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NIH awards researcher $1.5 million 'new innovator' grant for fruit-fly studies of prion proteins
Date:9/18/2007

GALVESTON, Texas -- The National Institutes of Health has selected University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) Assistant Professor of Neurology Pedro Fernandez-Funez to receive a five-year, $1.5 million NIH Directors New Innovator Award.

NIH Director Dr. Elias Zerhouni will officially announce the 29 recipients of the grants, designed to foster young biomedical researchers with bold new ideas, at a symposium at NIH headquarters Wednesday, Sept. 19.

Fernandez-Funez, one of only three Texas scientists selected to receive one of the awards, won his grant with an original proposal to study prion diseases a group of deadly, brain-destroying disorders that include mad cow disease and its human version, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease using genetically modified fruit flies and laboratory mice.

I was totally surprised when they notified me of the award the competition was very tough, Fernandez-Funez said. After the initial shock came tremendous joy for the recognition of the work were doing in the lab. This award will provide us with the financial means and stability to continue our innovative approach to understanding how prion proteins cause brain disease, and complement our parallel work on Alzheimers disease, which involves different proteins misbehaving in a similar way.

UTMB neurology department chairman Dr. Tetsuo Ashizawa applauded Fernandez-Funezs success in garnering the highly prestigious award.

For young investigators who have been trying hard to get over the final barrier of obtaining NIH funding, this is very encouraging news, Ashizawa said. It is also great news for UTMB and our School of Medicine, which has been making a special effort to provide support for young investigators, a critical element for the successful growth of the our next generation of scientists.

Fernandez-Funez and UTMB Assistant Professor Diego Rincon-Limas have been working closely together for four years using fruit flie
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Contact: Jim Kelly
jpkelly@utmb.edu
409-772-8791
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
Source:Eurekalert

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