The Pew Charitable Trusts have named 22 early-career researchers as the 2018 class of Pew Scholars in the biomedical sciences, out of which two are Indian American.
Dr. Aashish Manglik and Saket Navlakha will each receive four-year grants to advance their explorations of biological mechanisms underpinning human health and disease.
Manglik is an assistant professor at U.C. San Francisco’s pharmaceutical chemistry department.
According to his bio on Pew Scholar’s website, Manglik’s lab is in query of how information is conveyed by the Hedgehog signaling pathway, a key regulator of body patterning during embryonic development and when this pathway is activated, a protein called Smoothened switches on a set of regulatory proteins that activate genes involved in cell specialization and proliferation.
The Manglik lab combines a suite of techniques in cell and structural biology, protein engineering, and computational drug discovery to unravel such molecular puzzles while using recently developed antibodies that lock Smoothened in its active conformation and Patched in its inactive state, the researchers aim to determine the precise three-dimensional structures of these components in action and begin to assess how they function during Hedgehog signaling, his bio further states adding that the results could lead to innovative therapies for eradicating developmental abnormalities associated with disrupted Hedgehog signaling or even treating cancers.
Navlakha is an assistant professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies Integrative Biology Lab.
According to his bio on Pew Scholar’s website, Navlakha’s lab will focus on studying “algorithms in nature” and how collections of molecules, cells and organisms process information to solve computational problems that are central to survival bay exploring how animals “search” their olfactory memories to recognize and respond to odors based on previously learned experiences.
Navlakha hopes that his lab’s findings could lead to insights into a variety of neurological disorders in which information processing is disrupted.
At the same time, the lab will apply a computational perspective to investigate how plants “solve” the problem of optimizing their growth to most effectively capture and distribute nutrients, work that could lead to the breeding of crops with enhanced yields.
Those who have held assistant professor positions for three years or less are nominated to be scholars for the program and have been receiving awards from Pew since 1985.
Current scholars meet annually to discuss their research, and exchange ideas with peers in fields outside of their own.
The 2018 awardees are working to solve biomedical puzzles including the development of cancers linked to viruses, how brain circuits enable verbal communication, and the ways in which the body senses and responds to external stimuli.
The results of their research could provide new scientific foundations for potential treatments of metastatic cancer, infectious diseases, and psychiatric disorders.
“These scientists have shown the boldness and creativity that drives great discoveries, and Pew’s unrestricted support will help them follow the facts wherever they lead. We’re proud to invest in this gifted group at a pivotal stage in their careers when funds to pursue new concepts and methods can be scarce,” Rebecca W. Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts, said in a statement.