September 22, 2008

Salk Investigator Lei Wang Receives NIH New Innovator Award

<em>$1.5 million in funds will support novel use of amino acids to study cancer development </em>

Salk News

Salk Investigator Lei Wang Receives NIH New Innovator Award

<em>$1.5 million in funds will support novel use of amino acids to study cancer development </em>

La Jolla, CA – Salk researcher Dr. Lei Wang has been named a 2008 recipient of the National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Award. He joins a group of young scientists who will receive a portion of more than $138 million in support of innovative approaches to biomedical research.

Dr. Wang, assistant professor in the Chemical Biology and Proteomics Laboratory, will receive $1.5 million over the next five years to fund research that will design and incorporate novel amino acids in roundworms, a widely used model organism that’s easy to raise in the lab, to study how a class of proteins transmits signals regulating development and cancer. A total of 31 scientists from scientific institutes across the country received the honor this year.

“Lei’s pioneering work in proteomics and his innovative approach in an effort to answer important questions in this field of research is quite deserving of this honor,” said Salk’s Interim President and Nobel Laureate Dr. Roger Guillemin. “I congratulate Lei and applaud the NIH for supporting young scientists who ask bold scientific questions.”

Launched in 2007, the New Innovator Award supports early career investigators with high-impact research interests. Today’s announcement was made in conjunction with a second NIH award, the Pioneer Award, which went to 16 researchers who will each receive $2.5 million over five years. Both awards are part of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, a series of initiatives designed to address fundamental knowledge gaps in science.

“Nothing is more important to me than stimulating and sustaining deep innovation, especially for early career investigators and despite challenging budgetary times. These highly creative researchers are tackling important scientific challenges with bold ideas and inventive technologies that promise to break through barriers and radically shift our understanding,” said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D


A Searle Scholar, a Beckman Young Investigator, and a recipient of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine’s (CIRM) New Faculty Award, Wang pioneered a method to accommodate additional amino acids, the molecular building blocks of all proteins, in bacteria. Since then, he developed a novel strategy to expand the natural repertoire of amino acids in mammalian cells, including neurons.

About the Salk Institute:

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to fundamental discoveries in the life sciences, the improvement of human health and the training of future generations of researchers. Jonas Salk, M.D., whose polio vaccine all but eradicated the crippling disease poliomyelitis in 1955, opened the Institute in 1965 with a gift of land from the City of San Diego and the financial support of the March of Dimes.

About the NIH:

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) – The Nation’s Medical Research Agency – includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

The NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, launched in 2004, is a series of initiatives designed to address fundamental knowledge gaps, develop transformative tools and technologies, and/or foster innovative approaches to complex problems. Funded through the NIH Common Fund, these programs cut across the missions of individual NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs) and are intended to accelerate the translation of research to improvements in public health.

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