NIH Director's Early Independence Award Recipients
Jonathan Abraham, M.D., Ph.D.Brigham and Women's Hospital
Project Title: Antibody Therapeutics for Human Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers and Prevention of Late Neurological Syndromes
Grant ID: DP5-OD023084
Jonathan Abraham is an Instructor in Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School and a Clinical and Research Fellow in Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital. He obtained his B.A. at Harvard College, his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees in the Harvard-MIT combined M.D.-Ph.D. program, and completed residency in Internal Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. His research focuses on the human antibody response to emerging viruses using structural biology, molecular virology, and immunology.
Marie-Abèle Bind, Sc.D.Harvard School of Public Health
Project Title: Transporting Established Insights from Classical Experimental Design to Address Causal Questions in Environmental Epidemiology Including the Understanding of Biological Mediating Mechanisms
Grant ID: DP5-OD021412
Funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Dr. Marie-Abèle Bind earned her joint Sc.D. degree in Environmental Health and Biostatistics at the Harvard School of Public Health. Subsequently, she worked as a postdoctoral Ziff Fellow at the Harvard University Center for the Environment with Prof. D. Rubin and estimated causal effects of extreme weather exposures on health under the Rubin Causal Model. Dr. Marie-Abèle Bind is a Research Associate in the Statistics Department at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University. Her research focuses on transporting classical experimental insights into the field of environmental epidemiology, as well as developing new causal inference methods to address causality when examining the effects of environmental exposures (e.g., air pollution and extreme weather) on health in complex settings (e.g., missing data and big data).
Jacob O. Brunkard, Ph.D.University of California, Berkeley and USDA ARS Plant Gene Expression Center
Project Title: An Aminoacyl tRNA Synthetase is a Nitrogen Sensor that Activates TOR in Plants
Grant ID: DP5-OD023072
Jacob Brunkard is a researcher in UC Berkeley’s Plant and Microbial Biology Department and the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Plant Gene Expression Center. Dr. Brunkard conducted his doctoral research with advisor Dr. Pat Zambryski at UC Berkeley, and earned his B.A. in Biology and History with high honors from Swarthmore College. His doctoral dissertation investigated intercellular communication in plants and chloroplast redox signaling. Dr. Brunkard’s group is focused on the TOR metabolic signaling network in plant development and physiology, emphasizing insights into the evolution of TOR signaling networks across eukaryotes.
Brandon DeKosky, Ph.D.The University of Kansas
Project Title: Comprehensive Analysis of Human Adaptive Immune Receptors to Elucidate Correlates of Epstein-Barr Virus Disease Suppression
Grant ID: DP5-OD023118
Brandon DeKosky is an assistant professor at the Departments of Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Chemical & Petroleum Engineering at the University of Kansas. He also is affiliated with the Kansas Vaccine Institute in the KU School of Pharmacy. Brandon attained his Ph.D. in the lab of George Georgiou at the University of Texas at Austin where he developed the first technology for high-throughput sequencing of complete antibody variable regions from single B cells, providing an entirely new window for understanding immune responses to vaccination and disease. Brandon performed his postdoctoral studies in the lab of John Mascola at the NIAID Vaccine Research Center, where he applied high-throughput immune technologies to accelerate development of vaccines and therapeutics against HIV, Ebola virus, and Zika virus. Brandon’s lab at KU specializes in the invention and application of high-throughput immune technologies to detect key molecular features of immune responses, and in translating those insights into novel strategies to combat human diseases.
Sherrie J. Divito, M.D., Ph.D.Brigham and Women's Hospital
Project Title: Investigating a Novel Cell Population in Delayed-Onset Drug Hypersensitivity Reactions
Grant ID: DP5-OD023091
Sherrie Divito received her MD and PhD (Immunology) from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Medical Scientist Training Program. Her graduate work focused on cellular therapeutics, dendritic cell biology, and T cell effector responses in transplantation. She completed dermatology residency in the research track at Harvard, then joined the faculty at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dr. Divito’s lab performs translational research, utilizing patient samples and humanized mouse models, with the direct goal of improving patient care. The lab currently leverages innovative technologies and assays to investigate the immune system in delayed-type drug allergies.
Jesse R. Dixon, M.D., Ph.D.Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Project Title: Mechanisms of Formation of 3D Genome Structures
Grant ID: DP5-OD023071
Jesse Dixon is a faculty fellow in the Salk Helmsley Fellows program at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. Prior to joining Salk, Jesse completed his M.D. and Ph.D. at the University of California at San Diego. During his Ph.D., Jesse worked in the laboratory of Bing Ren studying higher order chromatin structure. Jesse’s lab is interested in how our genomes are organized in 3D space inside the nucleus and how alterations to 3D genome structure can influence the development of human disease.
Valentino M. Gantz, Ph.D.University of California, San Diego
Valentino Gantz is a Postdoctoral researcher in the Biological Sciences division at UC San Diego. During his time as a graduate student at UCSD, Valentino conceived and tested a new application of the CRISPR/Cas system. The resulting technology, the mutagenic chain reaction or MCR, is a new method that allows MCR-type "active" genetic elements to be propagated at double the expected frequency. In brief, in the germline of animals heterozygous for an "active" transgene, the element is capable of converting the second chromosome leading to homozygosity. This genetic behavior, also known as gene drive, holds great promise for basic research, fighting insect-borne diseases and crop pest control. In a fruitful collaboration with the James Lab at UC Irvine, Valentino helped bring this technology to a mosquito system, with the end goal of using gene drive to modify a mosquito population not to be competent to carry the malarial parasite. Valentino has also been involved with the UCSD Biosafety Committee in outlining the UCSD safety guidelines for the cautious use of “active genetics” technologies in the laboratory and, among his colleagues, they are progressing towards the establishment of national guidelines.
Daniel P. Giovenco, Ph.D., M.P.H.Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
Project Title: Geographic Variation in the Diverse Tobacco Retail Environment and Its Impact on Tobacco Use Disparities
Grant ID: DP5-OD023064
Daniel Giovenco completed his undergraduate degree at The College of New Jersey and received both his M.P.H. and Ph.D. from the Rutgers School of Public Health, where he trained under Dr. Cristine Delnevo in the Center for Tobacco Studies. His research uses geographical information systems, field data collection, and survey data to uncover how community characteristics, such as the tobacco retail environment, influence racial and ethnic disparities in substance use. Dr. Giovenco is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
Kristen Koenig, Ph.D.Harvard University
Project Title: Investigating Organ Formation and the Emergence of Complexity in the Visual System Using Comparative Developmental Approaches
Grant ID: DP5-OD023111
Kristen Koenig received a B.A. in Molecular and Cell Biology and History from University of California, Berkeley and a Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Texas at Austin. At University of Texas, Kristen worked in the lab of Dr. Jeffrey Gross to develop the squid, Doryteuthis pealeii as a system to study the evolution and development of complex visual systems. Currently Kristen is a John Harvard Distinguished Science Fellow at the FAS Center for Systems Biology at Harvard University. The Koenig Lab is interested in using comparative developmental, cellular and genetic approaches to study visual systems as a model for understanding the emergence of organ complexity.
Aashish Manglik, M.D., Ph.D.Stanford University School of Medicine
Project Title: Molecular Mechanisms of Iron Homeostasis
Grant ID: DP5-OD023048
Funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Aashish Manglik is currently the first Stanford Distinguished Fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine. He received B.A. degrees in Biology and Chemistry from Washington University in St. Louis followed by an M.D. and a Ph.D. in Biophysics from Stanford University. His graduate research under the mentorship of Brian Kobilka focused on the structural and biophysical basis of G protein-coupled receptor signaling. Now, the Manglik lab aims to understand the molecular basis of transmembrane signaling and transport using a broad range of methods in structural biology, protein biophysics, pharmacology, and protein engineering.
Micaela Elvira Martinez, Ph.D.Princeton University
Project Title: Hacking Epidemics: Unlocking the Drivers of Transmission Seasonality to Battle Vaccine-Preventable Diseases
Grant ID: DP5-OD023100
Micaela E. Martinez (https://memartinez.org) is currently a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in Biology in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, and a Postdoctoral Affiliate of the Global Health Program in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs. She earned a Ph.D. in 2015 from the University of Michigan Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, a B.S. in Biology, and a B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Alaska Southeast. She uses cutting-edge statistical methods and dynamic models to deconstruct epidemics and reveal information about host-to-host transmission of viral infections, immunity in the population, and vaccine efficacy. She works at the intersection of epidemiology, computational biology, chronobiology (i.e., the study of biological rhythms), and ecology. Her traditional training in biology, coupled with research in computational/applied mathematics and statistical inference, has allowed her to develop a unique expertise: leveraging Big Epidemiological Data to unmask population-level biological processes that impact human health.
Monica Mugnier, Ph.D.Johns Hopkins University
Project Title: Variant Surface Glycoprotein Diversification in Trypanosoma brucei
Grant ID: DP5-OD023065
Monica Mugnier received her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from Tufts University and went on to do her Ph.D. at Rockefeller University in the lab of Dr. Nina Papavasiliou. In Dr. Papavasiliou’s lab, Monica studied the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei, which is the causative agent of African trypanosomiasis, a devastating disease posing a huge economic and public health burden on sub-Saharan Africa. During her Ph.D., Monica developed bioinformatics tools for studying the way this parasite evades recognition by its hosts’ immune systems. Now, as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, her lab will focus on understanding the molecular mechanisms of immune evasion in T. brucei.
Steve Ramirez, Ph.D.Harvard University
Project Title: Artificially Modulating Memories to Alleviate Psychiatric Disease-Like States
Grant ID: DP5-OD023106
Steve Ramirez is a Junior Fellow and Principle Investigator at Harvard University. He received his B.A. in neuroscience from Boston University and began researching learning and memory in the laboratory of Howard Eichenbaum. He went on to receive his Ph.D. in neuroscience in the laboratory of Susumu Tonegawa at MIT, where his work focused on artificially modulating memories in the rodent brain, and his current work focuses on leveraging these manipulations to alleviate symptoms associated with psychiatric diseases. Steve has also received the Smithsonian's American Ingenuity award, National Geographic's Breakthrough Explorer prize, Forbes and Technology Review's Top 35 Innovators Under 35 award, and has given a TED talk.
Aaron Ring, M.D., Ph.D.Yale University School of Medicine
Project Title: Uncoupling Pleiotropy in the LIGHT/HVEM/LTBetaR Signaling Network
Grant ID: DP5-OD023088
Aaron Ring received his undergraduate training at Yale University and entered the Stanford Medical Scientist Training Program for his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees. At Stanford, he worked in the laboratories of K. Christopher Garcia and Irving Weissman to use structure-based protein engineering to develop new cytokine and immune checkpoint therapies for cancer. Aaron joined the faculty of the Yale Department of Immunobiology in 2016 as the Robert T. McCluskey Yale Scholar and Assistant Professor. The focus of his research is to understand and manipulate the activity of immune receptors using structural and combinatorial biology approaches.
Matthew H. Spitzer, Ph.D.University of California, San Francisco
Project Title: Quantitatively Modeling Immune Responses to Cancer
Grant ID: DP5-OD023056
Matt completed his training in Immunology at Stanford University in the laboratories of Garry Nolan and Edgar Engleman. There, he developed experimental and analytical methods to model the state of the immune system using high dimensional single-cell data. This led Matt to develop the first reference map of the immune system, providing a framework into which new data can be integrated and compared for system-wide analysis. He has also developed new strategies for inducing powerful immune responses against cancer. Matt’s lab combines methods in experimental immunology and cancer biology with computation to understand the modes in which the immune system can respond to tumors and to rationally initiate curative immune responses against cancer.
Kevin Yackle, M.D., Ph.D.University of California, San Francisco
Project Title: Cellular and Molecular Identification of the Breathing Pacemaker Neurons
Grant ID: DP5-OD023116
Kevin Yackle is currently a Sandler Faculty Fellow in the Department of Physiology at UCSF. Previously, he earned his M.D. and Ph.D. in Biochemistry at Stanford University under the supervision of Mark Krasnow. Kevin created the first systematic molecular map of the neurons that generate the breathing rhythm and demonstrated that small numbers of molecularly distinct neurons have dedicated, interesting, and important functions in breathing. At UCSF, the Yackle lab will adapt new methods to extend upon the molecular map in order to identify the key neurons that generate the breathing rhythm, with the ultimate goal of transforming medical fields like neonatology by developing a novel approach to control breathing pharmacologically.
This page last reviewed on July 26, 2021