Two UCSF scientists are among the 31 nationwide who have received 2008 New Innovator Awards from the National Institutes of Health. The awards are designed "to enable recipients to pursue exceptionally innovative approaches that could transform biomedical and behavioral science."
The grants, which provide $1.5 million in direct costs over five years, were awarded to Yuriy Kirichok, PhD, assistant professor of physiology, and Miguel Ramalho-Santos, PhD, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences and a researcher in the Institute for Regeneration Medicine.
Kirichok will study molecular mechanisms of cell energy production and cell death to open new avenues in the treatment of age-related metabolic and degenerative diseases. Ramalho-Santos will study the genetic mechanisms that control how stem cells specialize as many different cell types, research that has implications for regenerative medicine and cancer biology.
"These highly creative researchers are tackling important scientific challenges with bold ideas and inventive technologies that promise to break through barriers and radically shift our understanding," said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, MD, who announced the awards on Monday, Sept. 22.
The programs, said Zerhouni, are central elements of NIH efforts to encourage and fund especially novel investigator-initiated research, even if it might carry a greater-than-usual degree of risk of not succeeding.
Kirichok is studying the dysfunction of the cell's mitochondria, which plays a key role in energy production and participates in such processes as cell-to-cell communication, cell differentiation, or specialization, cell death and cell cycle and growth. Dysfunction of mitochondria is implicated in neurodegeneration, obesity, diabetes, and cancer.
While pharmacological interventions at the level of mitochondria could become an effective way to treat these conditions, he
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University of California - San Francisco