Pew Funds 6 Teams to Advance Cutting-Edge Biomedical Research

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:

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.

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.

Kiani and Li will explore what happens in the brain when we change our minds, a poorly understood aspect of decision-making.

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.

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.

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.

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