs of researchers at Cedars-Sinai Cancer working to develop new diagnostics and novel treatments. It currently houses some 60,000 blood, tissue and fluid samples collected with consent from patients undergoing clinical testing, surgeries and procedures.

“Dr. Sargsyan is precisely the leader that Cedars-Sinai Cancer needs as we further develop research programs that require use of human biospecimens,” said Dan Theodorescu, MD, PhD, director of Cedars-Sinai Cancer and the PHASE ONE Distinguished Chair. “We were very fortunate to recruit her, as she is highly regarded for her past work, and we look forward to taking our biobank to the next level in order to usher in new advancements and breakthroughs in cancer research and precision oncology.”

Prior to joining Cedars-Sinai, Sargsyan was managing director of Biobank Graz and International Biobanking and Education for Research and International Affairs at the Medical University of Graz in Austria for 12 years. Biobank Graz is one of the largest, most used and productive clinical biobanks in the world, housing approximately 20 million individual specimens and used in approximately 300 research projects each year.

“Dr. Sargsyan is an innovator who brings extraordinary expertise in building a high-quality, diverse cancer biobank collection as well as making it widely available to help break down research silos,” said Robert Figlin, MD, deputy director of Cedars-Sinai Cancer and the Steven Spielberg Family Chair in Hematology-Oncology. “We’re excited to have her on board.”

Sargsyan also served as head of social and biotech innovation at the National Center for Innovation for the Ministry of Economics, Armenian Government. Additionally, she was expert for Education, Science Management and Development and a consultant at the Ministry of Health for the Armenian Government.

Sargsyan earned a degree in medicine from Yerevan State Medical University in Armenia and completed her specialization in general pediatrics from Republican Children’s Clinical Hospital in Armenia. She completed postgraduate work in practical psychology from Yerevan State University in Armenia.

As a child, Sargsyan said, she dreamed of having a job in which she could “cure all the kids.” While she did grow up to become a pediatrician, she became especially driven by the idea that with a career in innovative research, she could help treat more patients and potentially save far more lives. After moving into the scientific research field, Sargsyan developed an interest in culling data and samples, as well as educating institutions in how to develop a strong biobank.

Now, she looks forward to contributing in the same way at Cedars-Sinai Cancer.

“Research results rely on high-quality specimens and data, so my vision is to build the highest-possible- quality data bank at Cedars-Sinai Cancer, with the most diverse biospecimen collection in the world, facilitated by collaboration with the Community Outreach and Engagement (COE) team of the cancer center,” Sargsyan said.

Sargsyan will join COE’s efforts to include the Armenian community in research, as the cancer center catchment area has the world’s second-largest Armenian community outside of Armenia.

“We are excited to see Dr. Sargsyan’s vision for our cancer biobank come to life,” said Jeffrey Golden, MD, vice dean of Research and Graduate Education and director of the Burns and Allen Research Institute at Cedars-Sinai. “She is already hard at work, laying the groundwork for providing a diversity of samples to researchers at Cedars-Sinai and beyond to find cures for cancer in all communities.”

Sargsyan has given more than 80 lectures and keynotes in scientific meetings on biobanking and biomolecular research throughout her career. She has received numerous fellowships and awards, and her research has been published in more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, books and articles. She is a member of numerous scientific societies, including the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories, the Austrian Society of Epidemiology, and the European, Middle Eastern & African Society for Biopreservation and Biobanking.

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