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Scripps Florida Scientist Awarded $5 Million Outstanding Investigator Grant to Study the Biology of Memory

JUPITER, FL – December 20, 2016 – Ron Davis, chair of the Department of Neuroscience on the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has been awarded a $5 million Outstanding Investigator Grant, one of the first of its kind, by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The new eight-year grant will focus on the biological processes that underlie memory formation, targeting the brain mechanisms that mediate forgetting, how the brain organizes memories, and the role for genes that suppress memory formation.

The grant is fully funded for the first five years. At the end of the fifth year, an administrative review of the program’s progress will decide on an additional three-year renewal.

Davis, who has pioneered the study of memory formation, particularly how the brain actively forgets certain memories, will be the principal investigator for the new grant, which was launched by NINDS earlier this year.

“This new type of grant will fund our research program, not just one single project,” Davis said. “It’s a long-term endorsement of our work. I’m pleased to have the NINDS endorsement and extremely grateful for their support. It will help us build on what we’ve accomplished over the last ten years.”

The new funding will cover virtually all the Drosophilia research done in the lab, Davis noted.

“We use Drosophilia—the common fruit fly—to better understand the basic principles of active memory formation and as a guide in our drug discovery efforts,” he said. “For our drug discovery efforts, our studies with the fly help us filter through genes and brain proteins that might be important targets for developing cognitive enhancers as therapeutics.”

Davis’s research into how the brain actively forgets certain memories represents a breakthrough in what has been a largely unstudied area of memory formation and offers tremendous opportunities for making new discoveries in the molecular biology of the process.

“The overall results of our research going forward will offer an unprecedented view of the constraints the brain uses to limit memory formation,” Davis said. “There’s a rich medical importance to this research, given the well-documented problems of cognition associated with numerous neurological and psychiatric disorders. In fact, the majority of human neurological and psychiatric disorders involve some impairment in learning and memory.”

According to NINDS, the Outstanding Investigator Grant is designed specifically to give scientists the freedom to “pursue longer range, innovative, high-risk research without feeling pressured to generate results quickly to renew short-term grants.”

The new grant also had a shorter submission process to reduce the amount of time scientists spend writing and administrating multiple grant awards.

The number of the grant is 1R35NS097224-01.

About The Scripps Research Institute

The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) is one of the world's largest independent, not-for-profit organizations focusing on research in the biomedical sciences. TSRI is internationally recognized for its contributions to science and health, including its role in laying the foundation for new treatments for cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, hemophilia, and other diseases. An institution that evolved from the Scripps Metabolic Clinic founded by philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps in 1924, the institute now employs more than 2,500 people on its campuses in La Jolla, CA, and Jupiter, FL, where its renowned scientists—including two Nobel laureates and 20 members of the National Academies of Science, Engineering or Medicine—work toward their next discoveries. The institute's graduate program, which awards PhD degrees in biology and chemistry, ranks among the top ten of its kind in the nation. In October 2016, TSRI announced a strategic affiliation with the California Institute for Biomedical Research (Calibr), representing a renewed commitment to the discovery and development of new medicines to address unmet medical needs. For more information, see www.scripps.edu.

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Professor Ron Davis, chair of the Department of Neuroscience on the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute, will lead the new project. (Photo by James McEntee.) (High-res image)


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