PHILADELPHIA, PA -
06/17/2010 - The Pew Charitable Trusts today named 21 talented scientists as Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences. The program enables scientists to take calculated risks, expand their research and explore unanticipated leads. Scholars receive $240,000 over four years and gain inclusion into a select community of scientists that includes three Nobel Prize winners, three MacArthur Fellows and two recipients of the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the program has invested more than $125 million to fund close to 500 scholars. Many of the nation’s best early-career scientists—working in all areas of physical and life sciences related to biomedical research—apply to the rigorously competitive program. Applicants are nominated by one of 155 invited institutions and demonstrate excellence and innovation in their research.
“Twenty-five years ago, The Pew Charitable Trusts identified a tremendous opportunity to impact the world of science by supporting the most promising young investigators and encouraging them to pursue their best ideas without restrictions,” said Rebecca W. Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts. “Motivating scientists at this point in their careers is essential to advancing discovery and innovation, and Pew is honored to continue its commitment to this cadre of high-quality researchers.”
This year, through the generosity of Kathryn W. Davis, Pew is able to expand its Biomedical Scholars program to include an additional twenty outstanding assistant professor level researchers to be named Pew Scholars over the next four years. Aligned with Mrs. Davis’ interest in identifying the causes of and discovering a cure for glaucoma, the additional Pew Scholars, supported by this $5.6 million initiative, will have tremendous potential for uncovering vital clues to many debilitating ocular diseases.
“Being named a Pew Biomedical Scholar early in my career gave me the confidence and resources I needed to pursue new research areas,” said Nobel Prize winner and 1990 Pew Biomedical Scholar, Dr. Carol Greider. “In addition, the Pew Scholars program brings together a cohort of young investigators to interact with each other and learn something new along the way.”
Work by 2010 Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences includes research related to cancer, Alzheimer’s, Autism, Glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease and birth defects. The 2010 Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences are:
|Gregory C. Amberg, Pharm.D., Ph.D.||Colorado State University||Physiology and Biophysics|
|Fernando D. Camargo, Ph.D.||Children’s Hospital Boston||Developmental and Cancer Biology|
|Erin E. Carlson, Ph.D.||Indiana University||Natural Product Drug Discovery|
|Mathew J. Evans, Ph.D.||Mount Sinai School of Medicine||Virology, Hepatitis C virus|
|Winrich A. Freiwald, Ph.D.||The Rockefeller University||Neuroscience|
|Alexander Gimelbrant, Ph.D.||Dana-Farber Cancer Institute||Gene Regulation and Epigenetics|
|David Guertin, Ph.D.||University of Massachusetts Medical School||Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine|
|Valerie Horsley, Ph.D.||Yale University||Developmental and Stem Cell Biology|
|Sun Hur, Ph.D.||Harvard Medical School||Structural Biology and Immunology|
|Raquel Lieberman, Ph.D.||Georgia Institute of Technology||Structure/Function of Membrane Proteins|
|Andrej Luptak, Ph.D.||University of California, Irvine||RNA Molecular Biology|
|Craig T. Miller, Ph.D.||University of California, Berkeley||Developmental Biology and Evolution|
|Heather W. Pinkett, Ph.D.||Northwestern University||Structure/Function of Membrane Proteins|
|Rajat Rohatgi, M.D., Ph.D.||Stanford University School of Medicine|
Signal Transduction in Development and Disease
|Jeroen Saeij, Ph.D.||Massachusetts Institute of Technology||Genetics of Host-Pathogen Interactions|
|Susan Schwab, Ph.D.||New York University School of Medicine||Immunology|
|Jingshi Shen, Ph.D.||University of Colorado, Boulder||Cell Biology, Membrane Transport|
|Peter Tessier, Ph.D.||Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute||Biochemistry and Structural Biology|
|Changchun Xiao, Ph.D.||The Scripps Research Institute||Immunology|
|Bing Ye, Ph.D.||University of Michigan||Neuroscience|
|Zhaolan Zhou, Ph.D.||University of Pennsylvania||Neuroscience|
“This immensely talented and diverse new class of Pew Scholars will undoubtedly have a major impact on biomedical research through their contributions as part of the Pew community and on science as a whole. Their discoveries over time will lead to new medical breakthroughs and improve human health,” said Craig C. Mello, Ph.D., a 1995 Pew Scholar and a 2006 Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine, and the chair of the national advisory committee for the program.
