A Wistar Institute researcher's novel approach to understanding genetic causes of human disease has earned him an NIH Director's New Innovator Award and grant from the National Institutes of Health.
Ken-ichi Noma, Ph.D., an assistant professor in Wistar's Gene Expression and Regulation Program, is working to develop a new method of mapping the three-dimensional structure of the human genome. These efforts aim to identify the molecular basis for many diseases, including cancers, and may aid in the development of new diagnostic tests and treatments.
New Innovator Awards support exceptionally creative scientists who take highly innovative and often unconventional approaches to major challenges in biomedical or behavioral research. Winners receive a grant of $1.5 million over five years to support their work. Only early-career investigators who have not yet received a major NIH grant are eligible. Noma is one of 31 researchers worldwide who received the grants this year.
"It's an honor to receive this award, which is a vote of confidence in my idea," Noma says. "The grant will allow me to pursue this line of research, which could have a huge impact. This work has the potential to elucidate an extremely important but poorly understood aspect of human disease."
The human genome exists in the cell nucleus as a complex, three-dimensional entity, the structure of which is disorganized in certain diseases, including cancers. However, it is unclear how the organization of the genome influences disease development. One impediment to understanding that process is an inability to accurately measure, in any given cell, the three-dimensional structure of the chromosomes that contain DNA. Noma proposes to develop a novel system for decoding that structure. Doing so could shed light on the molecular basis of numerous human diseases.
"Original, inventive ideas are what drive Wistar's lifesaving advances in biomedical research," notes
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The Wistar Institute