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NIDA

Avenir Award Winners

Revised May 2017

HIV/AIDS Research

Zachary A. Klase

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The University of the Sciences in Philadelphia

Zachary A. Klase, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at The University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. He received his doctorate in Immunology and Tropical Medicine at the George Washington University in 2009, received postdoctoral training at the Laboratory of Molecular Microbiology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and joined the faculty of USciences in 2014. Dr. Klase’s research program focused on the molecular pathogenesis of HIV-1, with a particular emphasis on cure research. He has expertise in examining the intricacies of chromatin modification at the integrated provirus, and his laboratory has developed new tools to visualize the chromatin landscape as it relates to viral latency. His Avenir application is focused on examining how drugs of abuse may alter the epigenetic landscape in HIV-1 infected individuals.

2016 Winners

HIV/AIDS Research

Michael E. Newcomb

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Northwestern University

Michael E. Newcomb, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Social Sciences at Northwestern University and the Associate Director of Scientific Development of the Northwestern Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing (ISGMH). He received his doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2012. Dr. Newcomb’s research program broadly focuses on health disparities in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) adolescents and young adults. He has particular expertise in HIV and substance use prevention among young gay and bisexual men and prioritizes understanding the interpersonal contexts that lead to resilience against negative health outcomes, including healthy romantic relationships and family functioning. Dr. Newcomb's research program seeks to develop interventions that mitigate health disparities by capitalizing on these resiliencies.

Daniel Lingwood

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Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard

Daniel Lingwood, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at The Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard and is a faculty member in the Virology Program at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Lingwood received his Ph.D. from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biology and Genetics, conducted postdoctoral work at the Vaccine Research Center at NIH, and joined the Ragon faculty in 2014. Dr. Lingwood has garnered international recognition for his discovery that humans possess genetically-encoded antibody sequences that when properly presented as germline B cell receptors, naturally engage conserved sites of viral vulnerability and serve as substrates upon which broadly neutralizing antibodies can be developed. Dr. Lingwood’s lab now centers on defining how this germline antibody 'pattern recognition' can be harnessed as a genetic template for vaccine design.

Alexander Marson

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University of California, San Francisco

Alexander Marson, M.D., Ph.D., is currently a Sandler Faculty Fellow and a clinical fellow in infectious diseases at UCSF and will become assistant professor in the UCSF Department of Microbiology and Immunology in July, 2016. He completed his M.D./Ph.D. training at Harvard and MIT and internal medicine residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is also affiliated with the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Innovative Genomics Initiative. Dr. Marson’s research integrates systems-scale investigations of human CD4+ T cell circuitry with functional perturbation studies. His laboratory has developed new tools for experimental and therapeutic genome engineering in primary human T cells using CRISPR/Cas9 ribonucleoproteins (RNPs). These studies are designed to develop targets for a new generation of HIV therapeutics aimed at eradicating latent virus from patients.

Sunil Suhas Solomon

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Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Sunil Suhas Solomon, MBBS, Ph.D., MPH, is an Assistant Professor in Medicine, in the Division of Infectious Diseases, at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He completed his medical training at the Sri Ramachandra Medical University in Chennai, India and received a Masters in Public Health and a doctorate in Epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins University. His research is focused on epidemiology, clinical management and access to HIV and HCV care among vulnerable Indian populations such as people who inject drugs and men who have sex with men. His Avenir application is focused on identifying innovative cost-effective strategies that capitalize upon network-connectedness of People Who Inject Drugs (PWID) to identify viremic HIV-infected persons who may or may not be aware of their HIV or HCV status and link them to care centers.

Ryan Westergaard

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University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

Ryan Westergaard, M.D., Ph.D. MPH, is an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Dr. Westergaard attended medical school at Johns Hopkins University. He completed a primary care internal medicine residency at the University of Colorado at Denver, where he was also a staff physician at Denver Health Medical Center. He received fellowship training in infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Johns Hopkins AIDS Service, and completed clinical research training at the Bloomberg School of Public Health under the mentorship of Dr. Gregory Kirk. His current research projects involve interventions to improve quality and continuity of care for HIV-infected patients, with special emphasis on people with psychiatric illness, people who use drugs and prisoners.

Genetics or Epigenetics Research

Ian S. Maze

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Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Ian Maze, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Departments of Neuroscience and Pharmacological Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) in New York City. Dr. Maze received his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from ISMMS in 2010, conducted postdoctoral training in the Laboratory of Chromatin Biology and Epigenetics at the Rockefeller University, and joined the ISMMS faculty in 2014. He has garnered international recognition for his work on neuroepigenetic mechanisms of drug abuse and depression, including the discovery that drug- and stress-mediated disruptions of repressive chromatin states in ventral striatum result in increased susceptibilities to both addiction and depression related phenotypes. His lab continues to investigate chromatin regulatory phenomena contributing to drug abuse, with an emphasis on relationships between a novel set of histone modifications recently discovered in the Maze laboratory and aberrant neuronal plasticity contributing to addictive-like behaviors.

