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NINDS Javits Award Goes to Six Inventive Neuroscientists


For release: Wednesday, September 7, 2005

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a part of the National Institutes of Health, has named six scientists to receive its prestigious Senator Jacob Javits Award in the Neurosciences.  The award is given to individual investigators who have demonstrated exceptional scientific excellence and productivity in research supported by the NINDS and who are expected to conduct innovative research over the next 7 years.

Authorized by the Congress in 1983, the award honors the late U.S. Senator Jacob K. Javits (R-NY), who was a strong advocate for research on a variety of neurological disorders.   Senator Javits suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the disabling neurodegenerative disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“The Javits award gives highly productive scientists, whose work is on the cutting edge in their field, an even greater opportunity to understand the interplay involved in the cause and, hopefully, treatment or even prevention of neurological diseases,” said Story Landis, Ph.D., NINDS Director.

The Award guarantees funding for 4 years, after which 3 additional years may be awarded pending receipt and approval of additional information.   Investigators are nominated by either NINDS staff or members of the National Advisory Neurological Disorders and Stroke Council, from a pool of competing applicants during a grants cycle.   The Council must approve each recommendation, with final selection being made by the NINDS Director.

Recipients of the Senator Jacob Javits Award in the Neurosciences are:

Paul Brehm, Ph.D., Leading Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior, State University of New York at Stony Brook. Dr. Brehm examines how proteins on a cell's surface, that serve as a gate, can be opened to trigger electrical activity involved in nerve cell firing and intracellular signaling. His Javits award will allow him to study how motor neurons regulate electrical coupling among muscle fibers and how muscles, in turn, regulate neurotransmitter release from motor neuron terminals. Findings from this study may have significance for disorders such as myasthenia and slow channel syndrome.

Michael D. Cahalan, Ph.D., Professor of Physiology and Biophysics, University of California at Irvine. An immunologist, Dr. Cahalan is deeply interested in how T lymphocytes (white blood cells that help the body fight off infection) function at the molecular and cellular levels. He is also interested in diseases such as multiple sclerosis, which are thought to have an immune component. T lymphocytes possess numerous ion channels, which are intimately involved in the immune response and offer promising targets for development of immune system therapeutic agents. His Javits award will allow him to study the role calcium release-activated calcium channels play in T cell responses, as well as to identify the molecular basis for channel gating and the corresponding cellular response in immune system activity.

Liqun Luo, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University. Dr. Luo has made fundamental contributions to the field of developmental neuroscience and is a pioneer in the study of developmental "axon pruning"-a naturally occurring process for establishing and maintaining functional neural circuits. He found the genetic mechanism behind developmental axon pruning in a fly model and noted striking similarities between this type of pruning and degeneration of mammalian axons following injury. His Javits award will allow him to search for more pruning factors and identify molecular targets of these factors, which may add to our understanding of human neurodegenerative diseases.

Joshua R. Sanes, Ph.D., Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University. Dr. Sanes is a leader in the study of synapses-the basic information-processing units that underlie all neural function-and a major innovator in molecular and genetic approaches to the analysis of the nervous system. This Javits award will allow him to document the dynamic cellular and molecular processes involved in the construction of synapses and in muscle to motor nerve terminal signaling. Results may provide insight into diseases of the motor nerve terminal as well as other neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Ronald L. Schnaar, Ph.D., Professor, The Department of Pharmacology and Department of Neuroscience, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Schnaar has guided the field of glycobiology (the study of sugars in living systems) and is a leader in the emerging area of neuro-glycobiology (the study of the role of protein-carbohydrate interactions in nervous system functions). His recent studies show that disrupting the sugars in the regeneration-inhibiting molecule myelin associated glycoprotein (MAG) enhances regeneration in animal models of central nervous system injury. This Javits award will allow him to further study MAG, identify genes involved in its biosynthesis, and determine how it affects different types of neurons.

Steven M. Strittmatter, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Neurology and Neurobiology, Yale Medical School. Dr. Strittmatter is an internationally recognized leader in developmental biology, with particular expertise in axonal guidance and signal transduction. His Javits award will allow him to further study signaling pathways and loss of function studies in animal models of disease. Findings may provide novel insight into how nervous system connectivity is assembled or misassembled during development and will aid in the design of therapies based on axonal growth and regeneration.

The NINDS, a component of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, is the nation's leading funder of research on the brain and nervous system. More information about the NINDS is available at its website, www.ninds.nih.gov.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) - The Nation's Medical Research Agency - includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.

Last Modified August 7, 2009