The Kenneth Rainin Foundation, a family organization dedicated to the promotion of arts and child literacy, as well as to support research to find a cure for chronic diseases, recently granted $2.2 million to fund scientific projects working on Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD). The foundation is focused on funding research projects that are not typically eligible for support from traditional sources for being ground-breaking or pioneer in their fields. The scientists awarded were chosen from a series of applicants, as they revealed capacity to provide breakthrough findings on the causes and cures for IBD.
The Synergy Awards, the most recent program supported by the foundation, will grant two teams of researchers $400,000. Herbert W. “Skip” Virgin, from Washington University at St. Louis, and Miles Parkes, from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, were awarded for their work on the novel function of viruses, which infect the bacteria present in the intestinal microbiome and IBD. “This is very exciting for us,” said Skip Virgin. “It allows us to pursue an ‘out-of-the-box’ hypothesis of how viruses might be related to Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.”
The other team awarded, comprised of Samuel Miller, from the University of Washington, in Seattle, and Thaddeus Stappenback, from the Washington University, at St. Louis, received the grants to support their investigation regarding a new mechanism that triggers autophagy in epithelial cells, as a way of elucidating the physiological results of the activity. “The Synergy Award is a great opportunity for us to work with one of the leaders in human gastrointestinal epithelial biology. We hope our work will lead to new treatments for individuals with IBD,” added Samuel Miller.
This was the first year of the Synergy Awards, which are meant to encourage researchers from distinguished areas of expertise to join forces in order to achieve a common scientific goal. “Given the complexity of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, these interdisciplinary projects may dramatically accelerate the pace of IBD research,” said Averil Ma, Chair of the Rainin Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board. “The selected projects reflect both the success and the promise of bringing together diverse investigators who share an interest in solving challenging problems in IBD.”
The foundation also continued with its Rainin Foundation’s Health program, which is comprised of annual funding dedicated to IBD research projects, and grants every year a series of Innovator and Breakthrough Awards. This year’s winners of the Innovator Awards are Andrea Cerutti, MD, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, Eugene Chang, MD, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, Marco Colonna, MD, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, Gerard Eberl, PhD, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France, Katherine Fitzgerald, PhD, University of Massachusetts, Worcester, MA, Jeffrey Karp, PhD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA, John MacMicking, PhD, Yale University, New Haven, CT, and Daniel Mucida, PhD, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY.
The Breakthrough Awards feature $100,000 to $150,000 grants meant to support Innovator grantees who revealed progress in their initial hypotheses, and were received by Sean Fielding Brady, PhD, Rockefeller University, New York, NY, Alexander Chervonsky, MD, PhD, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, Gautam Dantas, PhD, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, José Henrique Veiga – Fernandes, DVM, PhD, Instituto de Medicina Molecular, Lisbon, Portugal, Albert E. Jergens, DVM, PhD, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, Richard M. Maizels, PhD, Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, UK, Samuel L. Miller, MD, University of Washington, Seattle, WA.
“To do the best science, you need original, creative research to test new ideas and directions. The Foundation supports projects at critical early stages that have the potential to change how we address IBD. We are committed to continuing to play this role for the field. This year we received more proposals than ever before from scientists exploring diverse and novel topics,” said the CEO of the Rainin Foundation, Jennifer Rainin. “The Foundation is confident that the projects we support will bring us closer to achieving our mission of finding a cure for the more than 5 million people who suffer from IBD.”