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Duke biomedical scientists win 2 highly prized NIH Director's Awards
Date:9/23/2009

Durham, N.C. Two Duke University Medical Center scientists have won prestigious National Institutes of Health Director's awards to pursue novel research.

Tannishtha Reya, Ph.D., an associate professor of pharmacology and cancer biology, has won an NIH Director's Pioneer Award and Michel Bagnat, Ph.D., assistant professor of cell biology, won an NIH Director's New Innovator Award.

Each of the 18 Pioneer Awards provides $2.5 million in direct costs over five years. The 55 New Innovator Awards provide $1.5 million in direct costs, also for five years.

Reya, co-director of the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Program at the Duke University School of Medicine, studies the chemical signals that control stem cell growth. She has successfully shown in several recent papers how the same signals can also fuel cancer growth thus identifying new targets for therapy.

The proposal that won the award focuses on a new direction in Dr. Reya's lab: imaging stem cell growth and cancer formation in living organisms. These studies will provide key insights into the behavior of stem cells under physiological conditions.

"I was very excited to hear about the Pioneer Award," Reya said. "Not only is this a great honor, but it will allow us to undertake a series of high-impact experiments that may require us to take some risks that we otherwise would not have been able to carry out. In the long term, understanding the environment in which stem cells live may provide new ways to manipulate their growth for patients who need new blood cells, and new approaches to stopping leukemias."

Bagnat won his award to pursue research on fluid secretion that depends on a gene known to have several mutations linked to cystic fibrosis. The gene, CFTR, encodes for a protein that works as an ion channel across cell membranes. The studies will focus on fluid secretion related to the gene and will use genetics to identify regulators of the CF
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Contact: Mary Jane Gore
mary.gore@duke.edu
919-660-1309
Duke University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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