The Van Haren Lab Research Team

Keith Van Haren, MD

Principal Investigator
Director, Pediatric Neuroimmunology Program
Co-Director, Pediatric Neurogenetics Program

Keith joined the Stanford faculty in 2015 as an Assistant Professor of Neurology. He was born and raised in Michigan, obtained an undergraduate degree in chemistry at the College of the Holy Cross, an MD at the University of Rochester, and clinical training at Harvard and Stanford. As a post-doc in the Stanford labs of Dr Larry Steinman and Bill Robinson, Keith studied the role of autoantibodies in neurologic disorders. He is grateful for the superb clinical and scientific mentorship he received throughout his training; he now thoroughly enjoys helping more young scientists build their careers in translational medicine.

Avni Awani, PhD

Avni did her M.Sc. in Biotechnology at Banasthali University, India and Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Biosciences at the Pennsylvania State University, USA. During her PhD, she studied the effect of perturbed vitamin B3 metabolism on cellular functions. She discovered that nicotinamide, a form of Vit B3, acts as a TRPV channel agonist, thus modulating sensory signaling, behaviors and in some cases eliciting cell death in C. elegans and D. melanogaster. Then, she worked in the Weinacht lab at Stanford University to study the role of mitochondrial metabolism in hematopoietic stem cell differentiation. In July 2019, Avni joined the Van-Haren lab and looks forward to making new discoveries in the field of vitamin D, fatty acid metabolism and demyelinating disorders.

Isha Srivastava, MD, PhD

Post-doc/Clinical fellow

Isha joined the Van Haren lab in the Fall of 2018. She received her B.S. in biology and psychology from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and her MD/PhD from Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia. Her dissertation work in Dr. Peter Crino’s lab investigated mTOR as a novel therapeutic target in an animal model of cerebral palsy. Isha is currently pursuing her residency in child neurology at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. She is excited to join the team and looks forward to exploring the connection between metabolic derangements and neuroinflammation.

Karen Sachs, PhD


Karen Sachs did her PhD at MIT Bioengineering, under the supervision of Douglas Lauffenburger. Her PhD work pioneered the use of single cell data as a rich data source for statistical inference, enabling causal modeling of molecular networks. She then followed the single cell proteomics technology, high dimensional, intracellular flow cytometry, to the lab of Garry Nolan at Stanford University. In her position as post doc, and subsequently as Instructor, she developed methods for causal analysis, data visualization and dimensionality reduction, drug response analysis, and the first error models and normalizing methods for mass cytometry (CyTOF) data, which greatly increased the dimensionality capabilities of single cell proteomics data. While at Stanford she founded a computational biology consulting firm, Next Generation Analytics, with projects in a variety of impact areas in academia and industry. She also serves as Chief Data Scientist at Answer ALS, where the project focus is data integration across a variety of omics technologies, towards the goal of identifying disease subsets and potential causal pathways for ALS. 

Kendrick Shen

Undergraduate intern in bioinformatics

Kendrick ('21) joined the Van Haren lab in January 2018 as a genetics and bioinformatics intern. He is currently pursuing a B.S. in computer science while also studying the biological fields in relation to medicine. In conducting research at the Van Haren lab, he hopes to discover the underlying connections between immunometabolic phenomena and neurodegenerative disease.

Sweta Patnaik

Clinical Research Coordinator

Sweta Patnaik joined the Division of Child Neurology May 2016. She comes with over 13 years of experience working with both pediatric and adult population on various clinical research studies in the departments of Psychiatry, Neurology and Neurosurgery. As a clinical researcher, Sweta enjoys contributing to the advancement of healthcare and working closely with Principal Investigators, sponsors, and clinical research staff who are committed and motivated towards patient care.

 In her spare time, she enjoys spending time outdoors and listening to music.

Fe Gibbons

Research Administrator

Fe Gibbons joined the Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences in August 2015. She is a seasoned administrator with more than twenty-five years of experience managing regulatory compliance, purchasing, payroll, accounting, import/export, and customer support. She attended university in the Philippines, and has worked in the technology, logistics and manufacturing sectors in Asia, Europe and the US. Although she is new to clinical research support, she finds the work she does with the Van Haren lab challenging, meaningful and motivating, and she is thrilled to be part of the team.