Skip to main content
NIH Director's Pioneer Award logo.

2016 Awardees

Kristin Baldwin

Kristin Baldwin, Ph.D.

Scripps Research Institute

Project Title: Defining a Transcriptional Periodic Table of the Human Brain Using Reprogramming
Grant ID: DP1-AG055944

Dr. Kristin Baldwin is an Associate Professor of Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology at the Scripps Research Institute, an adjunct Associate Professor of Neuroscience at UCSD and an Investigator of the Dorris Neuroscience Institute. She received undergraduate degrees in Economics and Zoology from Duke University, earned a doctorate in Immunology at Stanford University and performed postdoctoral studies in Neurobiology working with Dr. Richard Axel at Columbia University. Her research has harnessed technologies such as cloning, reprogramming by transcription factors, genome editing and genomics to explore how the genome builds complex self assembling systems – ranging from blood to the brain to an entire mouse. As technology has advanced, research in the Baldwin lab is increasingly focused on pairing human genomics with reprogramming to understand uniquely human aspects of developmental biology and disease. Her work has been previously recognized by honors such as the Kavli Fellow and Pew Scholars awards.

Bradley Bernstein

Bradley Bernstein, M.D., Ph.D.

Massachusetts General Hospital and Broad Institute

Project Title: Epigenetic Plasticity in Tumor Initiation and Evolution
Grant ID: DP1-CA216873
Funded by the National Cancer Institute & Office of the Director

Bradley Bernstein is the Bernard and Mildred Kayden Research Institute Chair and Professor of Pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital, a Broad Institute Member, and an American Cancer Society Research Professor. Bernstein’s research focuses on epigenetics ­­— changes in gene activity governed by influences outside the genes themselves — and specifically how modifications to the protein scaffold called chromatin contribute to mammalian development and human cancer. Bernstein received his B.S. from Yale University and his M.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Washington, before completing a clinical pathology residency and postdoctoral research at Harvard University. Honors include the Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research, an Early Career Scientist award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and a Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

Michael Fischbach

Michael Fischbach, Ph.D.

University of California, San Francisco

Project Title: A Complete Map of the Top 100 Molecules from the Gut Microbiome
Grant ID: DP1-DK113598

Michael Fischbach is an Associate Professor in the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences at UCSF and a member of the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3). Fischbach is a recipient of the NIH Director's Pioneer and New Innovator Awards, an HHMI-Simons Faculty Scholars Award, a Fellowship for Science and Engineering from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, a Medical Research Award from the W.M. Keck Foundation, a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Investigators in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease award, a Glenn Award for Research in Biological Mechanisms of Aging, and the Young Investigator Grant for Probiotics Research from the Global Probiotics Council. His laboratory uses a combination of genomics and chemistry to identify and characterize small molecules from microbes, with an emphasis on the human microbiome. Fischbach received his Ph.D. as a John and Fannie Hertz Foundation Fellow in chemistry from Harvard in 2007, where he studied the role of iron acquisition in bacterial pathogenesis and the biosynthesis of antibiotics; before coming to UCSF, he spent two years as an independent fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital coordinating a collaborative effort based at the Broad Institute to develop genomics-based approaches to the discovery of small molecules from microbes. Fischbach is a member of the board of directors of Achaogen, the scientific advisory boards of NGM Biopharmaceuticals, Indigo Agriculture, and Cell Design Labs, and is a co-founder of Revolution Medicines.

Uri Hasson

Uri Hasson, Ph.D.

Princeton University

Project Title: Speaker-Listener Coupling: A Novel Neural Approach for Assessing Communication
Grant ID: DP1-HD091948

Uri Hasson grew up in Jerusalem. As an undergrad he studied philosophy and cognitive sciences at the Hebrew University. He completed his Ph.D. in Neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute in Israel and was a postdoctoral fellow at NYU before moving to Princeton. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Psychology Department and the Neuroscience Institute at Princeton University. His research program aims to understand how the brain processes real-life complex information and interacts with the environment; with a focus on integration of complex information over time and the interaction between two individuals and two brains during natural communication.

Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte

Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, Ph.D.

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Project Title: Generation of Functional Human Organs and Tissues Using Interspecific Blastocyst Complementation
Grant ID: DP1-DK113616

Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, Ph.D., a Professor in the Gene Expression Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, graduated from the University of Valencia, Spain, with a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy and science, and he earned a master’s degree in pharmacology from the same university before completing his Ph.D. in biochemistry and pharmacology at the University of Bologna, Italy, and the University of Valencia. He then was a postdoctoral fellow at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, and the University of California, Los Angeles, prior to moving to the Salk Institute in 1993 where he has been since. From 2005-14 he was also director of the Center of Regenerative Medicine in Barcelona. His research interests are focused on the understanding of stem cell biology, organogenesis and regeneration. Observations reported by his team are helping elucidating the cellular and molecular basis of tissue/organ differentiation, homeostasis and regeneration.

