Irvine, Calif., Sept. 30, 2013 UC Irvine scientists Aaron Esser-Kahn, Sunil Gandhi and Ali Mortazavi have been named recipients of the prestigious 2013 National Institutes of Health Director's New Innovator Awards.
The highly selective award program supports projects by early-career researchers that show potential to transform scientific fields and accelerate the translation of research into new ways to improve human health.
Esser-Kahn, Gandhi and Mortazavi will each receive $2.3 million for five years to fund their projects. They are among 41 investigators to receive the award; UC Irvine joins Stanford University, UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley as the only institutions to have three honorees.
"It's rare that an institution is home to more than one New Innovator recipient in one year, and that UC Irvine has three is a testament to the robust environment that encourages our early-career research faculty members," said John Hemminger, vice chancellor of research. "Aaron, Sunil and Ali are exceptional scientists, and we are proud that the NIH, in this age of sequestration, has chosen to support their visionary work."
Esser-Kahn is an assistant professor of chemistry in the School of Physical Sciences. The New Innovator Award will boost his efforts to understand vaccine effectiveness by looking at the structure of its molecular components. By uncovering this "molecular code," Esser-Kahn believes this research can aid in the development of safer, more targeted vaccines.
Gandhi is an assistant professor of neurobiology & behavior in the School of Biological Sciences. With the award, he will study whether transplanting a type of nerve cell that dampens activity can rewire neural pathways in the adult brain, a process called neuroplasticity. Findings could help repair damage caused by traumatic brain injury, stroke or neurodegenerative disease. In addition, methods for reactivating neuroplasticity might eventu
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University of California - Irvine