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Kenneth Rainin Foundation Awards Over $2 Million for Cutting-edge IBD Research

The Kenneth Rainin Foundation announced today that it will grant $2.2 million to scientists to conduct Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) research. The Rainin Foundation offers support for cutting-edge projects that typically are not eligible for funding from more traditional sources due to their ground-breaking, pioneering nature. Grantees are selected from a competitive, diverse pool of applicants for scientific projects that demonstrate the potential to yield transformative discoveries and major new insights into the causes and cures for IBD.

Rainin Foundation CEO Jennifer Rainin's opening remarks

Jennifer Rainin, CEO of Kenneth Rainin Foundation, welcomes scientists to the 2014 Innovations Symposium

Two teams of scientists selected for this year’s Synergy Awards, the Foundation’s newest grant program, will receive a total of $400,000 to support their collaborative projects. Herbert “Skip” Virgin, Washington University, St. Louis, and Miles Parkes, University of Cambridge, UK, will investigate the novel role of viruses that infect bacteria in the intestinal microbiome and in IBD.  Samuel Miller, University of Washington, Seattle, and Thaddeus Stappenback, Washington University, St. Louis, will study a new mechanism of triggering autophagy in epithelial cells to elucidate the physiological consequences of this activity.  The Synergy Awards were introduced this year to encourage investigators with differing areas of expertise to pool their talents and resources toward a research goal that would not be possible if the investigators worked independently.

“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.”

“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.” Samuel Miller also expressed excitement about his collaborative venture, “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.”

The Rainin Foundation’s Health program continues its annual funding of IBD research through its aptly named Innovator and Breakthrough Awards. The Innovator Awards promote cutting-edge research that can potentially transform how IBD is diagnosed and treated. Since 2010, the program has grown steadily, with a 91% increase in applications this year over 2013. The Innovator Awards for 2014 include:

  • Andrea Cerutti, MD, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY
  • 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
  • Daniel Mucida, PhD, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY

The Breakthrough Awards, with grants ranging from $100,000 – $150,000, provide multi-year funding to Innovator grantees who have demonstrated significant progress in advancing their original research hypotheses. This year’s Breakthrough Award recipients are:

  • 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, Lisboa, 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 Jennifer Rainin, CEO of the Rainin Foundation. “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.”

Pictured above: Rainin Foundation Scientific Advisory Board Chair Averil Ma, grantee Herbert “Skip” Virgin, and 2014 Innovations Symposium keynote speaker Ian Lipkin. Photos copyright: Mitch Tobias.

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