Pew Funds Six Teams to Pursue Cutting-Edge Biomedical Research

Pew Funds Six Teams to Pursue Biomedical Research

PHILADELPHIA—The Pew Charitable Trusts announced today the six pairs of researchers who will make up its 2020 class of Innovation Fund investigators.

These investigators—alumni of Pew’s biomedical programs in the United States and Latin America—will partner on interdisciplinary research to tackle some of the most complex questions in human biology and disease. The teams will combine their expertise, ranging from virology to neuroscience and from biophysics to computational biology, in their efforts to advance innovative research and improve human health.

“By building research partnerships that bridge diverse scientific disciplines, the 2020 Innovation Fund collaborators will work to uncover unique solutions to some of biomedicine’s toughest challenges,” said Molly Irwin, vice president of research and science at The Pew Charitable Trusts. “We’re proud to support these researchers as they partner to pursue novel therapies and cutting-edge discoveries.”

For 35 years, Pew has encouraged collaboration among its community of talented biomedical scientists, culminating in the launch of the Innovation Fund in 2017. The fund’s award criteria were developed to promote working relationships among Pew biomedical program alumni and to motivate researchers to focus on proposals that combine their areas of expertise. All program alumni holding assistant professor positions or higher are eligible to apply for the award, which is supported by the Kathryn W. Davis Peace by Pieces Fund.

This year’s Innovation Fund teams and research projects are:

Contreras and Valdés will explore the neurological mechanisms behind psychopathy, a personality disorder that is characterized by anti-social behavior and a lack of empathy.

Alber and Zhou will map the location of unknown identities and structures of protein complexes in Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria.

Zoncu and Kajimura will explore the molecular basis of inter-organelle communication and energy maintenance in adipose tissues.

  • Polina V. Lishko, Ph.D., 2015 Pew biomedical scholar; University of California, Berkeley, and Buck Institute for Research on Aging
  • Ke Xu, Ph.D., 2015 Pew biomedical scholar; University of California, Berkeley

Lishko and Xu will investigate steroid hormones’ role in uncovering the underlying gender differences in Alzheimer’s disease.

Heldwein and Nicastro will investigate the assembly and trafficking of herpesviruses in host cells.

Andermann and Gradinaru will investigate how the brain’s insular cortex perceives bodily signals from internal organs.

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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In New Partnerships, Researchers Pursue Cutting-Edge Scientific Discoveries

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In New Partnerships, Researchers Pursue Cutting-Edge Scientific Discoveries

For 35 years, Pew has supported risk-taking and collaboration among its growing network of what is now more than 1,000 biomedical scientists. To commemorate this commitment to interdisciplinary research, Pew launched the Innovation Fund in 2017 to support joint projects among alumni of its biomedical programs in the United States and Latin America.