Fourth Stowers researcher awarded Basil O'Connor Award


KANSAS CITY, MO. (Jan. 5, 2005) -- The March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation has awarded Linheng Li, Ph.D., Assistant Investigator at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, a Basil O'Connor Starter Scholar Research Award. The award of $150,000 over two years supports junior investigators whose work promises insight into the causes of human birth defects. Dr. Li is the fourth Stowers researcher to receive the award.

"We are delighted that Dr. Li has been awarded the Basil O'Connor Starter Scholar Research Award," said William Neaves, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Stowers Institute. "It is remarkable that four Stowers scientists have been selected for this prestigious award in the last three consecutive years of national competition. These awards recognize the relevance of the Institute's high-quality basic research to the search for better means of preventing and curing birth defects."

Dr. Li's research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms and genetic pathways that regulate adult stem cell development. This award is timely acknowledgement of Dr. Li's recent research achievement in generating an animal model of juvenile polyposis syndrome, a genetic defect in children that carries an increased risk of intestinal malignancies. Dr. Li showed that this condition could be created in mice by knocking-out the gene for the bone morphogenetic protein receptor (Nature Genetics, October 2004). This research has clinical implications for the diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal diseases.

Building upon his identification of the hematopoietic stem cell niche published in Nature in October 2003, Dr. Li and his colleagues extended their research to the intestinal stem cell population and demonstrated that a mutation in a single gene (Bmpr) causes expansion of the intestinal stem cell population and leads to intestinal polyposis. The award will allow Dr. Li to investigate the downstream pathways of BMP signaling in regulation of intestinal stem cell proliferation.

Dr. Li joined the Stowers Institute from the University of Washington Medical Center where he held a faculty appointment after completing postdoctoral training in a laboratory directed by Dr. Leroy Hood. Dr. Li earned his Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology from New York University Medical School in the laboratory of Dr. Edward Ziff. In addition to his primary appointment at the Stowers Institute, Dr. Li holds an academic appointment as assistant professor in the Department of Pathology at The University of Kansas School of Medicine.

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