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Outstanding young gastroenterologists receive AGA Foundation

The Foundation for Digestive Health and Nutrition (FDHN) has announced the 2010 American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) Foundation research scholars. The grants have been awarded to seven outstanding young gastroenterologists who promise to make significant strides in the field of gastrointestinal research.

"The current economic times have introduced new funding challenges, and research funding remains elusive for all scientists, especially those just beginning their career, despite their tremendous promise," said Sidney Cohen, MD, AGAF, chairman of the Foundation for Digestive Health and Nutrition. "The AGA Foundation for Digestive Health and Nutrition remains committed to continuing to help fund these gifted scholars. The pace of discovery must be sustained, and it is up to those of us in the profession to make it happen. The 75 grants we give out to gifted researchers each year boldly represents our commitment to progress."

The 2010 AGA Research Scholars are:

  • Ype deJong, MD, PhD, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York: Role of innate immune activation on T cell function in mice infected with hepatitis C.
  • Porfirio Nava-Dominguez, PhD, Emory University, Atlanta, GA: Role of desmosomal cadherins in regulation of intestinal epithelial barrier function in irritable bowel disease.
  • Kenneth Olive, PhD, Columbia University Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, New York (Bernard L. Schwartz Research Scholar Award in Pancreatic Cancer): The influence of hedgehog pathway inhibitation on pancreatic cancer metastasis.
  • Shervin Rabizadeh, MD, MBA, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA (AGA-General Mills Institute of Health and Nutrition Research Scholar Award in Gut Physiology and Health): Role of innate immunity and Stat3 activation in colitis mouse model.
  • Andres Roig, MD, The University of Texas at Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas: Validating colorectal cancer candidate mutations using adult human colonic epithelial cells.
  • Catherine Rongey, MD, MSHS, University of California, San Francisco: Patterns and related determinants of health-care utilization in rural veterans with hepatitis C virus-associated chronic liver disease.
  • Takeshi Saito, MD, PhD, University of Washington, Seattle: Identification and therapeutic application of novel innate immune antiviral gene.

The prestigious Research Scholar Awards offer each scientist a total of $60,000 for two years (third year is contingent on available funds and research progress) to help support his or her research over a three-year period. The goal of the Research Scholar Awards is to guarantee the perpetuation of strong science through the encouragement of young physician investigators and ultimately, to improve patient care through digestive diseases research.

These extremely competitive awards ensure that bright, young physicians and scientists devote their careers to advancing the field of digestive health through research. Awards are based on the qualifications of the candidate, the quality of the candidate's research proposal and the commitment of the candidate's institution to protect 70 percent of his or her time for research.

The Research Scholar Awards program was launched in 1984 to provide crucial early support to investigators who show promise in academic gastroenterological research. The program's premise recognized that resources awarded early on could provide a stable platform from which future research funding would be derived. During and after their time as an AGA Research Scholar, recipients have made important contributions to the field of gastroenterology and many former award recipients have gone on to hold distinguished appointments in major medical institutions in the U.S. and Canada.

Since 1984, the AGA and its foundation have awarded more than $24 million to fund some 168 research scholars and have provided a total of $38 million in grant funding. The 2010 scholars were chosen by a distinguished 11-person national advisory committee chaired by David Brenner, MD, dean and vice chancellor for Health Sciences at University of California. Members of the committee include leading gastroenterologists from the Cincinnati Children's Medical Center, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, University of Michigan, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Vanderbilt University and Washington University.

The AGA Research Scholar Awards program addresses the critical problem of a lack of funding for entry-level researchers in gastroenterology. At a time of unparalleled scientific and clinical opportunity, the field of gastroenterology faces a significant decline in the number of gastroenterologists entering academic research careers. Although the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funds a significant amount of gastroenterology research, it rarely funds young investigators working independently without a research track record. Additionally, NIH gastroenterology research funding is proportionately much smaller than that for diseases with less or similar health impact (such as HIV/AIDS or breast cancer).


Contact: Alissa J. Cruz
American Gastroenterological Association

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