Pew Funds 22 Scientists Exploring Pressing Biomedical Questions

Pew Funds 22 Scientists Exploring Pressing Biomedical Questions

PHILADELPHIA—The Pew Charitable Trusts today announced the 22 researchers selected to join the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences. These early-career scientists will receive four years of funding to spearhead innovative studies exploring human health and medicine.

“From vaccine development to treatments for complex diseases, biomedical research is foundational to solving some of the world’s greatest health challenges,” said Susan K. Urahn, Pew’s president and CEO. “Pew is thrilled to welcome this new class of researchers and support their efforts to advance scientific knowledge and improve human health.”

The 2023 class—all early-career, junior faculty—joins a rich legacy of the more than 1,000 scientists who have received awards from Pew since 1985. Current scholars have opportunities to meet annually with fellow Pew-funded scientists to exchange ideas and forge connections across a wide variety of disciplines.

“This new class of scholars embodies the creativity and curiosity that is key to scientific discovery,” 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. “With support from Pew and its network of colleagues and advisors, I am confident this group will do great things to advance biomedical science.”

Scholars were chosen from 188 applicants nominated by leading academic institutions and researchers throughout the United States. This year’s class includes scientists who are studying how external and internal factors affect the gut microbiome, what causes HIV to re-emerge when treatment is halted, and how living an urban lifestyle affects long-term health.

Five members of the 2023 class, who were selected for their commitment to investigating health challenges relating to the brain as it ages, will receive awards with support from the Kathryn W. Davis Peace by Pieces Fund.

The 2023 Pew scholars in the biomedical sciences are:

Steven Banik, Ph.D.
Stanford University
Dr. Banik will harness cells’ natural ability to ingest materials from their environment to facilitate the delivery of proteins to sub-cellular compartments within the cell.

Christopher Barnes, Ph.D.
Stanford University
Dr. Barnes will develop vaccine candidates that spur neutralizing antibodies that cross-react broadly with multiple members of the coronavirus family, including SARS-CoV-2 and its known variants.

Ambre Bertholet, Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles
Dr. Bertholet will study how mitochondria, which produce cellular energy in the form of ATP, can instead be steered toward generating heat.

John Brooks, Ph.D.
Princeton University
Dr. Brooks will explore how the circadian clock works with the immune system to maintain harmony with the gut microbiome.

Chrysothemis Brown, M.B.B.S, Ph.D.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Dr. Brown will explore how the immune system learns to tolerate the body’s own tissues, as well as harmless foreign proteins such as dietary antigens and gut microbiota.

Lillian Cohn, Ph.D.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center
Dr. Cohn will investigate the mechanisms that allow HIV to persist indefinitely inside people living with HIV.

Josefina del Mármol, Ph.D.
Harvard Medical School
Dr. del Mármol will elucidate how mosquitoes distinguish and target humans from other animals based on their sense of smell.

James Gardner, M.D., Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco
Dr. Gardner is studying mediators of immune tolerance in which the immune system maintains the ability to respond to foreign pathogens without causing autoimmunity and damage to healthy tissues.

Christine Grienberger, Ph.D.
Brandeis University
Dr. Grienberger will study the complex neural computations that drive experience-based learning.

Danielle Grotjahn, Ph.D.
Scripps Research Institute
Dr. Grotjahn will produce the first structural models that describe how cells assemble the molecular machinery that governs programmed cell death.

Keren Hilgendorf, Ph.D.
University of Utah
Dr. Hilgendorf will elucidate how stem cells use an antenna-like appendage called a primary cilium to integrate the molecular signals that regulate their fate.

Siniša Hrvatin, Ph.D.
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research
Dr. Hrvatin will unravel the genetics behind how animals initiate, regulate, and survive hibernation.

Amanda Lea, Ph.D.
Vanderbilt University
Dr. Lea will explore how early exposure to an urban lifestyle affects long-term cardiovascular and metabolic health.

Kara Marshall, Ph.D.
Baylor College of Medicine
Dr. Marshall will explore how specific cells that sense forces such as pressure and stretch regulate the functionality of the gastrointestinal tract and bladder.

Yuuki Obata, Ph.D.
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Dr. Obata will determine whether the gut harbors a circadian pacemaker, separate from that of the brain.

Mijo Simunovic, Ph.D.
Columbia University
Dr. Simunovic will explore how an interplay of mechanical forces and gene regulation guide embryo implantation.

Christopher Smillie, Ph.D.
Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School
Dr. Smillie will study how gut bacteria adapt to the inflammatory environment that accompanies disorders such as irritable bowel disease.

Quinton Smith, Ph.D.
University of California, Irvine
Dr. Smith will explore how oxygen drives the establishment of adequate blood flow during placental maturation, a process that is impaired in preeclampsia.

Tony Tsai, M.D., Ph.D.
Washington University in St. Louis
Dr. Tsai will investigate how cells in an embryo monitor local environments and neighboring cell types to make decisions about their developmental fate.

Helen Vuong, Ph.D.
University of Minnesota
Dr. Vuong will explore how perturbations during pregnancy alter maternal gut bacteria and regulate neural development and behavior in the offspring.

Aaron Whiteley, Ph.D.
University of Colorado Boulder
Dr. Whiteley will investigate how a family of inflammatory proteins called NLRs establish the first line of defense against viral infection in bacteria and humans.

Wenhan Zhu, Ph.D.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Dr. Zhu will examine how exposure to oxygen damages beneficial gut bacteria during inflammation.

Celebrating its 75th anniversary, The Pew Charitable Trusts uses data to make a difference. Pew addresses the challenges of a changing world by illuminating issues, creating common ground, and advancing ambitious projects that lead to tangible progress.

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