Pew Selects 22 Scientists to Investigate Fundamental Biomedical Questions

Pew Selects 22 Scientists to Investigate Fundamental Biomedical Questions

PHILADELPHIA—The Pew Charitable Trusts named 22 early-career researchers today as the 2018 class of Pew scholars in the biomedical sciences. The scholars will receive four-year grants to advance their explorations of biological mechanisms underpinning human health and disease.

“These scientists have shown the boldness and creativity that drives great discoveries, and Pew’s unrestricted support will help them follow the facts wherever they lead,” said Rebecca W. Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts. “We’re proud to invest in this gifted group at a pivotal stage in their careers when funds to pursue new concepts and methods can be scarce.”

The scholars—all of whom have held assistant professor positions for three years or less—enter a vibrant community of researchers who have received awards from Pew since 1985. Current scholars meet annually to discuss their research, and exchange ideas with peers in fields outside of their own.

“The 2018 scholars bring fresh curiosity and insight to aspects of health and biology in critical need of investigation,” said Craig C. Mello, Ph.D., a 1995 Pew scholar, 2006 Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine, and chair of the national advisory committee for the scholars program. “I’m excited to see their work invigorated by new resources and opportunities to collaborate with Pew’s community of nearly a thousand biomedical researchers.”

This year’s scholars were selected from 184 nominations, each submitted by a leading academic or research institution in the United States. The 2018 awardees are working to solve biomedical puzzles including the development of cancers linked to viruses, how brain circuits enable verbal communication, and the ways in which the body senses and responds to external stimuli. The results of their research could provide new scientific foundations for potential treatments of metastatic cancer, infectious diseases, and psychiatric disorders.

Five members of the 2018 class of scholars will receive awards with support from the Kathryn W. Davis Peace by Pieces Fund. They were selected for their commitment to investigating health challenges in the brain as it ages.

The 2018 Pew scholars in the biomedical sciences are:

Gregory M. Alushin, Ph.D.
The Rockefeller University
Dr. Alushin will investigate how cells sense and respond to mechanical force.

Megan T. Baldridge, M.D., Ph.D.
Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
Dr. Baldridge will explore the conditions that influence the evolution of severe strains of norovirus, a culprit of gastrointestinal illness.

Anna E. Beaudin, Ph.D.
University of California, Merced
Dr. Beaudin will investigate how maternal inflammation during pregnancy alters the risk for autoimmune disorders of offspring across their lifespan.

Adrienne A. Boire, M.D., Ph.D.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Dr. Boire will look at genes activated in leptomeningeal metastases, a debilitating condition that occurs when cancer cells invade the spinal fluid.

Ilana L. Brito, Ph.D.
Cornell University
Dr. Brito will look at how the use of antibiotics drives the emergence of multidrug-resistant microbes.

Angela N. Brooks, Ph.D.
University of California, Santa Cruz
Dr. Brooks will investigate how RNA is processed to produce functional proteins, and the result when this processing mechanism becomes dysregulated.

Matthew D. Daugherty, Ph.D.
University of California, San Diego
Dr. Daugherty will explore how organisms evolve resistance to infections and how pathogens can subvert those defenses.

Enfu Hui, Ph.D.
University of California, San Diego
Dr. Hui will research the ways the immune system can be used to fight cancers.

John J. Karijolich, Ph.D.
Vanderbilt University
Dr. Karijolich will investigate how certain DNA sequences may help initiate immune responses toward infections.

Hiroyuki Kato, Ph.D.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Dr. Kato will study how animals process sounds, and the behavior that is elicited by what they hear.

Amy S.Y. Lee, Ph.D.
Brandeis University
Dr. Lee will explore the role of an RNA-binding protein complex in regulating the production of specific proteins and the complex’s connection to aberrant cell growth and cancer.

Nuo Li, Ph.D.
Baylor College of Medicine
Dr. Li will investigate how multiple parts of the brain cooperate to guide decisions based on short-term memory.

Aashish Manglik, M.D., Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco
Dr. Manglik will study how information is conveyed by the Hedgehog signaling cascade, a key pathway in fetal development and cancer development.

Saket Navlakha, Ph.D.    
Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Dr. Navlakha will investigate how collections of molecules, cells, and organisms process information to solve computational problems that are central to survival.

Hosea Nelson, Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles
Dr. Nelson will develop artificial systems that can catalyze chemical reactions inside of cells as a response to a particular gene becoming active.

Kassandra Ori-McKenney, Ph.D.
University of California, Davis
Dr. Ori-McKenney will investigate the molecular events and proteins driving the development of dementia after a traumatic brain injury.

Seth Rakoff-Nahoum, M.D., Ph.D.
Boston Children’s Hospital
Dr. Rakoff-Nahoum will examine how mammals shape the composition of their intestinal bacteria, also known as the microbiome.

Tiffany A. Reese, Ph.D. 
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Dr. Reese will investigate how maternal inflammation during pregnancy alters the immunity of the developing fetus.

Hesper Rego, Ph.D.
Yale University
Dr. Rego will probe how the microbe that causes tuberculosis slows down its metabolic activity in order to protect itself from the effects of an antibiotic.

Erin L. Rich, M.D., Ph.D.
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Dr. Rich will investigate the region of the brain that processes expectation, and the flexibility of adjusting decisions when situations change.

José A. Rodriguez, Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles
Dr. Rodriguez will study the structure of toxic prion aggregates, a form of infectious protein that causes neurodegenerative disorders such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Paul A. Sigala, Ph.D.
University of Utah
Dr. Sigala will probe the biochemical pathways that allow malarial parasites to survive inside red blood cells.

Visit the program page to read the scholars’ full abstracts and learn more about the program.

The 2018 classes of Pew-Stewart Scholars for Cancer Research and the Pew Latin American fellows were also announced today.


The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Learn more at

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