Nine scientists from Harvard are among the 103 who have been selected in four categories to receive more than $200 million in grants over five years through the National Institutes of Health’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program, which aims to promote innovative studies addressing major challenges in the biomedical, behavioral, or social sciences.
Adam Granger, Rachel Buckley, Benjamin P. Kleinstiver, Kara McKinley, Ellis Monk, Carlos Ponce, Silvi Rouskin, and Dabattama Rai Sen will each receive New Innovator Awards. The prize honors early-career primary investigators who apply out-of-the-box approaches to biomedical questions. Bo Xia will receive the Early Independence Award, which spotlights scientists who have recently received their doctoral degrees or completed their medical residencies and moved directly into independent research position.
The NIH’s High-Risk, High-Reward research program also includes categories called the Pioneer Award, and the Transformative Research Award.
Granger is a group leader and research scientist in the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. He studies the molecular, cellular, and circuit mechanisms of neuropsychiatric disorders.
Buckley is an assistant investigator at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and assistant professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School (HMS). Her research focuses on understanding risk and resilience in preclinical Alzheimer’s disease.
Kleinstiver Ben Kleinstiver is an assistant investigator of pathology at MGH and an assistant professor of pathology at HMS. His lab seeks to address limitations of CRISPR genome editing technologies and develop genome engineering technologies.
McKinley is an assistant professor in the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and member of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. Her lab studies how the uterine lining regenerates after menstruation. The goal is to improve care for people with either endometrial pathologies or menstrual experiences that interfere with their quality of life.
“We want to take a big swing at studying menstruation and menstrual anomalies, which are historically under-resourced, and we’re excited that the NIH is willing to invest in this work and put some power behind our swing,” McKinley said. “Most diseases and anomalies associated with the uterus and menstruation have abysmal treatment options and it’s well past time to address that. We hope that our work can help us improve the quality of life of people who menstruate.”
Monk is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology. He uses both quantitative and qualitative methods to examine the complex relationships between social categories and social inequality. He looks at topics such as social demography, health, aging, race, ethnicity, and technology.
Ponce is an assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology at HMS. He received both his M.D. from HMS and his Ph.D. in neuroscience from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Ponce’s research is aimed at discovering and characterizing the visual representations of the primate brain using machine intelligence.
Rouskin is an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology at HMS. Born in Bulgaria into a family of rock musicians, Silvi decided to rebel and came to the U.S. to pursue a career in science at the age of 15. She earned her PhD at University of California San Francisco, where she pioneered an approach to measure RNA structure in cells. Before HMS, she started her own lab as a Whitehead Institute Fellow.
Dabattama Rai Sen is a principal investigator in the MGH Center for Cancer Research and an assistant professor of medicine at HMS. Her research focuses on understanding the regulatory pathways that drive immune dysfunction in chronic viral infections and in tumors. She also tries exploring strategies to reverse these changes.
Xia is a Junior Fellow of the Society of Fellows, a Gene Regulation Observatory Fellow, and a principal investigator at the Broad. One of the major goals of Xia’s lab is to understand the principles and mechanisms of genome organization across the tree of life and their underlying role in development, disease, and evolution.
“The science advanced by these researchers is poised to blaze new paths of discovery in human health,” said Lawrence A. Tabak, who is the acting director of the NIH. “This unique cohort of scientists will transform what is known in the biological and behavioral world. We are privileged to support this innovative science.”