Rita Allen Foundation Announces Major Grants to Scholars
Medical Researchers Receive Funding
The Rita Allen Foundation today announced the names of seven prominent researchers in biomedical science who will receive a total of $3,550,000 in grants as 2011 Rita Allen Foundation Scholars.
“Our mission is to invest in transformative ideas and projects that result in significant breakthroughs and solutions to serious health challenges,” said Elizabeth G. Christopherson, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Rita Allen Foundation. “We have traditionally embraced research with above average risk and groundbreaking possibilities, and are proud of the over 100 Scholars, including a Nobel Laureate and members of the National Academy of Sciences, who have received our financial support.”
According to Christopherson, Scholars are nominated by our country’s outstanding research institutions and selected by the Rita Allen Foundation Scientific Advisory Committee. Individuals chosen and their affiliated institutions receive grants from the Rita Allen Foundation of up to $110,000 annually, for a maximum of five years.
This year’s Rita Allen Foundation Scholars include two joint Rita Allen Foundation-American Pain Society (APS) Scholars:
Dr. Briana Burton, Harvard University. Dr. Burton is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University. She received her undergraduate degrees from Northwestern University and her Ph.D. from MIT. Dr. Burton’s work focuses on understanding how cells import nucleic acids from their environments, one of the mechanisms that allows for transfer of antibiotic resistance.
Dr. Burton has also been designated the Milton E. Cassel Scholar for the 2011 class of Rita Allen Foundation Scholars. This special award honors the memory of a long-time president of the Rita Allen Foundation who passed away in 2004.
Dr. Elissa Hallem, University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Hallem joined the faculty of the Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics Department at University of California, Los Angeles in 2011. She received her B.A. in Biology and Chemistry from Williams College and her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Yale University. Dr. Hallem’s research focuses on the neural basis of host-seeking behavior in parasitic nematodes (roundworms), which cause extensive morbidity and mortality worldwide. A better understanding of how parasites find and infect their hosts may lead to the development of new strategies for preventing infections.
Dr. Rahul Kohli, University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Kohli started his independent research group at the University of Pennsylvania in 2010, where he is on the faculty of the Department of Medicine and the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. He conducted his graduate work at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Kohli’s lab is interested in understanding the added layer of complexity that comes with the action of DNA modifying enzymes. Understanding these DNA modifying enzymes has implications for immune defense and stem cell pluripotency.
Dr. Michael Lin, Stanford University. Dr. Lin is an assistant professor of pediatrics and bioengineering at Stanford University. He studied biochemistry at Harvard University, receiving his bachelor's degree summa cum laude, and then performed research as a PhD student at Harvard Medical School. After completing medical school at UCLA, Dr. Lin began pursuing his current research, which combines development of molecular reporters and tools with the study of mechanisms of synaptic plasticity in neuronal networks. Information processing in the central nervous system is primarily mediated through synaptic connections between neurons, and this connectivity in turn defines how large ensembles of neurons may coordinate network output to execute complex sensory and motor functions.
Dr. Axel Nimmerjahn, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Dr. Nimmerjahn is an assistant professor in the Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center and the current Richard Allan Barry Developmental Chair. He completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research/University of Heidelberg, Germany. He currently studies an enigmatic set of cells called glia, which are critically involved in many injuries and diseases including spinal-cord injury, glioma, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Alexander’s disease. Work in Dr. Nimmerjahn’s lab is centered on investigating the role of glial cells in information processing, regulation of vascular dynamics, and stroke.
Dr. Edgar Romero-Sandoval, Postoperative Pain Research, Dartmouth Hitchcock (in conjunction with APS). Dr. Romero-Sandavol is an Assistant Professor of the Department of Anesthesiology and Pharmacology & Toxicology at Dartmouth Medical School. He received his M.D. from Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala (Centro Universitario de Occidente, Quetzaltenango) and his Ph.D. from Universidad de Alcalá, Alcalá de Henares (Madrid), Spain. Currently, Dr. Romero-Sandovol is studying the molecular mechanisms of spinal phosphatases in the generation and maintenance of chronic pain, and in the transition from acute to chronic pain.
Dr. Yuanxiang Tao, Neuropathic Pain, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (in conjunction with APS). Dr. Tao received his PhD from Shanghai Brain Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and completed his postdoctoral work at the University of Virginia. In 1999, he joined the faculty of the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The long-term goal of his research is to investigate novel molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie chronic pain and to apply the findings in prevention and/or treatment of this disorder.
Christopherson noted that this is the third year the Rita Allen Foundation and APS have successfully collaborated to review applicants and award scholarships to those studying ways to alleviate pain.