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UT Southwestern scientist receives NIH Director's New Innovator Award

DALLAS Oct. 1, 2007 Dr. Tawanda Gumbo, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at UT Southwestern Medical Center, has been named one of the inaugural winners of the National Institutes of Health Directors New Innovator Award.

Dr. Gumbo is one of three Texas scientists and one of 29 nationwide to be named recipients of the award, which provides $1.5 million each over five years and is designed to recognize bold ideas from some of the nations most innovative new scientists. More than 2,100 applications were submitted.

The New Innovator Awards are given to early-career researchers who havent yet received a research project grant from the NIH. The awards are part of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, which promotes interdisciplinary and innovative research.

Dr. Gumbos research focuses on tuberculosis and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, a newly identified strain of TB that leaves patients virtually untreatable using existing anti-TB drugs. He has published numerous scientific papers on TB, AIDS and other infectious diseases.

About one-third of the worlds population is infected with mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes TB, and as many as 2 million people die of the disease each year. TB, which is the leading cause of death among people infected with HIV/AIDS, kills more people than any other disease caused by a single infectious agent, according to NIH data.

Dr. Beth Levine, professor of internal medicine and microbiology and chief of the division of infectious diseases at UT Southwestern, called the award a great honor for Dr. Gumbo.

The problem of drug resistance is emerging worldwide, Dr. Levine said. The idea that there might be a way to add a drug to prevent the resistance as well as to shorten and simplify therapy for all TB strains has major global health implications for treating this disease.

In his laboratory, Dr. Gumbo measures how antimicrobial drugs behave and how microbes react to those drug concentrations. The aim is to use such information from pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics to kill mycobacterium tuberculosis and keep more strains of TB from developing.

Dr. Gumbo said he was thrilled to receive the award.

It will allow me to actually do particular experiments that started with some techniques that I pioneered in the lab using the hollow fiber model of tuberculosis, the native of Zimbabwe said. The typical tuberculosis treatment takes many, many months; usually six months and nine months in some situations. Hopefully, well reduce it to weeks.

Over the five years of the award, Dr. Gumbo will develop a treatment regimen based on blocking the mechanisms that tuberculosis bacteria use to avoid being killed by antibiotics.

Dr. Gumbo, who joined the UT Southwestern faculty in 2006, graduated from the University of Zimbabwe Medical School in Harare, and completed his residency in internal medicine at Case Western Reserve University. He then completed a three-year fellowship to study infectious diseases at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

He spent a year doing research at the University of Zimbabwe before accepting a position in 2000 at Albany Medical College and the Ordway Research Institute in Albany, N.Y.

The other winners from Texas were Dr. Pedro Fernandez-Funez of the UT Medical Branch at Galveston and Dr. Kjersti Aagaard-Tillery of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.


Contact: Kristen Holland Shear
UT Southwestern Medical Center

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