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Vol. LVIII, No. 18
September 8, 2006

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Symposium Spotlights Pioneering Progress, Sept. 19 in Masur

There won't be any covered wagons, but at the second annual NIH Director's Pioneer Award Symposium on Tuesday, Sept. 19, the frontier will take center stage. The scientific frontier, that is.

The Pioneer Award program, launched in 2004 as part of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, supports exceptionally creative scientists who take highly innovative approaches to major challenges in biomedical research. NIH made 9 awards in 2004 and 13 more in 2005.

"The recipients of the NIH Director's Pioneer Award represent some of the brightest minds in science addressing high-risk and potential high-impact research," said NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni. "This symposium offers a rare opportunity to hear about their exciting progress in a broad spectrum of cutting-edge areas, from infectious disease to human behavior."

The symposium takes place in Masur Auditorium, Bldg. 10. Attendance is free and there is no need to register.

The event opens at 8:15 a.m. with introductory remarks by Zerhouni and NIGMS director Dr. Jeremy Berg, co-chair of the committee that oversees the Pioneer Award program. Most of the day is devoted to individual talks by the 2005 award recipients, with a late-morning shift of gears for the announcement of the 2006 group of awardees. The concluding session, from 3:40 to 5:30 p.m., combines poster presentations by 2004 award recipients and members of their labs with a concurrent reception.

The presenters include:

  • Stanford University scientist Karl Deisseroth, who is developing new technologies for the noninvasive imaging and control of brain circuits as they operate in real time within living, intact tissue. He hopes that this work will lead to basic neuroscience insights as well as new understanding of — and treatments for — neurological and psychiatric disorders.

  • Vicki Chandler of the University of Arizona, who studies paramutation, a process by which a gene from one parent communicates a change to the corresponding gene from the other parent. Such interactions could contribute to unexpected inheritance patterns and make it difficult to identify genes involved in complex human diseases.

  • Leda Cosmides of the University of California, Santa Barbara, who applies evolutionary and computational approaches to the study of human motivation. She is working to identify various factors that influence anger, altruism, and sexual attraction.

  • Thomas Rando of the University of Wisconsin, who investigates the effects of aging in stem cells. He is beginning to understand which elements of "youthful" and "aged" cellular environments affect stem cell function.

  • Johns Hopkins researcher Nathan Wolfe, who works on three continents and uses methods from virology, ecology, evolutionary biology and anthropology to spot new viruses as they emerge in people.

And that's only a taste of the day's agenda. The other 2005 award recipients who will present their research at the symposium are Hollis Cline of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Titia de Lange of Rockefeller University, Pehr Harbury of Stanford University School of Medicine, Erich Jarvis of Duke University Medical Center, Derek Smith of the University of Cambridge, Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin Medical School, Clare Waterman-Storer of the Scripps Research Institute and Junying Yuan of Harvard Medical School.

The symposium agenda, with links to biographical sketches of the speakers, is at

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