Collins Wins NIH Director’s Pioneer Award

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James J. Collins
James J. Collins

In recognition of his promising research that may provide insight into how bacterial drug resistance can be overcome, Professor James J. Collins (BME) has won a 2007 Director’s Pioneer Award from the National Institutes of Health.

The highly prestigious and competitive award, given to 12 of 449 applicants this year, totals $2.5 million in direct funding over five years. NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni said the Pioneer Awards were created to invest in unique and creative scientific investigations, which might not receive funding through traditional grants because of the innovative research directions involved.

“Novel ideas and new investigations are essential ingredients for scientific progress,” said Zerhouni in a press release. “The conceptual and technological breakthroughs that are likely to emerge from their highly innovative approaches to major research challenges could speed progress toward important medical advances.”

Collins plans to use the grant to pursue the challenges of bacterial resistance and antibiotic development, topics his laboratory recently began to study. His research group published a paper on the topic this month in Cell.

“We want to begin to piece together the networks and pathways that are involved in resistance,” said Collins. “We’re going to take our systems biology, synthetic biology and engineering approaches to identify, analyze and dissect those networks as a means to gain insight into the underlying biology which will be important for fueling the development of novel antibiotics.”

In addition to supporting this new avenue of research, Collins says the award “will allow us to bring in additional biomedical engineering, bioinformatics, and molecular cell biology and biochemistry students into the lab. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

He will travel to the 2007 Pioneer Award Symposium on Wednesday, Sept. 19, on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md., where Zerhouni will formally announce the winners.