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UT awarded NIH grants to study prevention and treatment of neurodegenerative and vascular diseases
Date:9/21/2011

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded researchers at The University of Texas at Austin two highly competitive research grants to create novel therapeutics for treating heart disease as well as to develop technology that significantly reduces the time and costs required to test drugs for neurodegenerative disease.

The grants are part of a $143.8 million funding initiative provided by NIH this year to 79 researchers around the nation. The awards are granted under three innovative research programs supported by the NIH Common Fund: the NIH Director's Pioneer, New Innovator and Transformative Research Projects Awards.

"The awards are intended to catalyze giant leaps forward for any area of biomedical research, allowing investigators to go in entirely new directions," said James M. Anderson, director of the NIH Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives, who guides the Common Fund's High-Risk Research program.

Cockrell School of Engineering Associate Professor Adela Ben-Yakar and College of Natural Sciences Assistant Professor Jon Pierce-Shimomura were selected to receive the Transformative Research Project award for their research to prevent degeneration of the nervous system. Degeneration, which occurs through natural aging and diseases like Alzheimer's, has become a pervasive and growing problem in the last century due to new treatments that extend lifespan but cannot prevent neurological decline.

"We can treat cancer when we diagnose it on time and maybe find solutions for heart problems, but when it comes to the brain we don't have many effective solutions," said Ben-Yakar, from the Department of Mechanical Engineering whose mother has Alzheimer's disease. "[Neurodegeneration] is a big problem for all of humanity. As an engineer, it excites me to find new ways of doing things, but the end result is what really motivates me and my colleague."

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Contact: Melissa Mixon
melissa.mixon@austin.utexas.edu
512-471-2129
University of Texas at Austin
Source:Eurekalert

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