Nancy Kanwisher

Nancy Kanwisher, Ph.D.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Project Title: How Does the Functional Organization of the Human Brain Arise in Development?
Grant ID: DP1-HD091947

Nancy Kanwisher received her B.S. and Ph.D. from MIT, working with Professor Molly Potter. After a postdoc as a MacArthur Fellow in Peace and International Security, and a second postdoc in the lab of Anne Treisman at UC Berkeley, she held faculty positions at UCLA and then Harvard, before returning to MIT in 1997, where she is now an Investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, a faculty member in the Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences, and a member of the Center for Minds, Brains, and Machines. Kanwisher’s work uses brain imaging to discover the functional organization of the human brain as a window into the architecture of the mind. Kanwisher has received the Troland Award, the Golden Brain Award, and a MacVicar Faculty Fellow teaching Award from MIT, and she is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. You can view her short lectures about human cognitive neuroscience for lay audiences at

Stephen D. Liberles

Stephen D. Liberles, Ph.D.

Harvard Medical School

Project Title: Sensory Receptors of the Vagus Nerve
Grant ID: DP1-AT009497

Dr. Liberles is an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, where he studies the molecular neuroscience of sensory systems. His work has helped unravel the molecular logic of smell, taste, and internal senses of the vagus nerve- from mechanisms of stimulus detection in the periphery to the orchestration of behavioral and physiological responses. He received an undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Harvard in 1994, and a Ph.D. in Chemistry and Chemical Biology from Harvard in 1999, working in the lab of Stuart Schreiber. As a post-doctoral fellow with Linda Buck at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Dr. Liberles discovered two non-classical families of olfactory receptors, and after joining the Harvard faculty in 2007, his lab made contributions towards understanding how the mouse olfactory system controls complex behaviors, such as odor aversion, attraction, and pheromone responses. Dr. Liberles currently researches how the vagus nerve senses internal organ stimuli and controls autonomic physiology.

Christine Mayr

Christine Mayr, M.D., Ph.D.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Project Title: 3'UTR-Mediated Protein-Protein Interactions Determine Protein Functions
Grant ID: DP1-GM123454

Christine Mayr is an Associate Member of Sloan-Kettering Institute. She received her M.D. from Free University in Berlin and her Ph.D. in Immunology from Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany. During her time as a postdoc in the laboratory of David Bartel at the Whitehead Institute at MIT, she became interested in 3'UTR-mediated gene regulation. In her own lab, her research has focused on the role and regulation of alternative 3'UTRs. Her lab recently discovered that 3'UTRs can mediate protein-protein interactions of newly translated proteins. As a consequence, alternative 3'UTRs enable the formation of alternative protein complexes.

Joshua D. Rabinowitz

Joshua D. Rabinowitz, M.D., Ph.D.

Princeton University

Project Title: Metabolism in Action: Quantitative Fluxes in Mammals
Grant ID: DP1-DK113643

Joshua Rabinowitz earned B.A. degrees in Mathematics and Chemistry from the University of North Carolina, and his M.D./Ph.D. at Stanford University working jointly between physical chemist Harden McConnell and immunologist Mark Davis. Thereafter, he co-founded Alexza Pharmaceuticals, eventually resulting in FDA approval of Adasuve, an inhaled medicine for acute agitation. In 2004, Joshua joined the faculty of Princeton University, where his research has focused on comprehensive understanding of metabolism, initially in microorganisms, and more recently in cancer cells, tumors, and intact animals. He is currently working to understand, at a quantitative and chemical level, the interplay between diet, metabolism, and disease.

Meng Wang

Meng Wang, Ph.D.

Baylor College of Medicine

Project Title: Decode the Chemical Language that Orchestrates Cellular and Organismal Homeostasis
Grant ID: DP1-DK113644

Dr. Meng Wang graduated from Peking University with a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2001, and then received her Ph.D. degree in Biomedical Genetics from University of Rochester in 2005. After her postdoctoral training with Professor Gary Ruvkun at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Wang became an Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine in 2010. Her lab harnesses the power of chemical imaging, functional genomics and metabolomics to investigate signaling metabolites, their regulatory network and impacts on metabolic fitness, reproductive health and longevity.

Sing Sing Way

Sing Sing Way, M.D., Ph.D.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital

Project Title: Immunological Identity Redefined by Genetically Foreign Microchimeric Cells
Grant ID: DP1-AI131080

Sing Sing Way is an infectious disease pediatrician who cares for infants and children with the most serious consequences of communicable disease. He received combined MD-PhD training at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and later mentored by Dr. Christopher B. Wilson during post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Washington and Dr. Marc Jenkins at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Way’s research investigates the immunological mechanisms responsible for shifts in infection susceptibility throughout development with the goal of more effective therapeutic and preventative strategies. He is an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, and past recipient of the Society for Pediatric Research E. Mead Johnson award and Gale and Ira Drukier prize in children’s health research. Along with the NIH Director’s Pioneer award, Dr. Way's research is supported by the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, March of Dimes Foundation, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Faculty Scholars Program.

Sing Sing Way

Seok-Hyun "Andy" Yun, Ph.D.

Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School

Project Title: Massive Wavelength-Division Multiplexing and Imaging with Laser Particles
Grant ID: DP1-EB024242

Dr. Yun received his B.S. (1991), M.S. (1993), and Ph.D. (1997) in Physics from KAIST in Korea. His dissertation research in fiber optics led to a venture-funded startup in San Jose, CA, where he worked as a founding member and manager. He joined the Wellman Center for Photomedicine (Dermatology) and Harvard Medical School in 2003, and is currently an Associate Professor, MGH Research Scholar, and the Director of the Harvard-MIT Summer Institute for Biomedical Optics. His research spans a wide spectrum from satisfying intellectual curiosity to solving real-world problems, through the integration of light and life sciences.

This page last reviewed on March 22, 2024