Alliance Presents 2016 Scholar Scientific Research Awards at Annual Oxford Workshop

In 2013, the Board of Directors of the International Biomedical Research Alliance initiated yearly science recognition awards to honor scholars whose work has been of an extremely high caliber and deserving of merit. These awards have traditionally been announced at the Annual Scientific Research Workshop held each year in June at a location rotating between the NIH, Cambridge, and Oxford. This year, the workshop was held at Keble College at the University of Oxford June 22-23, 2016.

The NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program conducts an in-depth yearly review of the progress of all scholars in the program. During the review, the NIH Scientific Directors, led by Academic Dean Dr. Jim Sellers, assesses the progress and scientific accomplishments of the scholars from each class year. Scholars in their third and fourth years in the program with significant research accomplishments were selected for award consideration. The chosen scholars’ accomplishments included the publication of first-author papers with significant findings and presentations made at conferences. Prizes are awarded in three categories; Basic Science, Translational, and Innovation.

The award consists of an engraved statuette and, commencing in 2016, a modest monetary prize. The Alliance was pleased to announce that this year the award for Basic Science has been permanently endowed by Dr. Michael Lenardo, Co-Founder of the Scholars Program, in loving memory of his brother Gregory Paul Lenardo.

The winners of the 2016 International Biomedical Research Alliance awards are as follows:

THE GREGORY PAUL LENARDO BASIC SCIENCE AWARD for discoveries of fundamental cellular, molecular, or genetic processes using model systems that advance scientific understanding of biological processes in higher organisms was presented to Michael Chen.

Michael Chen is an OxCam Class of 2012 scholar, whose mentors are Dr. Adrian Ferre D’Amare of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and Dr. Shankar Balasubramanian of the University of Cambridge, Department of Chemistry. Michael recently published his elaboration of the mechanism by which DHX36, a G4-quadruplex helicase unwinds substrates in the context of nucleic acid biochemistry. While previous research focused on substrate stability through the alteration of the substrate nucleic acids, Michael’s work clarified the effect of the composition of the G4-quadruplex helicases themselves on the stability of the substrates and their role in controlling gene expression.

The TRANSLATIONAL AWARD FOR ADVANCES IN MEDICAL SCIENCE in the field of medical science that move fundamental discoveries from the bench to the bedside was presented to Brennan Decker

Brennan Decker is an OxCam Class of 2012 scholar and MD/PhD student at the Medical College of Wisconsin, whose mentors are Dr. Elaine Ostrander of the National Human Genome Research Institute and Dr. Douglas Easton of the University of Cambridge, Department of Oncology. Brennan recently published his identification of a mutation in the canine BRAF gene associated with bladder cancer that is identical to the mutation commonly found in several human cancers. His research opens up the possibility to develop a canine model to study the tumor in a naturalistic microenvironment that reproduces tumor heterogeneity. Brennan’s approach holds great promise for a better understanding of the molecular events leading to BRAF mutation-associated cancer.

The INNOVATION AWARD FOR NOVEL SOLUTIONS IN BIOLOGY OR MEDICINE for discoveries of unusual importance, application, or magnitude that make use of new or unusual methods, paradigms or approaches to solve important problems in biology or medicine was presented to Steven Witte.

Steven Witte is an OxCam Class of 2012 scholar and MD/PhD student at the University of Alabama – Birmingham, whose mentors are Dr. John O’Shea of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and Dr. Allan Bradley of the Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge. Steven investigated the role of super enhancers during cell activation and differentiation through the analysis of p300 binding. His work has established that p300 ChIP-sequencing data can be used to reveal key nodes in genetic regulatory networks that govern cell fate and determination, and to uncover potential targets for anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer therapeutics.

Congratulations to the International Biomedical Research Alliance 2016 Scientific Research Awards winners and best wishes for continued success.