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A rare feat: 2 scientists at Salk score NIH New Innovator Awards

LA JOLLA, CA--The Salk Institute announced today that researchers Bjrn Lillemeier, and Axel Nimmerjahn, have been named recipients of the prestigious 2012 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director's New Innovator Award.

The NIH Director's New Innovator Award is a highly selective program with hundreds of researchers from the nation's top scientific institutions competing for the award. Only 51 scientists received the honor this year.

Drs. Lillemeier and Nimmerjahn will each receive $1.5 million over a period of five years. They join a group of young investigators who will receive a portion of approximately $155 million to pursue visionary science that exhibits the potential to transform scientific fields and speed the translation of research into improved health.

"It is extremely rare that a scientist would receive such an honor in his career, and even more exciting that an institute is fortunate enough to have two recipients selected for an NIH Director's New Innovator Award at the same time," said William R. Brody, president, Salk Institute. "We are very proud of Bjrn and Axel and grateful for NIH's support of young researchers who pursue innovative and bold science."

Bjrn Lillemeier is an assistant professor in both the Nomis Foundation Laboratories for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis and the Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center. He is also the holder of the Rudolph and Sletten Developmental Chair. The New Innovator award will boost his efforts to understand how cellular communication is controlled in space and time. To this end, he develops unique optical microscopy techniques that visualize the molecular organization of plasma membrane signaling in live cells. A main interest of his laboratory is the processing of signals that cause activation or silencing of T lymphocytes during infections and diseases. His research reveals novel signaling mechanisms that can be utilized to modulate cell functions and target the large number of diseases associated with membrane signaling defects.

Axel Nimmerjahn, an assistant professor in the Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center and holder of the Richard Allan Barry Developmental Chair, has created and continues to develop novel research tools for dissection of glial cell function in the intact healthy and diseased brain. The New Innovator award will support his research into microglia, the resident immune cells in the brain. Microglia are involved in essentially all brain pathologies and hence better understanding of their signaling mechanisms may lead to new or improved disease prevention and treatment strategies. Nimmerjahn aims to develop novel optical and genetic tools for in vivo dissection of microglia function in superficial and deep regions of the brain. This will provide new fundamental insight into these cell's beneficial and detrimental roles in health and disease.

Established in 2007, The NIH Director's New Innovator Award addresses two important goals: stimulating highly innovative research and supporting promising new investigators. The program supports exceptionally creative new investigators who propose highly innovative projects that have the potential for unusually high impact.

Contact: Andy Hoang
Salk Institute

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A rare feat: 2 scientists at Salk score NIH New Innovator Awards
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