|2005 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award Recipients
National Institutes of Health Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D.,
today named 13 new recipients of the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award.
A key component of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, the Pioneer
Award supports exceptionally creative scientists who take innovative
approaches to major challenges in biomedical research. The award
gives recipients the intellectual freedom to pursue groundbreaking
new research directions that could have significant impact if successful
but that, due to their novelty or other factors, also have inherently
high risks of failure.
“The scientists we recognize with Pioneer Awards have far-ranging
ideas that hold the potential to make truly extraordinary contributions
to many fields of medical research,” said Zerhouni. “The recipients
reflect the talent and diversity of the impressive group of scientists
who competed for the award. The strength of this group, and the
willingness of a number of NIH components to contribute funds to
the program, led us to make nearly twice as many awards as we originally
planned. This speaks volumes about the exciting opportunities that
lie ahead, and we look forward to seeing where the visionary concepts
of our Pioneer Awardees lead.”
The 2005 awardees work in diverse areas, including neuroscience,
genetics, epidemiology, chemistry, stem cell biology, behavioral
science, infectious diseases, and technology development. Six of
the 13 are women and more than half are at relatively early stages
of their careers (the associate professor level or below).
The new awardees, who will receive $500,000 in direct costs per
year for five years, are:
Vicki L. Chandler, Ph.D., Regents’ Professor
of Plant Sciences and Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University
of Arizona in Tucson, who studies the control of gene expression.
Hollis T. Cline, Ph.D., a professor and director
of research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor,
N.Y., who studies neural connectivity in the brain.
Leda Cosmides, Ph.D., a professor of psychology
at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who applies evolutionary
psychology to discover the design of the human mind and brain.
Titia de Lange, Ph.D., the Leon Hess professor
and head of the Laboratory of Cell Biology and Genetics at The
Rockefeller University in New York City, who studies chromosome
caps called telomeres.
Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor
of bioengineering and psychiatry at Stanford University in Stanford,
Calif., who develops and employs new technology to probe neural
circuits in the brain.
Pehr A.B. Harbury, Ph.D., an associate professor
in the Department of Biochemistry at Stanford University School
of Medicine in Stanford, Calif., who studies the chemical evolution
of small molecules.
Erich D. Jarvis, Ph.D., an associate professor
in the Department of Neurobiology at Duke University Medical Center
in Durham, N.C., whose research focuses on the molecular basis
of vocal learning.
Thomas A. Rando, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor
in the Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford
University School of Medicine, who studies the role of stem cells
in tissue repair and regeneration.
Derek J. Smith, Ph.D., a research associate in
the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge in Cambridge,
England, and a research scientist in virology at Erasmus Medical
Center in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, who uses mathematics to study
the influenza virus and other rapidly evolving infectious agents.
Giulio Tononi, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the
Department of Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Medical School, who studies the neural basis of consciousness and
the function of sleep.
Clare M. Waterman-Storer, Ph.D., an associate
professor in the Department of Cell Biology at The Scripps Research
Institute in La Jolla, Calif., who studies how cells change shape
Nathan D. Wolfe, D.Sc., an assistant professor
in the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University
Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Md., who studies
the emergence of infectious diseases.
Junying Yuan, Ph.D., a professor of cell biology
at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass., who will explore the
possible existence of a novel cellular mechanism that detects and
removes misfolded, neurotoxic proteins.
The announcement of the 2005 Pioneer Award recipients occurred
at the first annual NIH Director’s Pioneer Award Symposium. This
event featured individual talks and a roundtable discussion by
the inaugural group of awardees, who were selected in September
The newest Pioneer Award recipients were selected from 840 scientists
who underwent a streamlined but rigorous self-nomination and evaluation
process that began in March 2005. After NIH staff determined the
eligibility of each nominee, the first of three groups of distinguished
outside experts identified the most highly competitive individuals
in the pool. The second set of outside experts evaluated the 285
scientists in this group, focusing on their innovativeness and
creativity, the importance of the scientific problem to be addressed,
and the likelihood that the project’s success would have a high
impact on biomedical research. The evaluators also considered the
appropriateness of the project for the Pioneer Award mechanism,
including the requirement that it be distinct from other research
by the investigator. These evaluators identified 20 scientists
who were then interviewed at NIH by the third group of outside
A final review was performed by the Advisory Committee to the
Director, NIH, which made funding recommendations to the NIH Director
based on the evaluations by the outside experts and programmatic
More information on the 2005 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award recipients
is at http://nihroadmap.nih.gov/pioneer/Recipients05.aspx.
Details on the Pioneer Award program, including the names of the
outside evaluators for the 2005 awards, are at http://nihroadmap.nih.gov/pioneer.
The NIH Roadmap is a series of far-reaching initiatives designed
to transform the nation's medical research capabilities and speed
the movement of research discoveries from the bench to the bedside.
It provides a framework of the priorities the NIH must address
in order to optimize its entire research portfolio and lays out
a vision for a more efficient and productive system of medical
research. For more information about the NIH Roadmap, please visit
the Web site at http://nihroadmap.nih.gov.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's
Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and
Centers and is a component of the U. S. Department of Health
and Human Services. It is the primary Federal agency for conducting
and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research,
and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both
common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and
its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.