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New Innovator Awards


This year, NIH started a new funding program for scientists who have never received government grants. The New Innovator Awards, worth up to $1.5 million over five years, were recently announced. In case you haven’t gotten enough of inspiring young scientists, here are the winning recipients and their projects.

Kjersti Aagaard-Tillery, Baylor
How maternal obesity programs genetic modifications and adaptations in the developing fetus that predispose it to adult diseases

Ryan Bailey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Ultrasensitive measurement technology to provide a picture of disease onset and progression at the molecular level

Ed Boyden, MIT
New methods of controlling the neural circuits that malfunction in neurological and psychiatric disorders

Frances Champagne, Columbia University
Transmission of reproductive behavior across generations through genetic modifications that do not involve DNA sequence changes

Sean Davies, Vanderbilt University
Develop genetically engineered bacteria that could be used as dietary supplements for the long-lasting drug treatment of chronic diseases

Pedro Fernandez-Funez, University of Texas Medical Branch
Biology of prion proteins, which cause neurodegenerative disorders such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob and mad cow diseases

Sarah Fortune, Harvard School of Public Health
Mechanisms by which tuberculosis escapes the immune system response

Levi Garraway, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Genetic and chemical screening approach to identify changes in malignant melanoma tumor cells that could be targets for new treatments

Tawanda Gumbo, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas
Blocking the mechanisms that tuberculosis bacteria use to evade killing by antibiotics

Nir Hacohen, Massachusetts General Hospital
Genetic approach to dissect immune system pathways that sense disease-causing agents

Ekaterina Heldwein, Tufts University
In atomic-level detail, how herpes viruses enter host cells

Konrad Hochedlinger, Harvard Stem Cell Institute
Reprogramming of adult mouse and human cells into embryonic cells by defined factors

Kristen Jacobson, University of Chicago
Study of Chicago-area adolescents to determine the effects of social, biological, and environmental factors on individual differences in problem behaviors

Joanna Jankowsky, California Institute of Technology
Mouse model to study the function of unique brain cells that are regenerated throughout life;  how their loss may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease

Alan Jasanoff, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Genetically controlled, noninvasive methods for measuring brain activity in animals

Mark Johnson, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Decreased synthesis of microRNA, a recently discovered class of molecules, in the development and aggressiveness of human cancer

Manuel Llinas, Princeton University
How metabolic pathways in the malaria-causing organism interact with human cell pathways, as a means of discovering new targets for treatment

Feroz Papa, University of California, San Francisco
New therapies for diabetes using molecular tools to prevent protein aggregation in insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas

Dana Pe’er, Columbia
How a cell’s regulatory network processes signals and how the signal processing goes wrong in cancer

Kathrin Plath, University of California, LA
Structural changes in chromosomes that underlie the development and differentiation of cells

Michael Rape, University of California, Berkeley
Differences in the regulation of cell division in specific tissues

Jody Rosenblatt, Huntsman Cancer Institute
Signals governing the process by which dying cells are squeezed out of tissues; the role of this process in normal cellular function as well as in tumor formation and spread

Alan Saghatelian, Harvard
Advanced analytical chemistry approaches to characterize biomedically important enzymes

James Shorter, University of Pennsylvania
Biochemical methods to combat diseases caused by nerve degeneration, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s

Dorothy Sipkins, University of Chicago
Live-cell imaging and targeted nanoparticles to study stem cell and tumor micro-environments in bone marrow

Eva Szigethy, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
Interactions between the brain, gut, and immune system in how adolescents cope with chronic illness

Derek Toomre, Yale University
Novel microscopes to analyze trafficking and signaling at the cell cortex, a structure just inside the cell membrane that is involved in mechanical support and movement

Jing Yang, University of California, San Diego
How cancer cells spread to other organs, which could improve the ability to make prognoses and reveal new drug targets

Mehmet Fatih Yanik, MIT
Microchip technologies to perform extremely fast studies of gene function in small animals to rapidly identify genetic targets for new drugs


The Scan

Study Finds Few FDA Post-Market Regulatory Actions Backed by Research, Public Assessments

A Yale University-led team examines in The BMJ safety signals from the US FDA Adverse Event Reporting System and whether they led to regulatory action.

Duke University Team Develops Programmable RNA Tool for Cell Editing

Researchers have developed an RNA-based editing tool that can target specific cells, as they describe in Nature.

Novel Gene Editing Approach for Treating Cystic Fibrosis

Researchers in Science Advances report on their development of a non-nuclease-based gene editing approach they hope to apply to treat cystic fibrosis.

Study Tracks Responses in Patients Pursuing Polygenic Risk Score Profiling

Using interviews, researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics qualitatively assess individuals' motivations for, and experiences with, direct-to-consumer polygenic risk score testing.