LA JOLLA, Calif., September 13, 2012 - The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of the Director today announced that Duc Dong, Ph.D., assistant professor at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham), will receive a New Innovator Award. These awards are intended to help researchers pursue big ideas with the potential to transform scientific fields and speed the translation of research into improved health.
Dong's big idea is to grow replacement organs in an adult animal, using a new technology his lab recently developed. He and his team will genetically reprogram cells in zebrafish to induce new tissue development. Zebrafish, a valuable model for studying human development and disease, will allow the researchers to rapidly screen genes and chemicals important for efficient genetic reprogramming in a living organism.
"The ability to grow replacement tissues will be useful for treating diseases such as diabetes, liver disease, and heart disease, as well as for repairing or replacing organs and limbs damaged or lost due to traumatic injury," Dong said. "This new award will allow us to address fundamental questions regarding the feasibility and effectiveness of genetic reprogramming as an approach to regenerative therapy."
The NIH Director's New Innovator Award, a part of the High Risk High Reward program supported by the NIH Common Fund, is different from most other NIH grants. These awards support new investigators at the beginning stages of their careers--a time when they may lack the preliminary data required by the traditional NIH peer review system to qualify for highly competitive grants, such as RO1 grants. Instead, New Innovator Awards are given based on a researcher's creativity, the innovativeness of his or her approach, and the project's potential impact on human health.
"The Common Fund High Risk High Reward program provides opportunities for innovative investigators in any area of health research to take risks when the potential impact in biomedical and behavioral science is high," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. in the NIH's press release.
Note to members of the media: Please contact Heather Buschman at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule on-site, phone, or Skype interviews with Duc Dong, Ph.D. Images are also available upon request.
About Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute
Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute is dedicated to discovering the fundamental molecular causes of disease and devising the innovative therapies of tomorrow. The Institute consistently ranks among the top five organizations worldwide for its scientific impact in the fields of biology and biochemistry (defined by citations per publication) and currently ranks third in the nation in NIH funding among all laboratory-based research institutes. Sanford-Burnham utilizes a unique, collaborative approach to medical research and has established major research programs in cancer, neurodegeneration, diabetes, and infectious, inflammatory, and childhood diseases. The Institute is especially known for its world-class capabilities in stem cell research and drug discovery technologies. Sanford-Burnham is a U.S.-based, non-profit public benefit corporation, with operations in San Diego (La Jolla), California and Orlando (Lake Nona), Florida. For more information, news, and events, please visit us at sanfordburnham.org.