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Rockefeller Researcher Lands NIH Early Independence Award

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A Rockefeller University researcher plans to use a $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a novel method for applying high-throughput sequencing to the study of human immune system function.

Brad Rosenberg, a biomedical fellow at Rockefeller, was one of 14 investigators chosen by the NIH Office of the Director to receive a total of $25.9 million under its Early Independence award program.

Funded through the NIH Common Fund, the program seeks to encourage young scientists with "outstanding creativity, intellectual maturity, and leadership skills" to conduct independent research projects.

"NIH is identifying those exceptional students that have the intellect, innovation, drive, and maturity to flourish independently without the need for traditional post-doctoral training," NIH Director Francis Collins said in a statement from NIH today.

In his research at Rockefeller, Rosenberg has already used high-throughput sequencing to study RNA editing and to discover targets for an enzyme that edits RNA, and now he wants to use sequencing to gain a better knowledge of molecular events in the immune system.

"As the technology becomes more advanced and less expensive, I see a huge untapped potential in high-throughput sequencing," Rosenberg said in a statement from Rockefeller today.

"I'm interested in developing tools that go beyond standard genome and transcriptome sequencing. We can apply the technology in ways that not only determine genetic sequences but also provide information about biological function," he added.

Specifically, he plans to study the complex populations of T and B cells in the immune system, and the receptors with which they engage their targets. He will use high-throughput sequencing to analyze receptor sequences in immune cells that are involved in recognition of potential threats and to study other related immune system functions.

"The early phases will involve technology development, and the ultimate goal is to transition the work to look at human responses — autoimmune disease and vaccine development, for example," Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg earned his PhD at Rockefeller in 2010 and over the past two years has been completing the clinical component of his MD at Weill-Cornell Medical College.

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