News Release 

Pew funds six teams to pursue cutting-edge biomedical research

Pew Charitable Trusts

Award Announcement

PHILADELPHIA--The Pew Charitable Trusts announced today the six pairs of researchers who will make up its 2020 class of Innovation Fund investigators.

These investigators--alumni of Pew's biomedical programs in the United States and Latin America--will partner on interdisciplinary research to tackle some of the most complex questions in human biology and disease. The teams will combine their expertise, ranging from virology to neuroscience and from biophysics to computational biology, in their efforts to advance innovative research and improve human health.

"By building research partnerships that bridge diverse scientific disciplines, the 2020 Innovation Fund collaborators will work to uncover unique solutions to some of biomedicine's toughest challenges," said Molly Irwin, vice president of research and science at The Pew Charitable Trusts. "We're proud to support these researchers as they partner to pursue novel therapies and cutting-edge discoveries."

For 35 years, Pew has encouraged collaboration among its community of talented biomedical scientists, culminating in the launch of the Innovation Fund in 2017. The fund's award criteria were developed to promote working relationships among Pew biomedical program alumni and to motivate researchers to focus on proposals that combine their areas of expertise. All program alumni holding assistant professor positions or higher are eligible to apply for the award, which is supported by the Kathryn W. Davis Peace by Pieces Fund.

This year's Innovation Fund teams and research projects are:

Marco Contreras, Ph.D., 2013 Pew Latin American fellow; University of Chile in Santiago

José Luis Valdés, Ph.D., 2006 Pew Latin American fellow; University of Chile in Santiago

Contreras and Valdés will explore the neurological mechanisms behind psychopathy, a personality disorder that is characterized by anti-social behavior and a lack of empathy.

Frank Alber, Ph.D., 2009 Pew biomedical scholar; University of California, Los Angeles

Z. Hong Zhou, Ph.D., 1999 Pew biomedical scholar; University of California, Los Angeles

Alber and Zhou will map the location of unknown identities and structures of protein complexes in Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria.

Roberto Zoncu, Ph.D., 2014 Pew-Stewart scholar; University of California, Berkeley

Shingo Kajimura, Ph.D., 2013 Pew biomedical scholar; Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Zoncu and Kajimura will explore the molecular basis of inter-organelle communication and energy maintenance in adipose tissues.

Polina V. Lishko, Ph.D., 2015 Pew biomedical scholar; University of California, Berkeley, and Buck Institute for Research on Aging

Ke Xu, Ph.D., 2015 Pew biomedical scholar; University of California, Berkeley

Lishko and Xu will investigate steroid hormones' role in uncovering the underlying gender differences in Alzheimer's disease.

Ekaterina Heldwein, Ph.D., 2007 Pew biomedical scholar; Tufts University School of Medicine

Daniela Nicastro, Ph.D., 2007 Pew biomedical scholar; University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Heldwein and Nicastro will investigate the assembly and trafficking of herpesviruses in host cells.

Mark Andermann, Ph.D., 2013 Pew biomedical scholar; Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Viviana Gradinaru, Ph.D., 2013 Pew biomedical scholar; California Institute of Technology

Andermann and Gradinaru will investigate how the brain's insular cortex perceives bodily signals from internal organs.

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The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today's most challenging problems. Learn more at pewtrusts.org.

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