Penn Medicine Researchers Receive Prestigious NIH 2021 Director’s Awards

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 Choi

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.

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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.

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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.

purple money

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

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.

Pioneer awards

Phillips cremins

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.

Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the country’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health Systemwho together form a $ 8.9 billion company.

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.

The University of Pennsylvania Health Systems’ patient care facilities include: the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center – recognized by US News & World Report as one of the Nation’s Top Honor Roll hospitals – Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Medicine Princeton Health; and the Pennsylvania Hospital, the first US hospital founded in 1751. Other institutions and companies include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health.

Penn Medicine is powered by a talented and dedicated workforce of more than 44,000 people. The organization also has alliances with leading community health systems in both southeastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey, creating more opportunities for patients no matter where they live.

Penn Medicine is committed to the improvement of life and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal 2020, Penn Medicine committed more than $ 563 million to help our community.

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