Francesca Telese

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University of California, San Diego School of Medicine

Francesca Telese, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).  Dr. Telese received her Ph.D. at the University of Naples “Federico II,” conducted her postdoctoral research at the Department of Medicine at UCSD, and joined the faculty of the School of Medicine at UCSD in 2016. She has garnered international recognition for her work on the epigenetic signatures linked to learning and memory, including those regulated by the Reelin signaling pathway. Her current program of research focuses on the relationship between epigenetic signatures in specific neuronal subtypes and different brain behaviors, with an emphasis on the molecular effects of cannabis abuse.

2015 Winners

HIV/AIDS Research

Alejandro B. Balazs, Ph.D.

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Harvard Medical School

Dr. Alejandro B. Balazs is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and a Principal Investigator at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, MA.  Dr. Balazs received his PhD from Harvard University and conducted postdoctoral research at the California Institute of Technology prior to joining the faculty at Harvard Medical School in 2014.  He leads a laboratory that explores the fundamental mechanisms by which the immune system prevents the establishment of infection by employing immunological engineering as a tool to dissect the underpinnings of protection mediated by the natural immune system. His group is focused on applying this understanding to the development and implementation of novel technologies to engineer immunity as an alternative approach towards preventing or treating infection.

Brandon D.L. Marshall, Ph.D.

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Brown University School of Public Health

Brandon Marshall, PhD is an Assistant Professor & Graduate Program Director in the Department Epidemiology at the Brown University School of Public Health. He received his PhD in epidemiology from the University of British Columbia, completed postdoctoral training at Columbia University, and joined the faculty at Brown University in 2012. His research focuses on substance use epidemiology and the social, environmental, and structural determinants of health of urban populations. His research group uses high-resolution computer simulations to identify new strategies that prevent HIV infection among people who use drugs. He has published more than 75 scientific publications, including articles in JAMA, BMJ, and The Lancet.

Christina S. Meade, Ph.D.

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Duke University School of Medicine

Christina S. Meade, PhD, is Associate Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at Duke University, with secondary appointments in Global Health and Psychology & Neuroscience. Dr. Meade received her PhD in clinical psychology from Yale University and completed a NIDA-funded postdoctoral fellowship in drug abuse and brain imaging at McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School. In 2008, she joined the faculty at Duke University. Dr. Meade has extensive expertise in the fields of neuroAIDS and addiction, with innovative projects in the United States and South Africa. Her program of research takes a multi-disciplinary approach that integrates state-of-the-art methodologies to investigate neuropsychiatric and neurobehavioral outcomes in drug users living with or at high risk for HIV infection.

Daniel Werb, Ph.D., M.Sc.

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University of California, San Diego School of Medicine

Dan Werb, PhD, is a proposed Assistant Professor in the Division of Global Public Health at the University of California San Diego. Dr. Werb received his PhD from the University of British Columbia, and was a Visiting Scholar at the University of California San Diego. Dr. Werb also holds appointments as a Research Scientist at the Centre for Research on Inner City Health at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in Vancouver. He has garnered international recognition for his investigations of the natural history of injection drug use – including his exploration of factors influencing the initiation of injection drug use – as well as for his analyses of the impact of illicit drug policies on HIV risk among people who inject drugs. Dr. Werb’s current focus is on developing structural interventions to prevent the initiation of injection drug use in an effort to prevent the spread of injection-driven HIV epidemics. 

Genetics or Epigenetics Research

Jeremy J. Day, Ph.D.

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University of Alabama at Birmingham

Jeremy Day, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Day received his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina, conducted postdoctoral training at UAB, and joined the faculty at UAB in 2014. He has garnered recognition for his work in the epigenetic basis of memory formation, including the discovery that the formation of reward-related memories requires epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation. His lab continues to explore the relationship between epigenetic states and neuronal function, with an emphasis on the brain circuits that regulate motivated behavior.

Christie D. Fowler, Ph.D.

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University of California, Irvine

Christie D. Fowler, PhD is an assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Fowler received her PhD from Florida State University, conducted postdoctoral research at The Scripps Research Institute, and joined the faculty at UC Irvine in 2014. She has garnered international recognition based on her findings that nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the medial habenula-interpeduncular pathway control the aversive properties of nicotine and thereby limit consumption of the drug. Her current research seeks to elucidate the extracellular epigenetic signaling mechanisms mediating nicotine aversion and reinforcement, with an underlying goal of identifying novel targets for therapeutic development.

This page was last updated May 2017

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    2016 Avenir awards

    Red ribbon to represent HIV/AIDS research and a DNA molecule to represent Genetics or Epigenetics research

    Pioneering early stage researchers selected for NIDA’s 2016 Avenir awards (Press Release)