NHGRI Names Six Winners of Early-Career Genomic Innovators Awards

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The NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) today awarded its Genomic Innovator Awards to six institutions toward support for early career researchers seeking to accelerate genomics research by studying genome biology, genomic medicine, technology development, and the implications of genomic advances on society.

Each winner is expected to receive is expected to total approximately $500,000 per year over their five-year project period.

The Genomic Innovators Awards, created last year, differ from traditional research grants by providing funding for investigators deemed to have outstanding records of productivity in their pursuit of important research areas, including new directions. According to the NIH, the awards program is intended to promote stable funding to investigators, improve their productivity, and facilitate flexible, ambitious, and creative research.

“NHGRI could not be more pleased to announce awards that will help talented investigators pursue their research ideas in a highly nimble fashion,” NHGRI Director Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D., said in a statement. “All awards have enormous potential to make meaningful contributions to genomics in the coming years.”

The six principal investigators receiving Genomic Innovators Awards, and their areas of research, are:

  • Channabasavaiah Gurumurthy, Ph.D., at University of Nebraska Medical Center, whose research aims to develop technologies that address common challenges relating to developing and breeding mouse models. According to the NIH, about 70% of grant applications relate to mouse studies.
  • Eric Gamazon, Ph.D., at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, whose studies explore the genomic and environmental basis of observable physical characteristics, including hair and eye color, personality traits, and disease risk and resilience. Gamazon plans to develop computational tools intended to analyze all such observable characteristics relating to medical conditions, specifically, how genomic variation influences disease risk.
  • Jason Vassy, Ph.D., at Harvard Medical School, whose research aims to develop and validate clinical polygenic risk scores for coronary artery disease, atrial fibrillation, type 2 diabetes mellitus, breast cancer, colorectal cancer and prostate cancer. The tests will be used in clinical trials using point-of-care testing.
  • Luca Pinello, Ph.D., at Massachusetts General Hospital, whose studies center on disease-associated variants that lie in regions of the genome that do not code for genes. Pinello’s team will develop approaches to discover and understand how these regulatory elements function and how mutations in these areas can contribute to disease.
  • Stacy Gray, M.D., at The City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, whose research focuses on developing an interactive web-based, point-of-care tool for physicians and patients that will help providers and patients better understand their genomic information. The application will also facilitate sharing of genomic information within families.
  • Timothy O’Connor, Ph.D., at University of Maryland-Baltimore, whose research focus is identifying genomic variants that exist in specific ancestry populations. His work aims to classify small segments of identity by descent using genomic variants and to use the data to investigate mutational rates across populations, including how these processes impact human health and disease.

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