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

Lab Manager

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.

Dohyup Kim, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dohyup (or Do Hyup) Kim received his B.S. in bioinformatics from Brigham Young University, Master's in molecular biology from the University of Wyoming, and PhD in Entomology from the University of California, Riverside. His dissertation work in Dr. Allison Hansen's lab was about changes of transcriptome profiles  triggered by differential epigenomic signatures from various diets in non-model insect species. His main research interest is combined analysis of multi-omics data that includes genome, epigenome, and transcriptome. His current work focuses on investigating how vitamin D treatment affects changes in transcriptome and epigenome profiles of ALD patients. With his unique background in both computational and empirical experiments, he aims to reveal the potential molecular mechanism of vitamin D treatment in ALD.

Esha Kaushal, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Esha received her PhD in Endocrinology and Metabolism from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, India. During her PhD, she investigated the pathogenesis of hypoparathyroidism-associated with the Autoimmune polyendocrine syndrome-1 (APS-1). She studied the functional significance of the novel mutations in the candidate AIRE (Autoimmune regulator) gene. Her work identified a novel cytoskeletal interacting partner of the AIRE protein and provided a deeper insight in the possible mechanism linking hypoparathyroidism to APS-1. Besides her thesis, she also worked on several Vitamin D related studies in the lab. Then, she joined the Obstetrics & Gynecology Department at UCSF. During her postdoc at UCSF, she studied the neuroplasticity of the gut-brain axis in a rat model of functional dyspepsia. Her work showed that the gastric corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRF) is a key modulator of the gut-brain axis and contributes to low grade inflammation. In Oct 2019, Esha joined the Van Haren lab as a postdoctoral researcher. Her current work is focused on investigating the effect of vitamin D exposure on metabolic parameters and neuroinflammation in neurometabolic disorders like Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD). She is particularly interested in studying the molecular mechanism by which vitamin D confers a neuroprotective effect in ALD. With her experience in vitamin D research, she hopes to refine the therapeutic potential of vitamin D in ALD.

Isha Srivastava, MD, PhD

Postdoctoral/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. 

Sweta Patnaik

Senior Clinical Research Coordinator

Sweta Patnaik joined the Division of Child Neurology May 2016. She comes with over 16 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.