W.M. Keck Foundation announces 2006 class of Distinguished Young Scholars in Medical Research

Los Angeles, California -- (CCN Matthews - July 25, 2006) - The W.M. Keck Foundation, a leading supporter of high-impact medical research, science and engineering, announced the 2006 class of grant recipients under its Distinguished Young Scholars in Medical Research program today.

Robert A. Day, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said: "Now in its eighth year, our Young Scholars program helps to promote the early career development of some of the country's brightest young biomedical scientists. We are once again very pleased to support a group of young investigators who we believe have the promise to become our nation's research leaders."

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 2006 class of Distinguished Young Scholars are:

  • Luis Amaral, Ph.D., Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Northwestern University - Dr. Amaral uses computational methods to identify and map patterns of molecular interactions within cells, which are part of a growing sea of complex biological information. These maps hold promise for future drug development to cure diseases while avoiding unwanted side effects. His research has the potential to greatly decrease the amount of time and money spent in drug development.

  • Seth Blackshaw, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University - Dr. Blackshaw has developed ways to identify the molecules that determine how retinal cell types become functionally different from one another during embryonic development. His work holds the promise that one day doctors could treat certain types of blindness by regenerating a patient's retinal cells.

  • Jonathan Bogan, M.D., Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University - Dr. Bogan studies a mechanism through which insulin triggers cells to take up glucose from the blood by modification of a protein complex that activates glucose uptake. Understanding this process at the molecular level could lead to improved treatments for diabetes and other metabolic disorders, such as those associated with HIV infection and protease inhibitor drug treatment.

  • Russell DeBose-Boyd, Ph.D., Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas - Dr. DeBose-Boyd studies an enzyme, HMG CoA reductase, that controls the production of cholesterol and is the direct target for cholesterol-lowering drugs such as Zocor and Lipitor. His work has revealed an elegant mechanism by which this enzyme is rapidly destroyed when sterols build up in liver cells. His research may shed light on prevention and treatment of heart disease.

  • Amy Pasquinelli, Ph.D., Division of Biological Sciences, University of California, San Diego - Dr. Pasquinelli investigates how a specialized type of RNA, called microRNA, regulates different genes and the biological pathways those genes control. She is focusing on a particular microRNA that may function as a tumor suppressor. Her work may contribute to developing microRNAs as less-toxic, targeted new therapies against cancer and other diseases.

Each applicant was nominated by his or her academic institution and then evaluated individually by the Foundation's Medical Research staff and a scientific advisory committee of outside scientific experts. The committee carefully evaluated each of the program finalists and recommended the five winners, who were unanimously approved by the Foundation's Board of Directors.

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For more information about the W.M. Keck Foundation and the Young scholars program, please visit the Foundation's web site at www.wmkeck.org/programs/scholars.html.


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