PHILADELPHIA –Three students and one researcher from the Perelman School of Medicine have been chosen as recipients of Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Awards. The three students, Kristopher Bosse, Amit Khera, and Emily Williams, received Research Training Fellowships and John Chang, MD, received a Physician-Scientist award.
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) awards, which total $11.1 million, give medical students the opportunity to take a year off from their medical training to gain research experience. Young scientists who bridge the gap between basic research and clinical medicine at 14 academic medical centers get a boost at a vital time in their career.
The Research Training Fellowship allows students to implement a research plan and work at a lab anywhere in the U.S. except the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda, MD. All three Medical Fellows have chosen to work and do their research at their home institution, Penn’s School of Medicine. This is the 24th year that HHMI has provided support for students to work in research labs.
The Early Career Physician-Scientist program supports the careers of promising translational researchers, such as Dr. Chang, a HHMI-NIH Research Scholars Program Alumnus. Specifically, 19 physicians who are just beginning their independent research careers, with less than two years in a tenure-track position, are awarded $375,000 over five-years to help develop their research programs during a vulnerable time in their careers.
Chang has shown that a certain type of T cell, called a CD8 cell, does not divide into identical “daughter” T cells when it comes into contact with a virus. Instead, it divides into two different cells: a T cell that fights the invader and a T cell that remembers it. He plans to see if this phenomenon, called asymmetric division, also occurs in other types of T cells, especially memory cells. The work has implications for both vaccine development and treatment of multiple diseases, including cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. During his study, Chang worked in the laboratory of Steven L. Reiner, MD, Professor, Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute. The discovery of asymmetric division was listed as one of the journal Science’s top-10 breakthroughs of 2007.
Kristopher Bosse is working on a project entitled “Identification of BRCAI-Associated RING Domain (BARDI) as a Neuroblastoma Predisposition Gene and It’s Role in Initiating Neuroblastoma Tumorigenesis.” His mentor is John Maris, MD, Director of the Center for Childhood Cancer Research Program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Amit Khera is working on a project entitled “The Role of GALNT2-Mediated O-Linked Glycosylation in High-Density Lipoprotein Metabolism.” His mentor is Daniel Rader, MD, Director of Preventive Cardiology and the Clinical and Smilow Center for Translational Research (SCTR) at Penn.
Emily Williams is working on a project entitled “The Role of ARNT in Embryonic Vascular Development and Hematopoiesis.” Her mentor is Celeste Simon, PhD, Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology at Penn and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator.
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Penn's School of Medicine is currently ranked #4 in the nation in U.S.News & World Report's survey of top research-oriented medical schools; and, according to most recent data from the National Institutes of Health, received over $379 million in NIH research funds in the 2006 fiscal year. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.
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