The Pew Charitable Trusts announced today the six pairs of researchers who will make up its 2021 class of Innovation Fund investigators.
These scientists—alumni of Pew’s biomedical programs in the United States and Latin America—will partner on interdisciplinary research to tackle some of the most pressing questions in human biology and disease. By combining their expertise in subjects ranging from microbiology to genetics and from immunology to developmental biology, these researchers will work to advance scientific discovery and improve human health.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the critical role innovative biomedical research plays in addressing global health problems,” said Molly Irwin, vice president for research and science at The Pew Charitable Trusts. “Pew is proud to support the 2021 class of Innovation Fund investigators, who together will seek to answer some of the most pressing questions in health and science.”
For more than 35 years, Pew has encouraged collaboration among its diverse community of biomedical scientists, culminating in the launch of the Innovation Fund in 2017. The fund’s award criteria were developed to promote synergy among program alumni, motivating researchers to collaborate on new proposals. All 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:
- Paola A. Haeger Soto, Ph.D., 2010 Pew Latin American fellow; Catholic University of the North, Chile
- Adrian R. Krainer, Ph.D., 1992 Pew biomedical scholar; Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Haeger Soto and Krainer will examine the mechanisms through which alcohol consumption during pregnancy leads to neurodevelopmental disabilities, such as fetal alcohol syndrome.
- Deborah J. Lenschow, M.D., Ph.D., 2008 Pew biomedical scholar; Washington University in St. Louis
- Gabrielle Kardon, Ph.D., 2006 Pew biomedical scholar; University of Utah
Lenschow and Kardon will study how the chikungunya virus, a mosquito-borne pathogen that causes fever, rash, and arthritis in humans, leads to chronic and persistent symptoms even after infection subsides.
- Coleen T. Murphy, Ph.D., 2006 Pew biomedical scholar; Princeton University
- Roberto Ricardo Grau, Ph.D., 1994 Pew Latin American fellow; National University of Rosario, Argentina
Murphy and Grau will explore how beneficial bacteria in the gut influence age-related genes.
- David R. Sherwood, Ph.D., 2007 Pew biomedical scholar; Duke University
- Kenneth D. Poss, Ph.D., 2006 Pew biomedical scholar; Duke University
Sherwood and Poss will investigate the coordinated signaling events that take place within the body during tissue repair and regeneration.
- Juan E. Ugalde, Ph.D., 2004 Pew Latin American fellow; University of San Martín, Argentina
- Carlos O. Arregui, Ph.D., 1991 Pew Latin American fellow; University of San Martín, Argentina
Ugalde and Arregui will explore the role of bacterial outer membrane vesicles—spherical buds of the bacterial membrane that are enriched with enzymes and toxins—in delivering and introducing virulent factors to host cells.
- Elçin Ünal, Ph.D., 2014 Pew biomedical scholar; University of California, Berkeley
- Gloria A. Brar, Ph.D., 2016 Pew biomedical scholar; University of California, Berkeley
Ünal and Brar will investigate the stress response pathways in regulating cellular aging and longevity.