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Scripps Research Scientist Wins 2010 NIH Director's Pioneer Award

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LA JOLLA, CA, July 22, 2010—Carlos F. Barbas III, Ph.D., professor at The Scripps Research Institute, has been named one of the winners of the National Institutes of Health's 2010 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director's Pioneer Awards, which includes a research budget of up to $500,000 in direct costs per year for five years.

A key component of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, the Pioneer Award supports exceptionally creative scientists who take innovative approaches to major challenges in biomedical research. Barbas is one of 17 scientists named by NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., as new recipients of the prize, designed to give awardees the intellectual freedom to pursue groundbreaking new research directions.

"NIH is pleased to be supporting scientists from across the country who are taking considered risks in a wide range of areas in order to accelerate research," said Collins. "We look forward to the results of their work."

Barbas, who holds the Janet and Keith Kellogg II Chair in Molecular Biology and Chemistry and joint appointments in the Departments of Molecular Biology and Chemistry and the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at Scripps Research, was selected for the award on the basis of his proposal for future bold and high-impact work. Specifically, his proposal concerns chemically programming immunity, research that could lead to "instant immunity" vaccines for the flu, HIV-1, and cancer. The new approach would overcome a major drawback of current vaccinations—the lag time of days, or even weeks, that it normally takes for immunity to build against pathogens such as bacteria and viruses.

The NIH selects recipients through special application and evaluation processes. Distinguished outside experts identify the most competitive applicants.

"This is a tremendous recognition that Carlos is doing outstanding work," said Peter Wright, chair of the Scripps Research Department of Molecular Biology. "His laboratory continues to tackle some extremely important scientific questions that lay the foundations for future therapeutics and vaccines."

Barbas's research program and wide-ranging scientific inventions span a number of topics. His team invented human and synthetic phage antibody technology, the first artificial transcription factors capable of regulating endogenous genes for gene discovery and gene therapy. The group also pioneered a new approach to catalytic asymmetric synthesis called organocatalysis; developed directed evolution approaches for antibodies and zinc finger recombinases and nucleases to create novel therapeutics and gene therapy strategies; and invented chemically programmed antibodies and vaccines. Barbas's scientific inventions are behind numerous drugs in clinical testing for diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and AIDS.

The NIH Roadmap for Medical Research is a series of far-reaching initiatives designed to transform the nation's medical research capabilities and speed the movement of research discoveries from the bench to the bedside. More information about the NIH Director's Pioneer Award is available at http://nihroadmap.nih.gov/pioneer/

For more information about Barbas's work, see Scripps Research News&Views article "Scientists Engineer New Type of Vaccination that Provides Instant Immunity" (http://www.scripps.edu/newsandviews/e_20090309/barbas.html), the Barbas faculty webpage (http://www.scripps.edu/research/faculty.php?rec_id=900), and the Barbas lab website (http://www.scripps.edu/mb/barbas/).

About The Scripps Research Institute

The Scripps Research Institute is one of the world's largest independent, non-profit biomedical research organizations, at the forefront of basic biomedical science that seeks to comprehend the most fundamental processes of life. Scripps Research is internationally recognized for its discoveries in immunology, molecular and cellular biology, chemistry, neurosciences, autoimmune, cardiovascular, and infectious diseases, and synthetic vaccine development. Established in its current configuration in 1961, it employs approximately 3,000 scientists, postdoctoral fellows, scientific and other technicians, doctoral degree graduate students, and administrative and technical support personnel. Scripps Research is headquartered in La Jolla, California. It also includes Scripps Florida, whose researchers focus on basic biomedical science, drug discovery, and technology development. Scripps Florida is located in Jupiter, Florida. For more information, see www.scripps.edu.

 



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