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Burroughs Wellcome Fund awards $14M to support physician-scientists

The inaugural class of the Career Awards for Medical Scientists prove to be a successful transition

Burroughs Wellcome Fund

One of the strengths of the foundation world is its ability to be flexible; to have the ability to take an objective look at its funding capabilities and make a change even when it may not be an easy decision.

The Career Awards at the Biomedical Sciences (CABS) was the Burroughs Wellcome Fund's signature program since BWF became an independent and private foundation in 1994. Until 2006, 241 awards were given to young scientists at the postdoctoral level who were poised to go on to promising academic careers as independent researchers. BWF invested more than $100 million into the award program.

The program was so successful that it caught the attention of Nobel laureate Thomas Cech, who, in a report to the NIH by the National Academies, urged the federal government to model an award mechanism based on CABS. In January 2006, the NIH announced its Pathway to Independence awards (K99/R00), of which they would offer 175-200 a year, roughly five times the amount BWF would be able to make.

BWF prides itself on supporting underfunded areas of science. The shouldering of the career development awards by the government meant that this area had significant support. Despite its tradition of success, it was time to make a shift.

In May 2006, the BWF Board of Directors approved an award program designed to increase the number of physician-scientists into the biomedical research enterprise by providing career development funding. The newly minted Career Awards for Medical Scientists was influenced by several studies on physician-scientists, one of which went so far as to call the researchers "endangered species."

"We had an idea that this was certainly an area where there was a need for funding," said BWF President Dr. Queta Bond. "But the quality and quantity of the applications exceeded our expectations."

The program drew more than 150 applications. In the end, 20 physician-scientists received the inaugural Career Awards for Medical Scientist, including a dentist and a dermatologist, firsts for BWF.

"This was a historic move and will make a tremendous difference in medicine," Dr. George Miller, a BWF board member, remarked after the board moved to approve the awardees. "This is a pool of very good people doing incredible things."

The 2008 Career Awards for Medical Scientists are:

  • Jonathan Paul Alexander, M.D., Ph.D.
    University of California-San Francisco
    Isolation of a putative alveolar stem cell population and analysis of its role in development, maintenance, and repair of the lung epithelium

  • Robert Baloh, M.D., Ph.D.
    Washington University
    Mechanism of peripheral neuropathy from Mitofusin 2 mutations

  • James Elliott Bradner, M.D.
    Harvard University
    Design and characterization of highly potent inhibitors of HDAC6

  • Clark C. Chen, M.D., Ph.D.
    Harvard Medical School
    The molecular basis and therapeutic implications of genome instability during brain tumor progression

  • Arlene Dent, M.D., Ph.D.
    Case Western Reserve University
    Acquisition of immunity to blood stage Falciparum malaria in infants

  • Mahalia Sabrina Desruisseaux, M.D.
    Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University
    Neuroparasitology: neurological complications of cerebral malaria

  • Benjamin Levine Ebert, M.D., Ph.D.
    Harvard Medical School
    Genomic approaches to disorders of erythroid differentiation

  • Brian Todd Edelson, M.D., Ph.D.
    Washington University
    Macrophage and dendritic cell development

  • Rene L. Galindo, M.D., Ph.D.
    University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center-Dallas
    Genetic dissection of the Rhabdomyosarcoma initiator PAX-FKHR and PAX-related signaling in skeletal muscle development

  • Darnell Kaigler, D.D.S., Ph.D.
    University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
    Cell therapy for the treatment of alveolar bone defects

  • Michael Z. Lin, M.D., Ph.D.
    University of California-San Diego
    Elucidating mechanisms of synaptic plasticity and learning by visualizing and controlling local protein turnover

  • Roger Lo, M.D., Ph.D.
    University of California-Los Angeles
    Melanoma in the skin: initiation, progression, and crosstalk with dermal fibroblasts

  • Emanual Maverakis, M.D.
    University of California-Davis
    gC399tr an inhibitor of autoimmunity

  • Eric Matthew Morrow, M.D., Ph.D.
    Harvard Medical School
    Identification of autism genes in special founder populations using high-density SNP microarrays

  • Christopher Newton-Cheh, M.D.
    Harvard Medical School
    Genomic dissection of QT interval duration and sudden death

  • Dao Nguyen, M.D.
    University of Washington
    The stringent response in Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm formation and antibiotic tolerance

  • Anil Potti, M.D.
    Duke University
    Gene expression patterns coupled with signatures of oncogenic pathway deregulation provide a novel approach to targeted therapeutics in non-small cell lung carcinoma

  • Alice Shaw, M.D., Ph.D.
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Novel biomarkers and targeted therapies for human lung cancer: translation from a mouse model

  • Joseph C. Wu, M.D., Ph.D.
    Stanford University
    Molecular and cellular mechanisms of cardiac regeneration

  • Mark Nan Wu, M.D., Ph.D.
    University of Pennsylvania
    Identification of novel genes that regulate sleep in Drosophila melanogaster



The Burroughs Wellcome Fund is an independent, private foundation dedicated to advancing the medical sciences by supporting research and other scientific and educational activities. A majority of its grantmaking is made through competitive programs designed to support the career development of young scientists and to build capacity in undervalued research areas.

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