Huang receives NIH New Innovator Award

Bo Huang, PhD, a faculty member of the UCSF School of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, has been named a recipient of a 2011 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s New Innovator Award.

The award, given to 49 new investigators this year, including two other UCSF scientists in the School of Medicine, provides funding of up to $300,000 annually over the next five years to support Huang’s research.

A complement to traditional funding of new investigators, the award was created in 2007 “to support exceptionally creative new investigators who propose highly innovative projects that have the potential for unusually high impact,” notes the NIH. “Many new investigators have exceptionally innovative research ideas, but not the preliminary data required to fare well in the traditional NIH peer review system.”

Huang’s lab focuses on the development and application of super-resolution optical microscopy, which captures structures and processes inside living cells by mapping the positions of single fluorescent labeling molecules. This allows researchers to “see” key macro-molecular details of health and disease playing out in cells.

The project funded by the NIH will apply this technology to detailing the architecture of complexes of large molecules (i.e. macromolecules)—such as the nuclear pore complex, the centrosome, and the basal body—that play vital roles inside cells. These complexes are generally too large to be studied by traditional structural biology technologies but are an order of magnitude (i.e. 10 times) too small to be seen by conventional light microscopy.

Most significantly, instead of studying these sub-cellular structures in preserved isolation, the Huang lab’s NIH-funded research will seek to characterize these structures as they function in cells and interact with their cellular counterparts.

This is the second consecutive year that a school faculty member has received the New Innovator Award. In 2010, Michael Fischbach, PhD, of the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, a joint department of the Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine, received the award to support his research into small molecules produced by the human microbiome.


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