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Program Snapshot

Part of the Common Fund's High-Risk, High-Reward Program, the NIH Director's Early Independence Award supports exceptional early career scientists with the intellect, scientific creativity, drive, and maturity to flourish independently by bypassing the traditional post-doctoral training period.


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Spatial Recognition in Receptors

The tyrosine kinase AXL receptor is implicated in the drug resistance and spread of tumors, but it is unknown what factors influence the binding of its ligand, Gas6, with the lipid phosphatidylserine. Meyer, a 2014 awardee, and colleagues used quantitative experiments and mathematical modeling to show the AXL not only responds to concentrations of Gas6 but also to its the spatial presentation. This insight helps resolve AXL receptor function and will aid the design of future therapies to a wide range of cancers.

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Silencing the X Chromosome

How long non-coding RNA (lncRNAs) work to control gene regulation is largely unknown due to technical limitations in viewing lncRNAs in the cell. Dr. Guttman, a 2012 awardee, published a paper in Nature describing a new approach to viewing lncRNA complexes in cells, allowing researchers to decipher how they are involved in gene regulation. Using this approach, Guttman deciphered the mechanisms of X chromosome silencing during female development.

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Are Gut Bacteria the Key to Treating Low Serotonin Levels?

Dr. Elaine Hsiao, a 2013 awardee, published a paper in Cell showing that gut microbes can regulate the neurotransmitter serotonin in mammals. Hsiao identified the bacteria in mice and humans capable of regulating host serotonin levels and the metabolites involved in the regulation. She further found when microbe-free mice suffering from low serotonin levels were given the serotonin-regulating bacteria, symptoms associated with low serotonin disappeared. These findings raise the question of whether microbes can be used to treatment serotonin deficiencies.

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Application Information

•  Within 12 months of terminal research degree
•  Requires proposal & interview
•  Requires 3-5 letters of recommendation
•  Need support & commitment of host institution
•  Awards up to $250K per year for 5 years
•  More information
Application Status
FY 2015 Applications Under Review
FY 2016 Funding Opportunity Anticipated this Fall


Teaming Math and Science for an HIV Cure


Mathematical biologist Alison Hill, a 2014 awardee, is featured in the NIH Director's Blog discussing her work to develop mathematical tools used to predict which experimental drugs can clear HIV infection from the body.

Meet a Theoretical Neuroscientist


Sean Escola, a 2014 awardee, is featured in the NIH Director's Blog discussing his work as a theoretical neuroscientist.

Building a Better Electronic Health Record


David Chan, a 2014 awardee, is featured in the NIH Director's Blog for his research on the impact of electronic health record (EHR) electronic reminders on the quality of health care.

Harnessing Technologies to Study Air Pollution's Health Risks


Perry Hystad, a 2014 awardee, is featured in the NIH Director's Blog for his work on the health impacts of air pollution.

Opening a Window on Alzheimer's Before It Strikes


2014 awardee Yakeel Quiroz's work on Alzheimer's disease is featured in the NIH Director's Blog.

   Agenda  •  Abstracts  •  Videocasts from Day 1Day 2, and Day 3

Save the date for the 2015 High-Risk, High-Reward Research Symposium on December 7-9 at Natcher Conference Center, NIH, Bethesda, MD!

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