Longo Lab Members

Frank M. Longo, MD, PhD
George E. and Lucy Becker Professor in Medicine
Professor of Neurology & Neurological Sciences

Dr. Longo is chair of the Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, the George E. and Lucy Becker Professor of Medicine, and director of the Stanford Alzheimer’s Translational Research Center. His clinical interest include Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.  His research team is developing new drugs that are focused on the modulation of fundamental cell signaling pathways that are involved in neurodegeneration. These pathways can be regulated by known protein growth factors but such proteins cannot be used as drugs. Dr. Longo’s team has pioneered the development of the first small molecule, drug-type compounds that can mimic key parts of growth factor proteins and achieve their potent effects on preventing or reversing degeneration. Work in Alzheimer’s mice has been extremely promising and efforts are now underway to bring the first of these compounds to human trials.

Kevin Tran, BS
Life Science Research Assistant/Lab Manager

A bay area native, Kevin Tran did his undergraduate work studying biotechnology at UC Davis. He started his career working in a start-up medical device company and joined the Longo Lab in 2011. He is currently studying the effects of small molecule ligands in Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and peripheral nerve disorders. His plan for the future is to apply his years of research experience in both industry and academia and pursue medicine.

Tao Yang, PhD
Senior Research Scientist

Tao Yang received her PhD from Beijing Medical University, now Peking University Health Science Center. For a considerable portion of her career, she has been working in the lab, and contributing to important research to find cures for neurological diseases. She screened and characterized small molecule ligands for neurotrophin receptors, discovered small molecules that promoted neuronal survival, neurite outgrowth, and differentiation of human stem cells into neurons in vitro. She further discovered significant therapeutic properties of those small molecules that prevented neuronal degeneration, dendrites dystrophy and spine loss in both diseases of in vitro cell models and in vivo animal models. The overall theme of her current research concentrates on studying the roles and mechanisms of small molecules in neuronal networks, synaptic functions, neural stem cells and neurodegenerative diseases which include Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease. Her ultimate goal is to develop better small molecules to treat or prevent these diseases.


Danielle Simmons, PhD
Senior Research Scientist

Danielle Simmons received her PhD in Neuroscience at the University of California, Irvine, where she also conducted her post-doctoral studies on the role of neurotrophin receptor signaling and neuroinflammation in Huntington’s Disease (HD). She joined Dr. Frank Longo’s laboratory in 2008, where her research has focused on identifying mechanisms underlying HD and Alzheimer’s disease and developing small molecule therapeutic strategies to target these mechanisms. Dr. Simmons has been assessing the therapeutic effects of small molecule neurotrophin receptor ligands that were developed in the Longo laboratory against neurodegeneration in multiple mouse models of HD.  Through this work she has identified HD-related deficits in signaling via the neurotrophin receptors, p75, TrkB and TrkC and that found that normalizing this signaling ameliorates HD phenotypes. Currently, she is investigating the role of the p75 neurotrophin receptor in HD and neuroinflammation. Her ultimate goal is to develop effective strategies for treating and/or preventing HD and AD-associated neurodegeneration and monitoring the efficacy of potential therapeutics for these diseases by identifying mouse-to-human translatable biomarkers.

Amira Latif-Hernandez, PhD
Post Doctoral Researcher

Amira has obtained her PhD in Neuroscience from the KU Leuven, Belgium, in the summer 2017. During her doctoral studies she used innovative and clinically valid tests of murine cognition, neuronal plasticity measures in hippocampal and cortical slices, brain lesion methods, pharmacological applications in vitro and in vivo, resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging and biochemical analyses to characterize novel mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease and Frontotemporal dementia. After her PhD graduation, she moved to Dr. Longo’s lab at Stanford University, where she is investigating the signaling mechanisms that are involved in the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative disorders and the therapeutic effects of small molecule neurotrophin receptor ligands in tauopathies by means of electrophysiology. Her utmost goal is identifying the molecular and cellular basis that governs synapse degeneration during Alzheimer's disease and related Dementias, and developing novel therapeutic strategies to target the synaptic machinery of vulnerable neurons.

Xiaohua Zhang
Life Science Research Assistant

Xiaohua received her M.S. in Bioinformatics from Eastern Michigan University and joined the Longo laboratory in 2017. Currently, she is helping assess the therapeutic effects of small molecule neurotrophin receptor ligands against neurodegeneration in mouse models of Huntington’s disease (HD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This work also involves examining the effects of neurotrophin receptor ligands on the survival and structural integrity of HD patient derived induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC). Finally, Xiaohua is also working on a project aimed at establishing translatable biomarkers that can detect treatment response of the small molecule neurotrophin receptor ligands in HD and AD mouse models. Having such biomarkers will greatly benefit potential clinical trials with these compounds.

Selena Gonzalez
Life Science Research Assistant

Selena received her Neuroscience Bachelor of Science degree in 2017 from University of California, Los Angeles, where she examined the role of social context in modulating mate-seeking behavior throughout the estrous cycle. She has also characterized phenotypes of Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease mouse models using neurophysiological and radiotelemetry techniques during her internship at National Institute of Health Summer Program and CARE Fellows Program. Since joining the Longo Lab in August 2017, Selena has focused her work on examining Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s disease progression and modulation with small molecule pharmaceutical ligands for neurotrophin receptors. Her daily activities include mouse colony maintenance, drug administration, immunostaining and analysis of histological data. One of the projects Selena is passionate about is examining and quantifying cognitive deficits in HD & AD rodent models. Her future plans include pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience & applying her neuropathology research background to improving pharmaceutical applications in HD & AD.

Harry Liu
Life Science Research Assistant

Harry received his BS and MS degrees in Biological Sciences from University of California San Diego, where he studied the molecular mechanism of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease in mouse models. Since joining the Longo Lab in 2018, he has focused on signaling pathways and therapeutic effects of small molecule neurotrophin receptor ligands in Alzheimer’s disease. He plans to pursue an MD in the future and is particularly interested in translational medicine. In his spare time, Harry enjoys swimming, playing tennis, and learning Spanish.