Shruti Naik

2018 Regional Award Winner — Post-Doc

Shruti Naik

Current Position:
Assistant Professor

NYU School of Medicine (previously at The Rockefeller University)

Immunology & Microbiology

Recognized for: Demonstrating that skin stem cells retain a “memory” of previous inflammatory experiences, allowing for a more robust and rapid response to subsequent injury.

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise: Immunology, Stem cell biology, Host-microbe interactions, Regeneration, Microbiome

Shruti Naik


PhD, University of Pennsylvania and National Institute of Health
BS, University of Maryland

Dr. Naik’s groundbreaking work uncovered a new property of skin stem cells that explains how our largest and most vulnerable organ—the skin—responds to and remembers injuries and inflammatory stimuli such as injury or exposure to skin irritants. The skin is the body’s primary barrier to the outside world and it is critical to our survival that it remains intact. Skin tissue is sustained by pools of long-living epithelial stem cells, and Dr. Naik discovered that exposure of these stem cells to noxious stimuli induces an inflammatory “memory” that alters stem cells’ genetic landscape and makes them respond more quickly and robustly to a subsequent insult—a property previously thought to be restricted to cells of the immune system. Further, Dr. Naik unveiled the underlying molecular mechanism, finding that exposure to inflammation increases the accessibility of the cell’s DNA in regions that are associated with stress responses. In turn, these “poised” stem cells more quickly trigger inflammatory gene expression after a second injury. This response can be beneficial, as pre-inflamed skin heals faster after wounding, but when gone awry also may explain the development and reoccurrence of inflammatory skin diseases such as psoriasis or predispositions to skin cancers. Dr. Naik’s discovery that skin stem cells can be sensitized to inflammation may aid the development of better treatment strategies for a variety of skin conditions.

"The tug of war between nature and nurture - our genes and environment - has inspired my work. While the vast majority of biomedical research has focused on our genes, I am drawn to the role of the environment in dictating our fate. By systematically studying how our experiences shape cellular and molecular physiology, I aim to find molecular biomarkers of environmental traumas to use as predictive strategies and to leverage for their therapeutic potential."

Key Publications:

  1. S. Naik. The healing power of painful memoriesScience, 2018

  2. S. Naik, S.B. Larsen, N.C. Gomez, K. Alaverdyan, A. Sendoel, S. Yuan, L. Polak, A. Kulukian, S. Chai, E. Fuchs. Inflammatory memory sensitizes skin epithelial stem cells to tissue damageNature, 2017.

  3. S. Naik, N. Bouladoux, J.L. Linehan, S.J. Han, O.J. Harrison, C. Wilhelm, S. Conlan, S. Himmelfarb, A.L. Byrd, C. Deming, M. Quinones, J.M. Brenchley, H.H. Kong, R. Tussiwand, K.M. Murphy, M. Merad, J.A. Segre, Y. Belkaid. Commensal-dendritic-cell interaction specifies a unique protective skin immune signatureNature, 2015

  4. S. Naik, N. Bouladoux, C. Wilhelm, M.J. Molloy, R. Salcedo, W. Kastenmuller, C. Deming, M. Quinones, L. Koo, S. Conlan, S. Spencer, J.A. Hall, A. Dzutsev, H. Kong, D.J. Campbell, G. Trinchieri, J.A. Segre, Y. Belkaid. Compartmentalized control of skin immunity by resident commensalsScience, 2012

Other Honors:

2018 Tri-Institution Breakout Award
2018 Finalist, Sartorius and Science Prize for Regenerative Medicine and Cell Therapy
2018 Damon Runyon Dale F. Frey Award for Breakthrough Scientists, Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation
NIAD K22 Career Transition Award (2017)
2016 L’Oréal USA For Women in Science Fellowship, L’Oréal USA
2015 Regeneron Prize for Creative Innovation, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
2014 Future of Science Fund Scholarship, Keystone Symposia
2014 Damon Runyon Fellowship Award, Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation
2013 Best Paper Award 2012, National Institutes of Health Cytokine Interest Group
2011, 2012 Fellows Award for Research Excellence, National Institutes of Health
2012 Women Scientists Advisor Scholar Award, National Institutes of Health

In the Media:

Nature - Turning Point: Microbe Detective

NPR - Inspiring Women Scientists - Shruti Naik, PhD


AAAS - Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation grants fellowship, breakthrough scientist awards

SCIENTISTA - Dr. Shruti Naik:  Discovery, Disease, and the Empowerment of Women Scientists

Youtube - Inspiring Female Scientist: Immunologist Shruti Naik

The Scientist - Skin “Remembers” Wounds, Heals Faster the Second Time Around

DAMON RUNYON Cancer RESEARCH Foundation - Meet Our Scientists: Shruti Naik

Sartorius – Exceptional Scientists Wanted; Finalist 2017 - Shruti Naik, PhD

Damon Runyon Blog – Gone Girl, Shruti Naik, PhD Damon Runyon Fellow, Rockefeller University