Dr. Gregory C. Amberg
received his Doctor of Pharmacy from the Idaho State University and then received his Ph.D. with Dr. Kenton Sanders in the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology at the University of Nevada. Dr. Amberg completed his post-doctoral work with Dr. Luis Santana in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Washington. He accepted a position as an assistant professor in 2007, in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University. Dr. Amberg studies channels that regulate the function and activity of excitable tissues such as nerve and muscle. He is interested in how these regulated channels affect conditions such as hypertension, a major modifiable risk factor for heart, renal, brain and eye vascular disease. Specifically he analyzes how highly localized changes in calcium levels, called “calcium sparklets” are involved in these conditions. Dr. Amberg will use a combination of techniques, including sensing brain signaling levels, measuring pressure in intact arteries, and calcium imaging techniques to tease apart the relationship between calcium levels and hypertension. By understanding how hypertension is caused, Dr. Amberg’s work is essential for the improved management and prevention of hypertension that is related to diseases, such as glaucoma and stroke.
Fernando D. Camargo, Ph.D.
, studied in the laboratory of Dr. Margaret Goodell for his doctoral work in the Department of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. In 2005, he joined the laboratory of David Bartel, Ph.D. at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research as a postdoctoral fellow, where he worked on genes that regulate blood stem cells, or the hematopoietic system. In 2009, he accepted a position as an assistant professor in the Department of Hematology/Oncology of Children’s Hospital Boston. Dr. Camargo studies how tumor growth is prevented by understanding how organs are formed. His hypothesis is that the same signals that tell a normal organ to stop growing when it reaches the appropriate size may prevent tumors from growing. Working in a mouse model system, he uses a range of molecular biological techniques to identify new genes that regulate organ size, and then determines whether those genes play a role in tumor formation. His studies will help scientists understand why organs grow to the size they do, provide insight into ways to regenerate organs and may lead to new strategies for preventing the growth of tumors.Erin E. Carlson, Ph.D.
, received her Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she worked with Dr. Laura Kiessling of the Departments of Biochemistry and Chemistry. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology of the Scripps Research Institute with Dr. Benjamin Cravatt. In 2008, she accepted a position as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry of Indiana University. Infectious diseases, which can be caused by bacteria, are the second-leading cause of death worldwide. Antibiotics, our most powerful weapons for battling many infectious diseases, are losing their effectiveness as bacteria evolve and develop resistance to the drugs. This has created an urgent need for new classes of antibiotics. Dr. Carlson is studying ways to develop novel antibiotics from natural organisms, such as marine samples from the eastern Pacific region and the Caribbean Sea. In addition, she is further characterizing how antibiotic resistance is developed at the molecular level in bacteria. Through these studies she hopes to identify new compounds that can be used as antibiotic therapies.Matthew J. Evans, Ph.D.
, received his doctorate degree in 2003 from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics of Columbia University where he worked with Dr. Stephen Goff. He then moved to The Rockefeller University’s Laboratory of Virology and Infectious Disease, where he did his postdoctoral work on the hepatitis C virus with 1986 Pew scholar, Dr. Charles Rice. In 2009, he joined the faculty of Mt. Sinai School of Medicine as an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology where he is continuing his important work on hepatitis C virus. The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the leading cause of liver disease in the United States. Current treatments have severe side effects and are only effective in half of the infected individuals. Dr. Evans has identified two proteins that are required for the HCV virus to enter and infect healthy cells. By using a range of molecular biological and genetic techniques to study these proteins, Dr. Evans is improving our understanding of how HCV attacks a cell, which will lead to the identification of potential antiviral drugs that could help eradicate HCV.Winrich A. Freiwald, Ph.D.
, earned his doctorate at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, in Frankfurt, Germany where he studied with Dr. Wolf Singer. He then moved to the Institute for Brain Research at the University of Bremen as a research assistant. Starting in 2001, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He joined The Rockefeller University as assistant professor in 2009 in the Laboratory of Neural Systems. During his postdoctoral fellowships he collaborated with Dr. Doris Tsao on important research describing how our brains recognize objects, with particular emphasis on the neuronal machinery that allow primates to recognize and interpret faces. In his laboratory he is expanding on this research by probing the central nervous system to understand how specific cells respond to faces and then relay and integrate their messages to produce social recognition. His research addresses questions and mechanisms that are relevant to interpersonal interactions, as well as disorders that interfere with basic neural processing skills, such as autism.
Alexander (Sasha) Gimelbrant, Ph.D.
