HMS Researchers Receive New Innovator and Early Independence Awards

NIH Awards support high-risk, high-reward research

Eight Harvard Medical School researchers have been awarded High-Risk, High-Reward Research program grants by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The program supports investigators at each career stage who propose innovative research that, due to its inherent risk, may struggle in the traditional NIH peer-review process. HMS awardees are among 85 recipients who received approximately $187 million in total funding. The program is supported by the NIH Common Fund, which oversees programs that pursue major scientific opportunities requiring collaboration across the agency to succeed. 

Six HMS researchers received the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award. The award supports unusually innovative research from early-career investigators within 10 years of their final degree or clinical residency who have not yet received an NIH R01 or equivalent grant.

New Innovator Award Recipients:

  • Felix Dietlein, HMS assistant professor of pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital, whose research combines concepts from data science, statistics, machine learning, and genomics to discover targets for new personalized therapies.
  • Lucas Farnung, assistant professor of cell biology in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS, whose research explores molecular processes at the intersection of chromatin, transcription, and epigenetics.
  • Marco Jost, assistant professor of microbiology in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS, whose research seeks to define the chemical underpinnings of host–microbiome interactions.
  • Michael Miller, HMS assistant professor of pathology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, whose research focuses on the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases at the single-cell level, with a major focus on the mechanisms and effects of somatic mutation in human neurons.
  • Humsa Venkatesh, HMS assistant professor of neurology at Brigham and Women’s, whose research studies the electrical components of tumor pathophysiology and highlights the extent to which neural activity controls and facilitates disease progression.
  • Xin Zhou, HMS assistant professor of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, whose research focuses on engineering novel biologics for sensing and modulating cancer and immune receptor functions.

Two HMS researchers received the NIH Director’s Early Independence Award, which helps exceptional junior scientists who have recently received their doctoral degree or completed their medical residency to skip traditional postdoctoral training and move immediately into independent research positions.

Early Independence Award Recipients:

  • Emily Ferenczi, HMS instructor in neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital, whose research seeks to understand the neural circuit mechanisms that contribute to the diverse symptoms experienced by patients with neurologic disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and identify strategies to alleviate these symptoms using targeted neural circuit therapies.
  • Jonathan Tsai, HMS instructor in pathology at Brigham and Women’s, whose research combines functional genomics, biochemistry, and molecular biology to study how hormone receptor degradation regulates hormone signaling and understand how protein degradation impacts transcriptional activity.

    Refer to the HMS News and Research section for additional information.