Three Yale professors win NIH New Innovator Awards

Yale researchers Murat Acar, Chenxiang Lin, and Matthew Simon won three of 50 National Institutes of Health (NIH) 2014 Director’s New Innovator Awards. 

Left to right, Murat Acar, Chenxiang Lin, and Matthew Simon

The trio, who conduct research at Yale’s West Campus, submitted independent proposals and won based on their status as new scientists, their innovative projects, and the potential outcomes.

All three $1.5 million awards fell under the “high risk, high reward” category that supports scientists of exceptional creativity who propose highly innovative approaches to major contemporary challenges in biomedical research.

Lin, assistant professor of cell biology and member of  the Yale West Campus Nanobiology Institute, will use his award to continue his research to generate artificial membranes as a platform for the study of membrane trafficking in cells. 

Lin says this award “gives us the opportunity to recruit more talents, to build and investigate complicated DNA-membrane structures, and to embark on unconventional directions at the interface of nanotechnology and cell biology.”

Simon is an assistant professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry and a member of the Chemical Biology Institute at Yale’s West Campus. Earlier this year he won a Searle Scholar award for his work with protein-RNA interactions.

“This proposal focuses on building new tools that will give us more insight into the dynamics of these RNAs,” said Simon. “This award will fund my lab’s work using the tools of organic chemistry and enzyme engineering to track RNAs in the cell, with a focus on understanding RNA dynamics.”

Acar is an assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology and a member of the Yale Systems Biology Institute.

Describing his research Acar says, “Our goal is to uncover novel connections between single-cell aging and the processes of cellular metabolism, chromosome instability, and protein misfolding.” Last year, Acar won the 2013 New Scholar Award in Aging from the Ellison Medical Foundation.

The NIH receives approximately 600 applications per year for the Director’s New Innovator Awards. This award is different from other NIH grants because preliminary data are not required, no detailed annual budget is requested, and the traditional peer review process is not used.

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