, received his doctorate with Dr. Pavel P. Philippov at Moscow University in Russia. He moved to the United States to do his postdoctoral work with Dr. Andrew Chess of the Center for Human Genetic Research of Massachusetts General Hospital. In 2008, he was appointed an assistant professor at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Department of Pathology of Harvard Medical School. Our cells have the ability to turn only one copy of a gene on when two copies (one maternal, one paternal) are present, known as monoallelic expression. Monoallelic expression plays a crucial role in generating diversity in many cell types, including immune system cells and in neurons. Dr. Gimelbrant is building a map of gene activation, determining which genes are marked to have only one copy on and one copy silenced, to better understand the mechanisms essential for gene silencing. His findings could lead to the design of highly customized cancer treatments that would improve patient outcomes.David Guertin, Ph.D.
, completed his doctoral work in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he worked in the laboratory of Dannel McCollum, Ph.D.. He then moved to the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research to conduct postdoctoral work with 2003 Pew scholar, Dr. David M. Sabatini. He has been a member of the University of Massachusetts Medical School faculty in the Program in Molecular Medicine since September 2009. Dr. Guertin’s work focuses on understanding how molecules responsible for cell growth, called growth factors, control tissue regeneration. He proposes to use genetics to define how a specific signaling pathway, groups of genes that work together in a cell to control one or more cell functions, regulates mammals’ muscle stem cells. His goals include improving muscle stem cell generation and producing therapeutic strategies to treat muscle degenerative diseases, such as muscular dystrophy.Valerie Horsley, Ph.D.
, received her doctorate from the Department of Cellular, Molecular and Developmental Biology of Emory University where she worked with Dr. Grace Pavlath. She then trained as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Elaine Fuchs at The Rockefeller University. In 2009, she joined the Department of Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology of Yale University as an assistant professor. Dr. Horsley studies how stem cells, cells that can regenerate themselves or become specific tissue types, are regulated and function within epithelia, the tissues that line our internal organs and outer surfaces, such as skin. She uses the mouse as a genetic model to study how adult stem cells within epithelial tissues undergo wound healing and potentially contribute to cancer formation. Using innovative imaging techniques, cell biology, and biochemistry she will study the dynamics of gene activity in mammalian skin. Her work will illuminate how these complex functions in epithelial tissues are relevant in skin and breast tumor formation.Sun Hur, Ph.D.
, completed her doctoral work in physical chemistry with Professor Thomas Bruice in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She then did her postdoctoral work in structural biology with Dr. Robert Stroud at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Hur accepted her present position as assistant professor and junior investigator at the Immune Disease Institute at Harvard Medical School. Her research focuses on how our immune system detects viruses. She studies how ribonucleic acids (RNAs) made by our own cells are protected by our immune system, while viral RNAs, those made by viruses, are attacked by our immune system. Both types of RNA are made of the same four molecules. Dr. Hur will use a combination of structural and biochemical techniques with computational modeling to investigate how our immune systems distinguish between these two types of RNA. Her work will lend insight on how to prevent autoimmune or inflammatory diseases such as type I diabetes, arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. Raquel Lieberman, Ph.D.
, completed her doctoral work in biochemistry and biophysics with Dr. Amy Rosenzweig in the Departments of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Cell Biology at Northwestern University. She then proceeded to do postdoctoral work with Dr. Gregory Petsko at Brandeis University, in collaboration with Dr. Michael Wolfe at Harvard Medical School’s Center for Neurologic Disease. In 2008, she joined the faculty of the Georgia Institute of Technology as an assistant professor. She seeks to understand the details of how proteins, biological macromolecules which are essential components of a cell, are involved in cell-cell communication, and are required for cell survival and recognition. Her focus is on intramembrane proteins, proteins lodged within the membrane of a cell that separates the interior of the cell from the outside environment. Intramembrane proteins undergo reactions in which they are split into more than one piece, in order for cells to properly communicate with each other and report to the immune system. Her understanding of these processes will lend insight into diseases known to be related to protein function in cell-cell communication such as Alzheimer’s and glaucoma.Andrej Luptak, Ph.D.
, earned his Ph.D. in biophysical chemistry at Yale with Dr. Jennifer Doudna. He then trained with 2009 Nobel Laureate Jack Szostak, Ph.D. in molecular biology and biochemistry at the Massachusetts General Hospital. In 2007, he joined the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of California, Irvine as an assistant professor. Dr. Luptak investigates aspects of ribonucleic acids (RNAs), biologically important molecules that consist of a long chain of nucleotide units. RNAs are made when cellular machinery reads strands of DNA and transcribes the read-out into RNA. Once created, many RNAs are translated into proteins, and the proteins perform the functional work in a cell. Dr. Luptak works on RNAs called ribozymes that are not translated to become proteins yet have their own innate activity. Dr. Luptak has discovered new ribozymes in humans and he is investigating their role in gene regulation. In addition his lab is using bioinformatics and novel techniques to discover new ribozymes in a wide variety of species. His work will shed light on methods of gene regulation by a cell that will be related to multiple disease models, including cancer.Craig T. Miller, Ph.D.
