Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation awards fellowships to Harvard scientists

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The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on supporting exceptional early career researchers and innovative cancer research, has selected four Harvard affiliates to receive Damon Runyon fellowships at its May 2009 Fellowship Award Committee review. The recipients of the three-year award are outstanding postdoctoral scientists conducting basic and translational cancer research in the laboratories of leading senior investigators across the country. The fellowship is specifically intended to encourage the nation’s most promising young scientists to pursue careers in cancer research by providing them with independent funding ($140,000 each) to work on innovative projects.

Of the 17 new fellows from across the country, Ilan Wapinski is one of six individuals who will receive an HHMI Fellowship in recognition of support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), which will fund $1 million in Damon Runyon Fellowships each year.
Damon Runyon Fellows follow:

Daniel H. Kim, with his sponsor Jeannie T. Lee, at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), is studying how noncoding RNAs (unique RNAs that do not make proteins) control gene expression during a developmental process in females called X-inactivation, which turns off all genes on an entire chromosome. His work may provide insights into novel regulatory roles for noncoding RNAs in silencing tumor suppressor genes, while potentially revealing new therapeutic targets for the treatment of many types of cancer.

Josselin Milloz, with his sponsor Sharad Ramanathan, at Harvard University, aims to understand how autophagy, the process of cellular “self-cannibalism,” is involved in a large number of cancers. Learning how autophagy is coordinated with other cellular processes will better elucidate its multiple roles in cancer.

Taiowa A. Montgomery, with his sponsor Gary Ruvkun, at Harvard Medical School, is studying mechanisms of gene silencing by a class of small regulatory molecules called microRNAs at MGH. In addition to having essential roles in development, microRNAs can act as oncogenes or as tumor suppressors. MicroRNAs have tremendous potential to be used therapeutically to prevent and treat cancer.

Ilan Wapinski (HHMI Fellow), with his sponsor Roy Kishony, at Harvard Medical School, is studying how changes in gene regulation impact cellular growth rates. Understanding these processes will help researchers understand how cancer cells can outgrow healthy ones in the human body.