PHILADELPHIA—The Pew Charitable Trusts announced today the six pairs of researchers who will make up its 2023 class of Innovation Fund investigators.
These 12 acclaimed scientists—all alumni or advisors of Pew’s biomedical programs in the United States and Latin America—will partner on interdisciplinary research projects exploring key questions in human biology and disease. Combining the researchers’ expertise in topics ranging from neuroscience and immunology to cancer biology, these collaborations will help boost scientific discovery and improve human health.
“An interdisciplinary approach to research is critical to uncovering scientific breakthroughs and making lasting change,” said Donna Frisby-Greenwood, senior vice president for Philadelphia and scientific advancement at The Pew Charitable Trusts. “Pew is thrilled to support this exceptional group of investigators, whose collective efforts will help move the needle in important areas of health and medicine.”
For nearly 40 years, Pew has encouraged collaboration among its diverse community of biomedical scientists, leading to the 2017 launch of the Innovation Fund. The award, which is supported by the Kathryn W. Davis Peace by Pieces Fund, was developed to support creative and cross-disciplinary partnerships among alumni of Pew’s three biomedical programs. Program alums holding assistant professor positions or higher are eligible to apply.
This year’s Innovation Fund teams and research projects are:
- Katsuhiko Murakami, Ph.D., 2005 Pew biomedical scholar; Pennsylvania State University
- Gene-Wei Li, Ph.D., 2017 Pew biomedical scholar; Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Murakami and Li will study transcription termination, a critical step of gene regulation in a distinct group of bacteria known as cyanobacteria, which play a key role in carbon fixation and cause illness in humans and livestock.
- Donita C. Brady, Ph.D., 2016 Pew biomedical scholar; University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
- Kivanç Birsoy, Ph.D., 2018 Pew-Stewart scholar; The Rockefeller University
Brady and Birsoy will team up to identify cell components that regulate—or respond to—transition metals, key dietary nutrients that maintain health in humans and other organisms.
- Roozbeh Kiani, M.D., Ph.D., 2016 Pew biomedical scholar; New York University
- Nuo Li, Ph.D., 2018 Pew biomedical scholar; Baylor College of Medicine
Kiani and Li will explore what happens in the brain when we change our minds, a poorly understood aspect of decision-making.
- Jesse H. Goldberg, M.D., Ph.D., 2014 Pew biomedical scholar; Cornell University
- Robert C. Froemke, Ph.D., 2012 Pew biomedical scholar; New York University Grossman School of Medicine
Goldberg and Froemke will examine the unique vocalizations of songbirds and mice to better understand the ways in which animals respond to their young’s need to feed.
- Patricia Leon Mejia, Ph.D., 1992 Pew Latin American fellow; Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
- Luis G. Brieba de Castro, Ph.D., 2002 Pew Latin American fellow; Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional
Leon Mejia and Brieba de Castro will investigate how the plastid, a key organelle in plants, is responsible for metabolism and nutrient production and communicates with the cell’s nucleus to respond to external stressors—work that could improve crop yield.
- Dan R. Littman, M.D., Ph.D., New York University Grossman School of Medicine
- Michael Birnbaum, Ph.D., 2018 Pew-Stewart scholar; Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Littman and Birnbaum will study the pathology of the microbes and T cells that play a role in inflammatory bowel disease, an autoimmune disorder whose cause is largely unknown.
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.