By Eric Sauter
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.
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