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NIH Funds HMS Pioneers, New Innovators
September 30, 2010
Five members of the HMS research community have received new funding from the National Institutes of Health Common Fund to pursue novel, high-risk research—work with the potential to speed discovery and yield fundamental advances.
Two scientists will receive the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, which confers up to $2.5 million over five years: Jae Keith Joung, HMS associate professor of Pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital, engineers “designer” DNA-binding domains; and Bruce Yankner, HMS professor of Pathology, focuses on the molecular basis of brain aging and on the wrong turns that normal processes can take toward disease.
The Pioneer Award honors scientists of exceptional creativity who propose groundbreaking approaches to major challenges in biomedical and behavioral research. Joung and Yankner were among 17 recipients selected from the United States. The program has funded 81 “pioneers” since it began in 2004.
“NIH is pleased to be supporting scientists from across the country who are taking considered risks in a wide range of areas in order to accelerate research,” said NIH director Francis Collins in announcing the awards.
A second group of grants to encourage innovation, the Director’s New Innovator Award aids early-career scientists. Individual applicants are granted up to $1.5 million in direct funds over five years. Since 2007, the awards have supported investigators who propose creative projects with the potential for exceptionally high impact. Of 33 recipients this year, three are HMS faculty members:
Nathalie Agar, instructor in Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, is developing methods for analyzing tissue using mass spectrometry to assist in evaluating tumor boundaries during surgery;
Sandeep Robert Datta, assistant professor of Neurobiology, explores circuits in the brain that detect and respond to odors; and
Conor Evans, instructor in Dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital, investigates imaging techniques, such as optical coherence tomography, useful in studying and treating cancer and other disorders.