Four UC San Francisco researchers are among the 84 Faculty Scholars named Thursday by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the Simons Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in a new program to support promising early-career scientists.
The four UCSF researchers are Edward Chang, MD, professor of neurological surgery in the School of Medicine; Michael Fischbach, PhD, associate professor of bioengineering in the School of Pharmacy; Adam Frost, MD, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry and biophysics in the School of Medicine; and Markus Müschen, MD, PhD, professor of laboratory medicine at the School of Medicine. Chang, Frost, and Müschen are HHMI Faculty Scholars, and Fischbach is an HHMI-Simons Faculty Scholar.
The philanthropies will spend $83 million on the first cohort of Faculty Scholars through five-year grants that range from $600,000 to $1.8 million. The Faculty Scholars are early-career researchers with five to 10 years of faculty experience selected for their potential for significant research productivity and originality.
“Support for outstanding early-career scientists is essential for continued progress in science in future years,” said Marian Carlson, Director of Life Sciences at the Simons Foundation, in a press release.
Chang studies how the brain interprets verbal communication. His research reveals a major role for the brain’s superior temporal gyrus region in speech perception, and may shed light on the neural circuitry involved in language learning.
Fischbach identifies and characterizes small molecules produced by the bacteria that reside in and on the human body. These molecules play crucial roles in human physiology and disease, and understanding their function may lead to treatments for immune, metabolic and neurological disorders.
Frost studies the molecular machines that are too fragile to purify, too large or flexible to crystallize, or a dependent on lipids that cannot be replaced by detergent micelles. In his investigations, he integrates cryo-electron microscopy with genetics, biochemistry and diverse imaging techniques.
Müschen explores oncogenic signaling in B cell-derived leukemia and lymphoma. He uses pharmacological agents to engage autoimmunity checkpoints in B cell tumors, with the ultimate goal of overcoming resistance to conventional drug-treatment.
The Faculty Scholars Program represents a first-time collaboration between the three major philanthropies and is a response to the growing challenges facing early-career scientists. Recent decades have seen a dramatic decline in the National Institutes of Health research award success rate for new investigators, and the pressure to secure federal grant money often discourages creative and potentially transformative research proposals.
“This program will provide these scientists with much needed flexible resources so they can follow their best research ideas,” said HHMI Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer David Clapham in a press release.
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