W. M. Keck Foundation announces 2005 class of Distinguished Young Scholars in Medical Research


Los Angeles, CA, July 28, 2005 The W.M. Keck Foundation, a leading supporter of high-impact medical research, science and engineering, today announced the 2005 class of grant recipients under its Distinguished Young Scholars in Medical Research program.

"The Foundation is honored to help support some of the nation's most promising young scientists," says Robert A. Day, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. "Each recipient of the Keck Distinguished Young Scholar award has demonstrated extraordinary promise for breakthrough discovery and future academic leadership."

Initially established in 1998 as a five-year, $25 million initiative, the Keck Distinguished Young Scholars in Medical Research program was designed to support groundbreaking research addressing the fundamental mechanisms of human disease. The W.M. Keck Foundation Board renewed the program for an additional five years in 2003, bringing the total amount to be awarded up to $50 million by 2008. Under the program, each grant recipient's sponsoring institution receives an award of as much as $1 million to support the scientist's research activities for a period of five years. It is hoped that the investment in the Keck Scholars will greatly benefit society for generations to come with continued advances in understanding and combating the fundamental mechanisms of human disease.

The 2005 class of Distinguished Young Scholars are:

Lu Chen, Ph.D., Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley
Dr. Chen has developed a novel hybrid cell system to explore how signaling proteins interact at nerve synapses. A variety of experimental methods will control which proteins interact. Such research could point the way toward creating functional synapses that might reverse conditions such as age-related cognitive decline.

Brian Kuhlman, Ph.D., Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Dr. Kuhlman uses computational methods to design novel proteins to engage in specific molecular interactions. The system will allow him to test whether synthetic antibody-like proteins could be custom made to target a specific pathogen but remain chemically stable like an oral medicine.

David M. Sabatini, M.D., Ph.D., Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, MA
Dr. Sabatini investigates the metabolic adaptations that allow solid tumors to survive in a nutrient- and oxygen-poor environment and permit many cancers to evade treatment. He will also test how these adaptive mechanisms interact with genes that cause or suppress tumors. The research could lead to treatments to boost the effectiveness of other cancer therapies or prevent recurrences.

Kang Shen, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
Dr. Shen studies how the nervous system forms at a molecular level during development. He plans to piece together the sequence of action by which dendrites are attracted to form synapses. This will be a necessary step in understanding degenerative neurological disorders, such as Parkinson's disease.

Chaired by William T. Butler, M.D., Chancellor Emeritus of Baylor College of Medicine, the Advisory Committee consists of: Norman Arnheim, Ph.D., Professor of Biological Sciences, Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, University of Southern California; Gerald R. Fink, Ph.D., Member, Whitehead Institute and Professor of Genetics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Elizabeth Neufeld, Ph.D., Professor of Biological Chemistry, University of California, Los Angeles; Robert R. Rich, M.D., Senior Vice President and Dean, School of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham; and Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, Research Drug Discovery, Genentech, Inc.

The Committee carefully evaluated each of the program finalists and recommended them to the Foundation's Board of Directors. The Board unanimously approved the recommendations made by the Scientific Advisory Committee.

Based in Los Angeles, the W.M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W.M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company. The Foundation's grant making is focused primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of medical research, science and engineering. The Foundation also maintains a Southern California grant program that provides support in the areas of civic and community services with a special emphasis on children and youth.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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