PHILADELPHIA – The National Institutes of Health has awarded scholarships to researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine to support “highly innovative and far-reaching” biomedical science through the NIH Common Fund’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program. The seven awards total approximately $ 8.2 million over five years.
the High Risk, High Reward Research Program catalyzes scientific discovery by supporting research proposals that, due to their inherent risk, despite their transformative potential, may face difficulties in the traditional peer review process. Program applicants are encouraged to pursue breakthrough ideas in any research area relevant to the NIH’s mission to advance knowledge and improve health.
Penn Medicine Recipients 2021 are among the 106 national winners:
Awards for new innovators
Amber Alhadeff, PhD
Use of sensory food cycles to influence feeding behavior
Alhadeff, an associate professor of neuroscience, takes a unique approach to understanding obesity by assessing the power of taste, smell, and nutritional circuits in changing eating behavior. Her team will also uncover how sensory and nutritional information is incorporated into the brain of mice to predict future weight gain. Successful completion of this project will transform our understanding of how our brain and environment interact to promote overeating and obesity.
Peter S. Choi, PhD
Investigation of hidden determinants of splicing with genome-targeted proximity labeling
Choi, Assistant Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, will examine the link between epigenetics and RNA splicing to uncover their relationship in both healthy and unhealthy contexts and to identify new opportunities for therapeutic interventions in diseases such as cancer.
Erica Korb, PhD
The epigenetic coding of learning and memory
Korb, assistant professor of genetics, will try to uncover the transcriptional signature that codes a memory within a neuron and how this is influenced by epigenetic mechanisms. Through this work, Korb’s lab hopes to understand how the physical world affects gene regulation in the brain so that we can learn, adapt, and become the people we are today.
Mustafa Mir, PhD
Quantifying the dynamics of gene regulation and nuclear organization during embryogenesis
Mir, Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, will integrate cutting-edge techniques to directly visualize and quantify how the regulation of gene expression is orchestrated during embryonic development. The critical new information gleaned from the proposed experiments has the potential to lead to new therapeutic approaches to prevent or repair defects caused by aberrant gene expression during development, aging, and cancer.
Liling Wan, PhD
Illumination of transcription condensates with an integrated approach
Wan, Assistant Professor of Cancer Biology, is investigating the functions and mechanisms of a newly recognized form of transcription structure in order to better understand gene regulation. Successful completion of this project would establish a new model of gene control and have the potential to change the way we fight gene dysregulation in cancer and other diseases.
Transformative research awards
Ben Black, PhD
Mendelian inheritance of artificial chromosomes
Black, an associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics along with co-research director Michael Lampson, PhD, a professor of biology, intend to construct the first synthetic mammalian artificial chromosomes that follow Mendel’s laws from minimal components. Success will fundamentally change the fundamental understanding of what constitutes a mammalian chromosome and have wide-ranging applications in synthetic biology and biotechnology, such as creating animal models for drug development and as a source of personalized organs for transplantation.
Jennifer Phillips-Cremins, PhD
From 3D genomes to neural connectomes: higher-order chromatin mechanisms that encode long-term memory
Phillips-Cremins, PhD, Associate Professor of Bioengineering and Genetics, seeks to elucidate the functional link between far-reaching 3D genome folding patterns and synaptic plasticity during the coding of long-term memory in the mammalian brain. Since many important neurological disorders are considered to be synapse diseases, the successful completion of this work will form a basis for future studies that will elucidate the role of misfolded genomic topology in the onset and progression of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders.
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The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 years, according to a US News & World Report survey of research-oriented medical schools. The school is consistently one of the nation’s top recipients of funds from the National Institutes of Health, with $ 496 million awarded in fiscal 2020.
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