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Biophotonics Researchers Receive Innovator Awards

LA JOLLA, Calif., Sept. 20, 2012 — Bjorn Lillemeier and Axel Nimmerjahn of the Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center will each receive $1.5 million from the National Institutes of Health as two of only 51 recipients of the award that recognizes visionary scientific efforts.

As recipients of the 2012 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s New Innovator Award, Drs. Lillemeier and Nimmerjahn will receive funds over the next five years. They join a group of young investigators receiving a portion of approximately $155 million to pursue visionary science that has the potential to transform and speed the translation of research into improved health.

Lillemeier, who develops optical microscopy techniques that visualize the molecular organization of plasma membrane signaling in live cells, will use the award to boost his understanding of how cellular communication is controlled in space and time. As an assistant professor in both the Nomis Foundation Laboratories for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis and Waitt, his research has revealed novel signaling mechanisms that can be used to modulate cell functions and target diseases associated with membrane-signaling defects.

Nimmerjahn creates and develops research tools for dissection of glial cell function in both the intact healthy and the diseased brain. An assistant professor at the Waitt center, he will use the prize to support his research into microglia, resident immune cells in the brain that are involved in all brain pathologies. Better understanding of their signaling mechanisms could lead to new or improved disease prevention and treatment. He aims to develop optical and genetic tools for in vivo dissection of microglia function in superficial and deep regions of the brain, which could provide new insight into these cells’ beneficial and detrimental roles in health and disease.

For more information on this award and to see a list of this year’s awardees, visit: www.commonfund.nih.gov/newinnovator



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