It Pays to Take a Risk: Two Faculty Recieve NIH Director’s Award

Posted On: October 05, 2019

The National Institute’s of Health (NIH) announced 93 grant awardees, including 7 Penn researchers as part of the High-risk High-reward research program. Managed by the NIH Common Fund, the High-risk High-reward research program oversees four awards that aim to “”catalyze scientific discovery by supporting highly innovated research proposals that due to their inherent risk may struggle in the traditional peer review process despite their transformative potential””. Ophir Shalem, one of three Penn Medicine researchers who were recognized, was awarded the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, which supports exceptionally creative early career investigators with innovative high-impact projects. Additionally, Arjun Raj, was selected as a recipient for the NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award, alongside Co-PI Rajan Jain, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Cell & Developmental Biology. This award supports, as the name suggests, unconventional research projects with the potential to challenge our current thinking to lead to transformative discoveries.

Ophir joined the Department of Genetics and the Center for Cellular and Molecular Therapeutics at CHOP in 2016 as an Assistant Professor. His lab focuses on translational target discovery for a range of early and late onset neurodegenerative diseases by combining cutting edge high throughput CRISPR based screening and genomic approaches. This funding will support his next project, titled “”Direct and rapid control of proteins at scale””, to develop a novel pooled screening platform based on rapid and direct modulation of proteins at a genome scale to overcome the limitations of traditional genome wise perturbation screening methods. Grant ID: DP2 GM137416

Arjun is a Professor of Bioengineering at the School of Engineering and Applied Science as well as a secondary faculty in Genetics at the School of Medicine. His interdisciplinary lab focuses on developing new tools for quantifying biological processes based on imaging sequencing, specifically in the interest of building the understanding of cellular function. This funding with support his collaborative project with Dr. Jain, “”Decoding the Bridges and Barriers to Cellular Reprogramming and Lineage Identity””. Together, they plan to investigate the specific molecular factors that dictate cell fate in hope that their discoveries no only change the way we think about cell types, but break down the limitations in regenerative medicine. Grant ID: R01-GM137425