DHHS, NIH News  
NIH Office of the Director (OD)

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Don Ralbovsky
Sara Alden
Website: http://www.nihroadmap.nih.gov

First NIH Director's Pioneer Award Recipients Named

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has selected the first recipients of the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, a program designed to support individual scientists and thinkers with highly innovative ideas and approaches to contemporary challenges in biomedical research. A central component of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, the Director’s Pioneer Award was established in January 2004 to encourage exceptional researchers and thinkers from multiple disciplines to conduct high-risk, high-impact research related to the improvement of human health.

“We are extremely pleased by the overwhelming number and caliber of nominations we received,” said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. “By bringing the awardees’ unique perspectives and creativity to bear on key medical research questions, these scientific Pioneers may one day develop seminal theories or technologies that will propel science forward to improve human health.”

To inaugurate this new program, the NIH will provide $500,000 in direct costs per year for five years to each Pioneer Award recipient, allowing them the time and resources to test far-ranging ideas with the potential to make extraordinary contributions to medical research.

The awardees are listed below:

  • Larry Abbott, Ph.D., Brandeis University, Waltham, MA

  • George Daley, M.D., Ph.D., Children’s Hospital Boston, Boston, MA

  • Homme Hellinga, Ph.D., Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC

  • Joseph McCune, M.D., Ph.D., J. David Gladstone Institutes, San Francisco, CA

  • Steven McKnight, Ph.D., University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX

  • Chad Mirkin, Ph.D., Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

  • Rob Phillips, Ph.D., California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA

  • Stephen Quake, Ph.D., California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA

  • Sunney Xie, Ph.D., Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

The nine recipients represent a broad spectrum of scientific disciplines including quantitative and mathematical biology, pathogenesis, epidemiology and translational clinical research, molecular and cellular biology, integrative physiology, instrumentation and bioengineering.

Applicants underwent a rigorous nomination and selection process to establish which among them appeared to hold the greatest potential for addressing critical scientific questions that would greatly impact biomedical science and health care. Nominees and applicants were expected to demonstrate commitment to accepting considerable risk in addressing critically important scientific questions relevant to the mission of the NIH.

External evaluators representing a broad range of scientific disciplines screened approximately 1000 nominations and recommended that a subset of 240 nominees be invited to submit award applications. Further review by external evaluators resulted in the selection of 21 candidates, who were invited to the NIH for interviews and to present their ideas. The recommendations of the panel of external evaluators who interviewed the 21 candidates were considered by the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD), NIH, and by the NIH Director, himself.

The applicants were evaluated based on the following criteria:

  1. Evidence of scientific innovation and creativity;

  2. Testimony of intrinsic motivation, enthusiasm and intellectual energy; and

  3. Potential for scientific leadership and evidence of, or potential for, effective communication skills.

For more information on the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award Program, including awardee information, please visit the Web site at http://nihroadmap.nih.gov/highrisk/index.asp.

The NIH Roadmap for Medical Research is a series of far-reaching initiatives designed to transform the Nation's medical research capabilities and speed the movement of scientific discoveries from the bench to the bedside. It provides a framework of the priorities the NIH must address in order to optimize its entire research portfolio and lays out a vision for a more efficient and productive system of medical research. Additional information about the NIH Roadmap can be found at http://nihroadmap.nih.gov. News and information about the NIH is available at http://www.nih.gov.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research. NIH is comprised of 27 institutes and centers and investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.

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