, completed his doctoral research in developmental biology with Dr. Charles B. Kimmel at the University of Oregon. He then trained in the laboratory of Dr. David Kingsley, in the Department of Developmental Biology of Stanford University’s School of Medicine. In 2009, he accepted a position as an assistant professor in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology of the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Miller investigates what role genetics plays in the development and evolution of the head skeleton of vertebrates. To address this fundamental but largely unanswered question, he combines developmental biology, genetics, and evolutionary biology to study the threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus). This fish has become very useful as a genetic system because there are so many variations of its features and it is relatively easy to work with in a laboratory. By identifying how specific genes determine a broad set of variations in fish’s head skeleton, Dr. Miller seeks to understand the genetic basis of head and face development. Head and face malformations are one of the most common human birth defects, therefore Dr. Miller’s research could eventually lead to possible gene therapies for these conditions.Heather W. Pinkett, Ph.D.
, completed her doctoral degree in the Department of Biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania with Dr. Mitchell Lewis. She then did her postdoctoral work with Dr. Douglas C. Rees in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology. In 2008, she became an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Cell Biology at Northwestern University. During her postdoctoral work, Dr. Pinkett structurally characterized specific transporter proteins that act as gate-keepers to regulate molecule traffic going in and out of cells. Transporter proteins are located within a cell membrane and act as pumps to actively transport metabolites and compounds across a cellular membrane. The specific transporters she studies are medically relevant as they are responsible for the development of multi-drug resistance and have been implicated in diseases such as cystic fibrosis, macular degeneration due to Stargardt’s disease and non-tension glaucoma. Dr. Pinkett’s lab uses a combination of structural biology, biochemistry and molecular genetics to determine how the transporter proteins relate to their selective function, which will impart insight into how the function of these transporters relates to disease.Rajat Rohatgi, M.D., Ph.D.
, earned his M.D. and Ph.D. in cell and developmental biology from the Harvard Medical School in 2002. His doctoral work was completed in the laboratory of Dr. Marc Kirschner. After completing his residency in internal medicine and his clinical training in oncology at Stanford University Medical Center, he moved to the Department of Developmental Biology of Stanford University to join the lab of Dr. Matthew Scott as a postdoctoral fellow. In 2009 he was appointed assistant professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Rohatgi’s research focuses on primary cilium, a tiny slender projecting body found on most of our cells. Primary cilia are complex machines that play a central role in allowing cells to communicate with each other and that shape most tissues in a developing embryo. Dr. Rohatgi’s goal is to create a detailed biochemical portrait of the primary cilia using techniques based in chemistry, imaging, and biochemical reconstitution. Such information could lead both to a better understanding of how cells communicate with their environment and to new therapeutics based on controlling the way cilia function.Jeroen Saeij, Ph.D.
, received his doctorate from Wageningen University in the Netherlands. He conducted his postdoctoral research at Stanford University in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology with Dr. John Boothroyd, where he studied the parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. In 2007, he joined the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an assistant professor in the Department of Biology. Macrophages, white blood cells of our immune system that engulf foreign material, defend us from germs or other microorganisms that invade the body and cause disease. Dr. Saeij would like to know what specific characteristics of a macrophage determine how well it will respond to invaders. He hypothesizes that many of the genes that are linked to an individual’s response to infectious disease are genes that directly affect how macrophages function. He is working to identify genes involved in changing the way macrophages respond to attack and analyzing what effect these changes have on the body’s response to infection. His findings may uncover both new genetic risk factors for infectious disease as well as new therapies.Susan Schwab, Ph.D.
, completed her doctoral work in immunology with 1987 Pew Scholar Nilab Shastri, Ph.D. in the Department of Immunology and Pathogenesis at the University of California, Berkeley. She then proceeded to do postdoctoral work in immunology with Dr. Jason Cyster, a 1996 Pew scholar, at the University of California San Francisco. In 2007, she joined the Department of Pathology of New York University as an assistant professor. Dr. Schwab’s research focuses on lymphocytes, white blood cells in our immune systems that play an integral role in the body’s defense. Lymphocytes must be properly distributed throughout our bodies to carry out their work. Dr. Schwab is researching how lymphocytes spread out from lymph organs, such as the thymus, spleen and lymph nodes, a process required to maintain immune function and regulate inflammation. Her work will investigate how specific protein levels are controlled, and how changes in the levels of these proteins in tissues affect inflammatory responses. Her work is likely to provide keys to answering broad questions related to inflammation, our immune system and autoimmune disease.Jingshi Shen, Ph.D.
