Eight Penn researchers receive 2021 NIH Director’s Awards


The The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded grants to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania to support “highly innovative, high impact” biomedical science through the NIH High Risk, High Yield Research Program Common Fund. The seven awards total approximately $ 8.2 million over five years.

The high-risk, high-yield research program catalyzes scientific discovery by supporting research proposals which, due to their inherent risk, may have difficulty in the traditional peer review process, despite their transformational potential. . Applicants to the program are encouraged to pursue innovative ideas in any area of ​​research relevant to NIH’s mission to advance knowledge and improve health.

The 2021 Penn recipients are among the 106 national winners:

New Innovators Award

Amber Alhadeff
Harnessing sensory food circuits to influence eating behavior

Alhadeff, assistant assistant professor of neuroscience at the Perelman School of Medicine and principal investigator at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, takes a unique approach to understanding obesity by evaluating the power of the neural circuits of taste, smell and nutrients in the body. modification of eating behavior. His team will also discover how sensory and nutritional information is integrated into the brains of mice to predict future weight gain. The success of this project will transform the understanding of how our brains and our environment interact to promote overeating and obesity.

Peter S. Choi
Exploring the Hidden Determinants of Splicing with Genome-Targeted Proximity Tagging

Choi, assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine, will examine the link between epigenetics and RNA splicing to discover their relationship in healthy and unhealthy contexts, as well as to identify new opportunities for therapeutic intervention in diseases such as cancer.

Erica Korb
The epigenetic encoding of learning and memory

Korb, assistant professor of genetics at the Perelman School of Medicine, will seek to discover the transcriptional signature encoding a memory in a neuron and how it is influenced by epigenetic mechanisms. Through this work, Korb’s lab hopes to understand how the physical world influences the regulation of genes in the brain to enable people to learn, adapt, and become who they are today.

Mustafa Mir
Quantify the dynamics of gene regulation and nuclear organization during embryogenesis

Mir, assistant professor of cell and developmental biology at Perelman School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, will integrate cutting-edge techniques to directly visualize and quantify how the regulation of gene expression is orchestrated during the Embryonic development. The essential new information obtained from the proposed experiments has the potential to lead to new therapeutic approaches to prevent or repair defects resulting from aberrant expression of genes during development, aging and cancer.

Liling Wan
Illuminate transcriptional digest using an integrated approach

Wan, assistant professor of cancer biology at the Perelman School of Medicine, is studying the functions and mechanisms of a newly recognized form of transcriptional assembly to better understand gene regulation. The success of this project would establish a new model of gene control and have the potential to transform the way in which gene deregulation is targeted in cancer and other diseases.

Transformative Research Award

Ben Black and Michael Lampson
Mendelian inheritance of artificial chromosomes

Black, Eldridge Foundation Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics Reeves Johnson at Perelman School of Medicine and Michael Lampson, Professor of Biology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, are co-principal investigators on a project to build the first artificial chromosomes of synthetic mammals that follow Mendel’s laws from minimal components. The success will transform the fundamental understanding of what constitutes a mammalian chromosome and have many applications in synthetic biology and biotechnology, such as creating animal models for drug development and as sources of personalized organs for transplantation. .

Pioneer Award

Jennifer Phillips-Cremins
From 3D genomes to neural connectomes: higher order chromatin mechanisms encoding long-term memory

Phillips-Cremins is Associate Professor and Dean’s Faculty of Bioengineering and Genetics, with positions in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Perelman School of Medicine. She seeks to unravel the functional link between long-range 3D genome folding patterns and synaptic plasticity during long-term memory encoding in mammalian brains. Since many key neurological disorders are considered diseases of the synapse, the success of this work will provide a basis for future studies on the role of the misfolded topology of the genome in the onset and progression of neurodevelopmental disorders and neurodegenerative.


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