Burroughs Wellcome Fund Invests $5M in Grants to Researchers Studying the Mechanisms of Infectious Diseases

Research grant to ten U.S. professors will boost fundamental understanding of how infectious disease works

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — As part of its continuing effort to stimulate fundamental research into human infectious diseases, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund — the private, independent foundation making investments in biomedical research and careers for more than 60 years — has invested another $5 million in grants to top pathogenesis investigators in the United States.

The 2016 recipients of the BWF Investigators in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease Award (PATH) are ten professors from Washington University in St. Louis, University of Utah, University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Princeton, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Harvard, Emory, and Duke.

Topics being studied by this 2016 PATH cohort include how bacteria develop antibiotic resistance; how mothers affect the immune response of newborns to the flu virus; how hepatitis viruses adapt to human bodies; and the chemical pathways dictating a malaria parasite’s growth.

“There is a necessary urgency within the Federal and philanthropic community to tackle the prevention and treatment aspects of infectious diseases, be it Zika or the flu. Understanding this landscape, we want to make sure that fundamental research on the mechanisms and nature of human pathogens also receives support,” says BWF President John E. Burris, Ph.D. “The Burroughs Wellcome Fund created this award to give innovative investigators the freedom and flexibility to pursue out-of-the-box approaches in understanding infectious diseases.”

The PATH program awards $500,000 over a period of five years for faculty at the assistant professor level to study pathogenesis — with the intent of boosting early-career, multidisciplinary scientists, whose innovation in biochemical, pharmacological, immunological, and molecular approaches can create new research pathways to understanding infectious diseases. Learn more about PATH and see a list of past awardees at www.bwfund.org/path.

The 2016 PATH Awardees and their Research Focus
Listed by alphabetical order of awardee name.

Jörn Coers, D.Phil., Ph.D. |Duke University School of Medicine
Host-mediated lysis of cytoplasmic pathogens

Min Dong, Ph.D. | Harvard Medical School
Host factors conferring susceptibility to Clostridium difficile toxins

Christine M. Dunham, Ph.D. | Emory University
Characterization of pathways involved in bacterial persistence and antibiotic resistence

Nels C. Elde, Ph.D. | University of Utah School of Medicine
A new class of retrogenes modulating pathogenesis

Scott E. Hensley, Ph.D. | University of Pennsylvania
Effect of maternal antibodies on the neonatal immune response to influenza virus

Audrey R. Odom, M.D., Ph.D. | Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
Insights into the chemical ecology of malaria parasites

Alexander Ploss, Ph.D. | Princeton University
Breaking species barriers of human hepatotropic pathogens

Amariliz Rivera, Ph.D. | Rutgers New Jersey Medical School
Mechanisms of bidirectional innate cell licensing in antifungal immunity

Sunny Shin, Ph.D. | University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
Overcoming pathogen-mediated translation inhibition to enable robust immune defense

Joseph C. Sun, Ph.D. | Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Natural killer cell control of cytomegalovirus infection

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund is a private, independent foundation located in Research Triangle Park, NC. BWF is dedicated to advancing the biomedical sciences by supporting research and other educational endeavors. Follow on Twitter at @bwfund.