The TSC Alliance and the tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) community are mourning the recent loss of Gina Lee, PhD, TSC researcher and Assistant Professor at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine, who died on June 23 after a courageous battle with metastatic cancer.

Gina received her Bachelor of Science and PhD from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology / Seoul National University, the two most prestigious research institutes in South Korea. Her research focused on identifying metabolic biomarkers of TSC tumor kidney disease, RNA signaling and cancer metabolism, as well as developing potential therapies. She received postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School and Weill Cornell Medicine of Cornell University, where she was mentored by John Blenis, PhD.

In 2014, she received a TSC Alliance Postdoctoral Fellowship Award for her project mTORC1-mediated mRNA alternative splicing in tuberous sclerosis and LAM. Most recently, her work on Circulating biomarkers of kidney angiomyolipoma and cysts in tuberous sclerosis complex patients was published in iScience in June 2024. This research was supported in part by a 2023 TSC Biosample Seed Grant Award from the TSC Alliance. Her lab has received funding from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense TSC Research Program, among others. She is a recipient of the prestigious Breakout prize, NIH-NCI career transition award, and Mary Kay Ash cancer research grant.

Gina was heralded as a shining star in the TSC research world.  She was an incredible collaborator, as demonstrated through her work with various TSC Alliance projects. Gina was involved in many preclinical projects and provided insight and guidance as a Steering Committee member on the TSC Preclinical Consortium. She participated on the tumor/pathology working group since the inception of the consortium and volunteered as a grant reviewer on multiple review cycles. Gina and the TSC Alliance worked with Brigham and Women’s University to execute an agreement that allowed her to maintain a colony of Tsc2-het-AJ mice to study the burden of renal cystadenomas in 2021. Her lab uses this colony to test potential therapies to better understand and potentially treat this common TSC manifestation. Maintaining this colony at the Lee lab ensured her researchers – PhD candidates, postdocs, assistants, and other collaborators could have access to this important model.

“What I most enjoyed about Gina was the smile of confidence she had for all her trainees,” says Dean Aguiar, PhD, TSC Alliance Vice President, Translational Research. “Though she was launching her career, she took the time to help others to ensure their success. Her contributions serve as a legacy to her dedication to TSC research and to fostering the next generation of researchers.” In 2023, Joohwan Kim, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Lee’s lab, received a TSC Alliance Postdoctoral Fellowship Award under her mentorship. She was a deeply committed scientist and it was her life-long goal to conquer TSC.

Gina is survived by her husband, Cholsoon Jang, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biological Chemistry at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine.