Four Yale scientists win grants for cutting edge research

Yale researchers are recipients of this year's prestigious National Institutes of Health Director Awards, a program geared to promote bold and innovative scientific ideas.

Two Yale researchers are recipients of New Innovator grants each worth $1.5 million for five years and two Yale faculty received grants under the Transformative Research Projects Awards program, worth approximately $4 million over four years. The NIH announced Sept. 20 that it was allocating $143.8 million to scientific research that carries both high risk and high rewards.

The Yale winners of NIH Innovator grants are:

Megan King, assistant professor of cell biology

King's lab focuses on how structural elements of the cell nucleus influence genome stability. When an organism is well-adapted to its environment, maintaining genomic integrity likely fosters its success. However, in times of stress, greater flexibility of genetic mechanisms may promote adaptation.  King is studying how nuclear compartmentalization influences the balance of genome stability and adaptability through mechanisms such as DNA repair. Understanding these processes may help determine how some organisms to become pathogenic and lead to new ways to fight infectious disease.

Christian Schlieker, assistant professor molecular biophysics & biochemistry.

Mutations of proteins that reside in the membrane of the cell's nucleus can cause a variety of diseases, the most dramatic of which are the progeria syndromes, in which children are afflicted with rapidly accelerated symptoms of aging. Schlieker's lab studies how these proteins are repaired or degraded in the nuclear envelope. Understanding this process may one day lead to new treatments for viral infections as well as the wide assortment of musculoskeletal and neuronal disorders collectively called nuclear envelopathies.

Yale winners of a Transformative Research Project Award:

James Leckman, MD, Neison Harris Professor of Child Psychiatry, Pediatrics and Psychology

Bruce E. Wexler,  MD, professor emeritus and senior research scientist in psychiatry

Leckman and Wexler have developed a new non-pharmaceutical treatment for childhood neuro-development disorders such as attention deficit disorders. The therapy is a computerized program based on the principles of neuroplasticity - the ability of neural activity stimulated by the environment to rewire the brain. Neuroplasticity-based treatments have already helped adult stroke victims and schizophrenia. However, very few exist for children even though the plasticity of a child's brain is much greater than for adults.  The grant will fund a two-randomized trial of the new treatment program in Beijing, China and Hamden schools