NIH Awards Several Grants for Deciphering Gene Regulation, and more

Multiple Researchers Awarded NIH Grants to Decipher the Language of Gene Regulation

The National Institutes of Health has awarded multiple grants totaling more than $28 million aimed at deciphering the language of how and when genes are turned on and off. These awards originate from the recently launched Genomics of Gene Regulation (GGR) program of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of NIH.

With these new grants, researchers will study gene networks and pathways in different systems in the body, such as skin, immune cells, and lung. The resulting insights into the mechanisms controlling gene expression may ultimately lead to new avenues for developing treatments for diseases affected by faulty gene regulation, such as cancer, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.

“We do not have a good way to predict whether particular regulatory elements are turning genes off or activating them, or whether these elements make genes responsive to a condition, such as infection,” said Mike Pazin, PhD, a program director in the Functional Analysis Program in NHGRI’s Division of Genome Sciences. “We expect these new projects will develop better methods to answer these types
of questions using genomic data.”

Recipients of the new GGR three-year grants include:

  • $3.2 million: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York City, NY
    Principal Investigators: Christina Leslie, PhD, and Alexander Rudensky, PhD
  • $5.9 million: Duke University, Durham, NC
    Principal Investigator: Timothy Reddy, PhD
  • $6 million: University of California, Los Angeles, CA
    Principal Investigators: Alexander Hoffmann, PhD, and Douglas Black, PhD
  • $6.1 million: University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA
    Principal Investigators: Jeremy Luban, MD, and Manuel Garber, PhD

Source: National Institutes of Health press release

University of Wisconsin Names Ruth O’Regan to Lead Hematology/Oncology Division

Ruth O’Regan, MD, has been appointed division head of hematology and oncology in the department of medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW). Dr. O’Regan is an internationally recognized breast cancer physician and researcher with particular expertise on breast cancers that are resistant to current therapies. A native of Dublin, Ireland, Dr. O’Regan previously was a professor of hematology and medical oncology at Emory University, where she held the Louisa and Rand Glenn Family Chair in Breast Cancer Research. Additionally. Dr. O’Regan was the medical director at Glenn Family Breast Center of Emory University, director of the Breast Cancer Translational Research Program at the Winship Cancer Institute, and chief of hematology and medical oncology at the Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence at Grady Memorial Hospital. In her dedication to training the next generation of physicians, Dr. O’Regan served as vice chair for educational affairs in the department of hematology and medical oncology and as director of the hematology/oncology fellowship program at Emory University. Her term at UW began on February 2.

Source: University of Wisconsin press release

Victor Marder, Pioneer of Hematology (1935–2015)

Victor Marder, MD, a scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a recognized leader in the field of hematology research, died January 29, 2015, at the age of 80.

Born and raised near Baltimore, Maryland, he went on to serve as chief of the Division of Hematology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Strong Memorial Hospital. During his tenure, he built an outstanding group with international recognition in the area of hemostasis and thrombosis.

Dr. Marder joined UCLA’s faculty in 1999 as director of the Vascular Medicine Program at Los Angeles Orthopaedic Hospital, a post he held until 2014. In 2013, he was diagnosed with myelofibrosis, but was able to continue his groundbreaking work in hematology research up until recently, when he faced growing health challenges.

“Over the course of his 15-year tenure at UCLA, Dr. Marder showed the same strength, tenacity, and wisdom that marked his entire academic career,” said Dennis Slamon, MD, director of Clinical and Translational Research at the Jonsson Cancer Center.

Dr. Marder is survived by his wife of 46 years, Diane; daughters, Malerie and Carrie; and two grandchildren, Esme and Hugo.

Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Awards Given to Six Early-Career Scientists

The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation announced that six scientists with novel approaches to fighting cancer have been named 2015 recipients of the Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award. The grant of $300,000 over two years is awarded each year to early-career scientists whose projects have the potential to significantly impact the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. Each awardee will have the opportunity for up to two additional years of funding (up to four years total for $600,000). Continued support for years three and four will be granted to those awardees who demonstrate significant progress on their proposed research during the first two years of the award. The Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award funds cancer research by exceptionally creative thinkers with “high-risk/high-reward” ideas who lack sufficient preliminary data to obtain traditional funding. This year’s 2015 Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovators are:

  • Nicholas T. Ingolia, PhD, University of California, Berkeley
  • Christopher M. Jewell, PhD, University of Maryland, College Park
  • Ning Jenny Jiang, PhD, University of Texas, Austin
  • Guillem Pratx, PhD, Stanford University, Stanford
  • Brian H. Shirts, MD, PhD, University of Washington, Seattle
  • Elçin Ünal, PhD, University of California, Berkeley

Source: Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation press release