Four Caltech Faculty Receive High-Risk, High-Reward Grants

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Four Caltech faculty members have been named as recipients of grants from the High-Risk, High-Reward Research (HRHR) Program of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The program aims to fund “highly innovative and unusually impactful biomedical or behavioral research proposed by extraordinarily creative scientists,” according to the program’s press release.

Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, Bren Professor of Biology and Biological Engineering, is a recipient of an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award. This award, established in 2004, “challenges investigators at all career levels to pursue new research directions and develop groundbreaking, high-impact approaches to a broad area of biomedical, behavioral, or social science.”

Zernicka-Goetz studies the processes that guide early embryonic development.

Kaihang Wang, assistant professor of biology and biological engineering, is a recipient of an NIH Director’s New Innovator Award. This award, established in 2007, supports “unusually innovative research from early career investigators who are within 10 years of their final degree or clinical residency and have not yet received a research project grant or equivalent NIH grant.”

Wang’s research focuses on how to create artificial life forms in the laboratory by designing and building genomes from scratch.

Lu Wei, assistant professor of chemistry, is also a recipient of an NIH Director’s New Innovator Award. Wei works on developing new spectroscopy and microscopy techniques to track molecules in real time inside cells and to visualize them with high precision and information throughput.

Mitchell Guttman, professor of biology and Heritage Medical Research Institute Investigator, is a recipient of an NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award. Established in 2009, this award “promotes cross-cutting, interdisciplinary approaches and is open to individuals and teams of investigators who propose research that could potentially create or challenge existing paradigms.”

Guttman studies how a certain class of genes called lncRNAs play a role in genome regulation and cellular organization.

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