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W.M. Keck Foundation announces 2008 class of Distinguished Young Scholars in Medical Research

Los Angeles, CA. July 28 2008: The W.M.Keck Foundation, a leading supporter of pioneering medical research, science and engineering, today announced its 2008 class of Distinguished Young Scholars in Medical Research and Research Excellence Awardees.

Robert A. Day, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said: "Now in its tenth year, our Young Scholars program helps to promote the early career development of some of the country's most promising biomedical scientists.

"Over the past decade, Keck Young Scholars have consistently produced high-impact research and have advanced to become some of the most prominent scientists in their respective fields.We are proud to have helped jump-start the careers of some of our nation's research leaders and are very pleased to support a new group of young scholars who we believe have the same potential."

Under the Young Scholars program, each grant recipient's sponsoring institution receives an award of up to $1 million to support the scientist's research activities for a period of up to five years. Since its inception in 1998, the Young Scholars program has awarded 49 grants at leading research universities and institutions.

Each applicant was nominated by his or her academic institution and then evaluated individually by the Foundation's Medical Research staff and an advisory committee of outside scientific experts. The committee carefully evaluated each of the finalists and recommended the ten recipients, who were unanimously approved by the Foundation's Board of Directors.

The Foundation also recognizes the achievement of five additional young scientists with Research Excellence grants of $25,000.

Members of the 2008 class of Distinguished Young Scholars are:

  • Carl Novina, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Cancer Immunology and AIDS, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Dr. Novina's research focuses on identifying effectors and regulators of mammalian microRNAs, which silence genes and are often dysregulated in cancer. These studies may accelerate the development of microRNA-based therapeutics.

  • Coleen Murphy, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University Dr. Murphy plans to identify the genes critical for the maintenance of higher neuronal activities, in particular learning and memory, during aging. Her work may eventually lead to the development of treatments and preventions for age-related memory decline and neurodegeneration.

  • Joanna Wysocka, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Departments of Chemical and Systems Biology and Developmental Biology, Stanford University Dr. Wysocka aims to understand how certain chemical modifications of chromatin, the complex of DNA and proteins that makes up chromosomes, play a role in regulating cell fate determination. Her ultimate goals are to expand current understanding of the epigenetic components of disease and improve the therapeutic potential of stem cells.

  • Britt Glaunsinger, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of California, Berkeley Dr. Glaunsinger's research is directed toward understanding how the human herpesviruses interface with cellular RNA processing and degradation machinery to enhance their own replication. This work will elucidate novel cellular pathways targeted by cancer-causing viruses, leading to potentially new therapeutics.

  • Peter Reddien, Ph.D., Member, Whitehead Institute and Assistant Professor, MIT Dr. Reddien is working to identify the genetic mechanisms of regeneration in flat worms, leading to information about the regulation and function of stem cells in cell replacement and tissue repair.

The Foundation is also pleased to recognize the achievements of its 2008 W.M.Keck Research Excellence Awardees:

  • Daniela Nicastro, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Brandeis University
  • Sarkis Mazmanian, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology
  • Michael Diehl, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Bioengineering, Rice University
  • Hengbin Wang, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Ben Stanger, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, University of Pennsylvania


Contact: Louise Weston
W. M. Keck Foundation

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