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Local researchers receive NIH awards

Five UCSD researchers and one from the La Jolla Institute of Allergy & Immunology have been awarded National Institutes of Health grants totaling $13.2 million for their innovative research.

The nationwide program is “to encourage investigators to explore bold ideas that have the potential to catapult fields forward and speed the translation of research into improved health,” according to a news release. Eighteen Pioneer grants and 55 Innovator awards were granted in ceremonies last week in Bethesda, Md., with two of the local researchers getting Pioneer Awards:

Hilde Cheroutre, Ph.D., of the immunology institute received one of the 2009 NIH Director’s Pioneer Awards, one of the top awards. Her proposal focuses on pinpointing specific molecular and genetic events that, she believes, could lay at the basis of susceptibility to autoimmunity. Her prize carries funding for up to $4.7 million over five years.

Sylvia M. Evans, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology at UCSD’s Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. She will receive $2.5 million over five years to develop new approaches to heart regeneration following injury, with a goal of finding improved approaches for treating heart failure.

The other UCSD winners getting Innovator Awards were Adah Almutairi, Ph.D., assistant professor, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; Adam Engler, assistant professor of bioengineering, UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering; Alysson R. Muotri, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Departments of Pediatrics at UCSD and Rady Children’s Hospital and UCSD’s Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine; and Leor Weinberger, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, Division of Physical Sciences.