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Princeton Biologist Snags $2.5M Avant-Garde Award for HIV/AIDS Proteomics Studies

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Princeton University molecular biologist Ileana Cristea is one of three winners of the new National Institutes of Health Avante-Garde award, which gives $500,000 per year for five years to scientists engaged in “groundbreaking” HIV/AIDS research.
Modeled after the NIH’s Pioneer Awards, the Avant-Garde awards are aimed at “scientists of exceptional creativity who propose pioneering and possibly transformative approaches to major challenges in biomedical and behavioral research,” NIH said. The goal of these Avant-Garde awards, given under the National Institute of Drug Abuse, is to produce “high-impact” science that could advance preventions or treatments for HIV/AIDS in drug abusers. 
Cristea, an assistant professor in Princeton’s Department of Molecular Biology, has developed a method that allows tracking of protein localization and elucidation of interacting partners. She has applied the technology already to study virus-host interactions for Sindbis fever and has extended it to study other virus host interactions, including HIV and cytomegalovirus.
Cristea’s Avant-Garde project will focus on HIV’s ability to “hijack key proteins” that regulate gene expression, NIH stated.
“A strength of this proposal is its unique ability to perform a comprehensive screen of interactions between viral and host proteins,” NIH said. 
“It is our hope that by supporting investigators who look differently at the challenge of HIV/AIDS, we will discover new approaches to the prevention and treatment of this devastating disease," NIH Director Elias Zerhouni said in a statement.
The award winners were chosen from 52 applicants from diverse scientific disciplines and approaches to HIV/AIDS.

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