, earned his doctoral degree with Dr. Ron Prywes in the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University. His postdoctoral work was done with Dr. James Rothman in the Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics of Columbia University. In 2008, he accepted a position as an assistant professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology of the University of Colorado, Boulder. Exocytosis, the process of molecules moving from the inside to the outside of a cell, allows cells to communicate with their environment. It is the basis of a wide range of important biological processes such as transmitting nerve signals and secreting hormones into blood. Dr. Shen’s research is focused on developing technologies that will allow us to better understand exocytosis and on identifying the molecular mechanisms required for exocytosis. His work will clarify how exocytosis is critical to the physiology of the cell, organs and the organism as a whole. His research will also help scientists understand how imbalances in exocytosis lead to disease.Peter Tessier, Ph.D.
, completed his doctoral work in chemical engineering with Dr. Abraham Lenhoff in the Department of Chemical Engineering of the University of Delaware. He did postdoctoral work in biological chemistry with Dr. Susan Lindquist at the Whitehead Institute of Biomedical Research. In 2007, he joined the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as an assistant professor. Proteins are essential components of our cells that participate in virtually every cellular process. They are long strings of molecules that fold into complex, three-dimensional structures, which is required for their proper function. Defects in the folding process can occur, which creates toxic protein clumps that are the basis of disorders ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to glaucoma. Dr. Tessier is investigating fundamental aspects of misfolding and clumping of three classes of proteins. His immediate goal is to understand how the incorrect processing of proteins can be prevented, reversed or redirected. His long-term objective is to develop new therapies to treat diseases related to toxic protein aggregation.Changchun Xiao, Ph.D.
, conducted his doctoral work with Dr. Sankar Ghosh in the Department of Immunology of Yale University. He then trained as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Klaus Rajewsky of the Immune Disease Institute and the Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine of Children’s Hospital Boston. In 2008, he joined the faculty of the Department of Immunology and Microbial Science of the Scripps Research Institute as an assistant professor. In the last decade, small ribonucleic acids (RNAs) have proven to be important regulators of biological processes in mammals. In particular, genetic studies from Dr. Xiao’s laboratory and other groups suggest that small RNAs play critical roles in immune responses, autoimmune diseases and lymphoma. To better understand how small RNAs affect the lymph and immune systems, Dr. Xiao will analyze the activity of small RNAs in the immune system and in a large collection of lymphoma tissue samples. The proposed research will advance our understanding of the immune system, and could lead to better diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to diseases of the immune system.Bing Ye, Ph.D.
, did his graduate work with Dr. Richard Huganir in the Department of Neuroscience of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His postdoctoral training was completed with Dr. Yuh Nung Jan at the Department of Neuroscience of the University of California, San Francisco. He joined the faculty of the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology as an assistant professor at the University of Michigan in 2007. In studies of the biochemistry of the central nervous system, axons and dendrites are recognized as distinct components with distinct functions. Dendrites receive information and axons transmit it to other sites. Information processing in the nervous system relies on the separation of dendrites and axons within nerve cells. However, little is known about how these two major components are differentiated from one another as an organism develops. Dr. Ye’s lab analyzes the genetics of fruit flies and uses advanced imaging techniques to understand how dendrites and axons develop into distinct structural and functional components. His findings will advance our understanding of the basis of diseases caused by defects in the development of nerve cells.Zhaolan (Joe) Zhou, Ph.D.
, completed his doctoral work in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University, working with Dr. Robin Reed and Dr. Tom Maniatis. He then trained as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Michael Greenberg in the Department of Neurology and Neurobiology of Harvard Medical School. In 2009 he joined the Department of Genetics of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine as an assistant professor. His work focuses on chemical modifications to DNA, known as epigenetic changes which alter how genes are turned on and off. Many epigenetic changes are reversible, so these changes are an indispensable mechanism for regulating how genes act in tissues such as the brain. A mutation in one protein that controls epigenetic changes is known to cause the neuro-developmental disorder, Rett Syndrome. Using a combination of molecular biological approaches and protein studies, Dr. Zhou is investigating how defects in epigenetic mechanisms may lead to mental illness. He hopes to develop approaches and tools that will revolutionize how the scientific community investigates the ways epigenetics affect health and disease.Related Press Release: Ten Top Latin American Scientists Named 2010 Pew Fellows in the Biomedical Sciences
. Photo on home page from 2007 Pew Scholar, Peter Mohler’s lab, adult ventricular cardiomyocytes depicting the critical membrane domains and cytoskeletal networks that regulate cardiac excitability.