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Groundbreaking model of heart disease rewarded with NIH Pioneer Award
Date:9/23/2009

SALT LAKE CITYA pioneering model that a University of Utah cardiologist proposes as a cause of heart disease is the kind of creative thinking the National Institutes of Health (NIH) likes to seeand reward with one of its most prestigious honors, a $2.5 million 2009 Pioneer Award.

Ivor J. Benjamin, M.D., professor of internal medicine and biochemistry and the Christi T. Smith Endowed Chair of Cardiovascular Research at the U of U School of Medicine, believes that one of the body's most powerful antioxidantsmolecules generally believed to protect the heartactually might lead to disease in the heart and other organs when a gene mutation causes the body to overproduce the molecule. His theory, which stirred some controversy when Benjamin presented it in a 2007 study in the journal Cell, represents a paradigm shift in understanding the causes of heart disease. But with the conviction that new and unconventional ideas propel science forward, and after a highly competitive and critical review process, the NIH chose Benjamin to further investigate the idea as one of only 18 researchers to receive a Pioneer Award.

NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., will present Benjamin and the other recipients their awards in a ceremony this Thursday, Sept. 24, at the agency's headquarters in Bethesda, Md. Benjamin will receive $500,000 annually for five years to pursue his research. Much of the Pioneer Award program's appeals is that it encourages researchers to think outside the box while receiving substantial funds to test their ideas, according to Collins.

"The fact that we continue to receive such strong proposals for funding through the program attests to the wealth of creative ideas in so many fields of science today," he said.

The Pioneer Awards are part of a lager program of 115 grants intended to foster innovative and potentially transformative medical research. The NIH awarded a total of $13.5 million to this year's Pioneer Award w
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Contact: Phil Sahm
phil.sahm@hsc.utah.edu
801-581-2517
University of Utah Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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