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Young Investigators

New Research Funding Initiative to Support Young Investigators

photo of two children wearing masks and white lab coatsAs the previous articles illustrate, the Department of Pediatrics at URMC is leading the way on innovative research into COVID-19, with many early-career investigators making valuable contributions.

Thanks to a partnership between pediatric researchers and the GCH Advancement division, a new funding initiative will seek to provide $25,000 – matched with grant funds – to support individual young investigators who are undertaking pediatric research.

These young investigators would be tenure-track assistant professors or post-doctoral fellows who already have a PhD degree and are on the path to obtain a tenure track position. This type of “seed” funding will be critical for fostering the careers of young researchers at URMC and could potentially pay dividends for institutional growth in the long-term, according Tom Mariani, PhD, professor of Neonatology and director of research for the Department of Pediatrics.

“In addition to funding discovery and innovation which could potentially save millions of lives, the career development of one investigator can be leveraged many times over to merit additional external funding, creation of new labs, and stimulate economic growth in the Rochester community.”

Alan Wood, owner of the Realty company RE/Max Plus and supporter of GCH, and Lynne Maquat, PhD, endowed chair and professor in the Departments of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Oncology, and Pediatrics, developing this funding idea after Wood and his children visited Maquat’s Fragile X Syndrome lab this Fall. Fragile X Syndrome is the most common single-gene cause of autism and intellectual disability, and Wood’s family got a thorough education on the scope of Maquat’s work, which is examining disease-causing mutations in children, and what those mutations do to gene expression via RNA production.

“My children loved getting first-hand experience touring the lab and seeing real-world visualizations of the work Maquat and her team are doing. Wearing lab coats and gloves, they isolated genetic material from bananas, which turn out to have more genetic material than us humans,” said Wood.

Wood will be leading the effort to develop the program and secure funding. Donors who sponsor a young investigator will be able to establish a relationship to learn more about their research as it evolves.

“We have several talented young researchers in the Department of Pediatrics,” said Maquat, “providing early support for their career is a long-term goal. The results won’t be immediate, but over time, this support will build the foundation for discovery that will improve kids’ lives.”