September 25, 2009 — Kevin Janes, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Virginia, is one of 55 engineers and scientists from around the country to receive a 2009 National Institutes of Health "New Innovator Award."
Since 2007, the New Innovator Awards have supported unusually creative new investigators with highly innovative research ideas at an early stage of their career. The evaluation process emphasizes the individual's creativity, the novelty of the research approaches and the potential of the project, if successful, to have a significant impact on an important biomedical or behavioral research problem.
His research at U.Va. focuses on understanding how signaling networks function within cells, which has important implications for diseases such as cancer, where the molecular "signal processing" has malfunctioned and cellular responses are inappropriate.
For the NIH New Innovator Award, he will focus on understanding why certain breast-cancer treatments that target a particular protein receptor work in only a fraction of the cancers in which the protein receptor is present.
The award is $1.5 million over five years. The awards were announced Sept. 24 at the Fifth Annual NIH Director's Pioneer Award Symposium.
"Investigators are encouraged to define the challenges to be addressed and to think out of the box while being given substantial resources to test their ideas," said Francis S. Collins, director of the NIH.
Janes received a doctorate in bioengineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2005. He completed his postdoctoral work at Harvard Medical School and joined the Department of Biomedical Engineering in 2008. He was one of 17 young faculty recently selected as a 2009 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Similar to the NIH New Innovator Award, the Pew Scholar Award invests in the promise of the nation's most innovative early-career investigators.
The New Innovator Awards are supported by the NIH Common Fund's Roadmap for Medical Research. The Common Fund, enacted by Congress through the 2006 NIH Reform Act, supports cross-disciplinary, trans-NIH programs with a particular emphasis on innovation and risk-taking.