Pew Funds 22 Scientists to Pursue Innovative Biomedical Research

Pew Funds 22 Scientists to Pursue Innovative Biomedical Research

PHILADELPHIA—The Pew Charitable Trusts today announced 22 early-career researchers who have been selected to join the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences. These promising scientists will receive four years of funding to invest in exploratory research to advance human health and tackle some of biomedicine’s most challenging questions.

“Pew is steadfastly committed to supporting talented researchers working to unveil the mechanisms of biology and disease,” said Rebecca W. Rimel, Pew’s president and CEO. “Investing in these scholars at the beginning stages of their careers, when financial resources may be limited, can help drive significant scientific discoveries.” 

The 2019 class of scholars—all of whom hold assistant professor positions—are new members of an active community of nearly 1,000 scientists who have received awards from Pew beginning in 1985. Current scholars come together annually to share their research and gain insights from peers working in other fields.

“Pew’s continued investment in scientific discovery allows promising researchers to explore new and creative ways to answer some of the most pressing questions surrounding human health and disease,” 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 confident that this new class of scientists will leverage these resources and help shape the future of groundbreaking biomedical research.”

The 2019 class of scholars was chosen from 178 applicants who were nominated by leading academic institutions and researchers across the United States. This year’s class includes scientists investigating connections between embryos and their mothers, why only certain species of ticks act as carriers of Lyme disease, and how the brain stores sensory information, among other questions.  

Five members of the 2019 class, who were selected for their commitment to investigating health challenges in the brain as it ages, will receive awards with support from the Kathryn W. Davis Peace by Pieces Fund.

The 22 2019 Pew scholars in the biomedical sciences are:

Victoria Abraira, Ph.D.
Rutgers University
Dr. Abraira will explore the neural circuits involved in processing and responding to touch.

Frank Albert, Ph.D.
University of Minnesota
Dr. Albert will investigate how genetic variations translate into the differences that make each of us unique.

Rudy Behnia, Ph.D.
Columbia University
Dr. Behnia will explore how fruit flies fine-tune their visual representations of the world as they navigate their surroundings.

Gira Bhabha, Ph.D.
New York University
Dr. Bhabha will explore how the parasite microsporidia deploys a unique mechanism to invade animal cells.

Alan Brown, Ph.D.
Harvard Medical School
Dr. Brown will examine the transport system that establishes the pathway needed to transmit light signals to the eye.

Eliezer Calo, Ph.D.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Dr. Calo will explore how defects in the assembly of ribosomes can lead to childhood disorders that affect different bodily tissues.

Seemay Chou, Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco
Dr. Chou will investigate why only certain tick species act as carriers of Lyme disease.

Lillian Fritz-Laylin, Ph.D.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Dr. Fritz-Laylin will explore how cells can repurpose the actin protein network to perform different tasks.

Kelley Harris, Ph.D.
University of Washington
Dr. Harris will explore why individuals accumulate mutations at different rates and in different genetic locations.

Mazen Kheirbek, Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco
Dr. Kheirbek will explore how sensory stimuli are represented in the brain, and how they may trigger the recall of salient memories.

Philip Kranzusch, Ph.D.
Dana Farber Cancer Institute
Dr. Kranzusch will investigate how small RNA molecules can activate an immune response to pathogens or cancer.

Kyle Loh, Ph.D.
Stanford University
Dr. Loh will explore new strategies to replace an animal’s immune system and organs using embryonic stem cells.

Marta Luksza, Ph.D.
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Dr. Luksza will explore how immune interactions drive the evolution of cancers and viruses.

John Maciejowski, Ph.D.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Dr. Maciejowski will probe the mechanisms that drive chromosomal rearrangements associated with tumor progression.

Jeffrey Moffitt, Ph.D.
Boston Children’s Hospital
Dr. Moffitt will develop imaging methods to map interactions between intestinal microbes and their hosts.

Noah Palm, Ph.D.
Yale University
Dr. Palm will identify the compounds, produced by gut microbes, that are recognized by human cells.

Arthur Prindle, Ph.D.
Northwestern University
Dr. Prindle will study the signals that prompt bacteria to leave their protective communities and strike out on their own.

Caroline Runyan, Ph.D.
University of Pittsburgh
Dr. Runyan will identify the neural circuits that control the flow of information to the brain.

Aaron Streets, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkeley
Dr. Streets will explore how obesity leads to unhealthy changes in the cellular, molecular, and structural composition of adipose tissue.

Geetu Tuteja, Ph.D.
Iowa State University
Dr. Tuteja will study genetic networks that help to establish a healthy connection between embryos and their mothers.

John Tuthill, Ph.D.
University of Washington School of Medicine
Dr. Tuthill will investigate how animals sense the position of their limbs and use spatial information to coordinate their locomotion.

Xin Zhang, Ph.D.
Pennsylvania State University
Dr. Zhang will explore how misfolded proteins form aggregates in cells and ways to prevent aggregates from accumulating.

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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