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  • NIH Announces First Pioneer Awards
Oct 2004
BETHESDA, Md., Oct. 4 -- Nine researchers who are pushing the limits in nanoscale chemistry and mechanics, bioengineering, spectroscopy and other areas of medical science are recipients of the first National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s Pioneer Award, a program to support innovative ideas and approaches to contemporary challenges in biomedical research.

"History suggests that leaps in knowledge frequently result from exceptional minds willing and able to explore ideas that were considered risky at their inception, especially in the absence of strong supportive data," the NIH said in a statement. "Such individuals are more likely to take such risks when they are assured of adequate funds for a sufficient period of time, and with the freedom to set their own research agenda."

The NIH will provide $500,000 in direct costs per year for five years to each Pioneer Award recipient.

The 2004 winners include:

Chad Mirkin, PhD, a professor of chemistry and director of the Institute for Nanotechnology at Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill. Mirkin is pioneering the development of nanoscale chemical and biological sensors. He invented and developed dip-pen nanolithography and is the founder of two companies, Nanosphere and NanoInk.

Rob Phillips, PhD, a professor of engineering and applied science at California Institute of Technology (Caltech), in Pasadena, Calif., who is exploring nanoscale mechanics in biological systems. Several recent case studies include mechanical processes such as DNA ejection and DNA packing that occur during the life cycle of bacterial viruses and the study of how certain classes of ion channels are gated by mechanical forces. He wrote teh book, Crystals, Defects and Microstructures.

Steven R. Quake, PhD, formerly of Caltech and now a professor of bioengineering at Stanford University; his lab is broadly interested in biophysics and bioengineering and uses techniques such as single molecule spectroscopy and microfluidics to address a variety of fundamental and technological questions.

Sunney Xie, PhD, a professor of chemistry at Harvard University. His research has three objectives: to understand conformational and chemical dynamics of biomolecules such as enzymes through single-molecule spectroscopic studies; to study biochemical activities of macromolecules in living cells, gene expression in particular, at the single-molecule level; and to develop new microscopy techniques for cellular imaging.

Other recipients are: Larry Abbott, PhD, Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass.; George Daley, MD, PhD, Children’s Hospital Boston, Boston; Homme Hellinga, PhD, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C; Joseph McCune, MD, PhD, J. David Gladstone Institutes, San Francisco; and Steven McKnight, PhD, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas.

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