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NIH to Provide $19.3M to Support Early Independence Award Winners

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Young investigators pursuing research in metagenomics, global genomic diversity, gene regulation and a range of other molecular biology approaches have been awarded National Institutes of Health grants aimed at supporting new researchers with new ideas.

Five of the 10 winners of the 2011 NIH Director's Early Independence Awards, which provide up to $250,000 per year for five years, are pursuing genomics and genetics-centered research.

The EIA program was created to speed up the development of junior investigators who have recently received their graduate degrees or residencies and move them toward independent researcher positions.

"The EIA program effectively allows awardees to leapfrog over the traditional post-doctoral training period, capitalizing on the creativity, confidence, and energy of young scientists," NIH said today. Although post-doc training is appropriate for the majority of investigators, NIH believes that some young scientists have the "intellect, scientific creativity, drive, and maturity to flourish independently without the need for such training."

This group of 10 researchers will receive approximately $19.3 million over the five-year grant period.

This crop of young scientists includes: Randall Halfmann of Southwestern Medical Center, who will study protein aggregation, gene regulation, and phenotypic diversity; Jeffrey Kidd of Stanford University School of Medicine, who is characterizing the global architecture of genomic diversity; Rodney Samaco of Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children's Hospital, who is researching the genetic and neuroanatomical origin of social behavior; Harris Wang of the Wyss Institute/Harvard Medical School, who is working on the functional metagenomic reprogramming of the human microbiome; and Daniela Witten of the University of Washington School of Public Health, who is researching high-dimensional unsupervised learning with applications to genomics.

NIH introduced the Early Independence Awards program last year. At the time it said that it intends to invest approximately $60 million over five years in the program.

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