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SPIE Members recognized for their highly innovative biomedical research

18 October 2017

Charles Lieber
Charles Lieber
 
Yuebing Zheng
Yuebing Zheng

The High-Risk, High-Reward Research program of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded 86 awards to scientists proposing to use highly innovative approaches to tackle major challenges in biomedical research. This year’s recipients included two members of the photonics community: SPIE Member Charles Lieber, the Joshua and Beth Friedman University Professor at Harvard University and Chair of Harvard’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and SPIE Member Yuebing Zheng, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.

The program is part of the NIH Common Fund that addresses emerging scientific opportunities and pressing challenges in biomedical research across the various institutes and learning centers of the NIH. The fund functions as a “venture capital” space supporting high-risk, innovative endeavors with the potential for extraordinary impact. Applicants to the program are encouraged to think outside-the-box and to pursue exciting, trailblazing ideas in any area of research relevant to the NIH mission. There are four different categories in the program: the Pioneer Award, the New Innovator Award, the Transformative Research Award, and the Early Independence Award.

Lieber, along with 11 other scientists, received a Pioneer Award. The Pioneer Award is open to scientists at all career stages and supports exceptionally creative and new directions in research aimed at developing pioneering approaches to major challenges in biomedical and behavioral research. Recipients receive $700,000 in direct costs for up to 5 years of the project. Lieber’s project title is Syringe-Injectable Mesh Electronics for Seamless Integration with the Central Nervous System. Per the project abstract, “the mesh electronics will be injected between vertebrae in rodents and used to investigate interfacing of sensing and stimulation electrodes with the spinal cord in the presence and absence of spinal cord injury, with the ultimate goal of developing new therapeutic approaches for spinal cord injury.”

Zheng was one of 55 recipients of the New Innovator Award. New Innovators are early career investigators who will receive support in the award of $1.5 million in direct costs disbursed in the first year of a 5-year project period. Zheng leads a research group that engages in interdisciplinary research to innovate optical nanotechnologies in health, energy, manufacturing and national security. His project title is ‘On-Chip Multiplexed Adhesion Frequency Assay for Measuring Receptor-Ligand Interactions on Cells’ and will be funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. According to the project Public Health Relevance Statement, “with its strong functionality and compactness, the proposed assay will benefit a wide range of biomedical research and clinical applications (such as immunotherapy for cancer and persistent viral infections).”

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